Premier Daniel Andrews has called on the Prime Minister to open a $3 billion “locked box” of cash earmarked for a dumped Victorian road project for other infrastructure projects.
Mr Andrews wrote to Scott Morrison asking for the federal funding set aside for the rejected East West Link before Wednesday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting on the topic of population growth.
“There is $3 billion of what Mr Morrison thinks is his money in a Liberal Party locked box. Well Mr Morrison it is not your money. The money belongs to Victorians,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“That money is sitting there achieving nothing, burning a hole in the prime minister’s pocket.”
He railed against the federal infrastructure spend, 10 per cent of which goes to Victoria despite the state having a quarter of the Australian population.
Mr Andrews posted a copy of his letter to Mr Morrison on Twitter on Sunday.
“The Victorian government believes any discussion about population growth in Victoria is meaningless in the absence of a commonwealth commitment to properly and fairly fund the infrastructure and services that we require,” the letter said.
I wrote to the Prime Minister with a very simple message:
Time and time again, the Federal Government has shortchanged Victoria. A quarter of the population lives here – and growing. But we only get 10 per cent of Canberra's infrastructure funding. pic.twitter.com/3DTbMTTODJ
— Dan Andrews (@DanielAndrewsMP) December 9, 2018
“To that end, the last three commonwealth budgets have included $3 billion in a supposed ‘locked box’ for a project that has now been rejected by the Victorian people at two successive elections.
“The commonwealth continues to withhold this funding – which would partly repair our severe funding deficit – in the full knowledge that the project will not be built.”
Mr Andrews said the $3 billion should go towards his North East Link.
He said that project was of “national significance” and deserved more than the $1.75 billion federal commitment, less than 10 per cent of the project’s costs.
“Opening the ‘locked box’ and investing in this project will go some way to showing the Victorian people that you are serious about addressing the challenges associated with population growth, and willing to work with a government that gets things done,” the letter said.
“We also hope that this funding will not be withheld to prop up a commonwealth budget surplus.”
Mr Andrews was previously at odds with then prime minister Tony Abbott, who would only let the cash flow for the specific project. Malcolm Turnbull had agreed to redirect $1.5 billion for the East West Link to other projects as prime minister.
In this year’s federal government budget $7.8 billion was allocated to Victoria for infrastructure.
The state Labor government in 2014 ripped up the East West Link contract, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion.
His criticism came as Mr Andrews inspected a steel shed at Yarraville that was built to process thousands of tonnes of dirt and rock to be excavated during the works on another project, the $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel.
Mr Andrews and Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan announced a tunnel boring machine weighing 4000 tonnes and is 90 metres long will arrive in Australia next year, with another to join soon after.
The giant machines will be used to bore the tunnel, which due to open in 2022.