Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (17:28): (1869) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Transport Infrastructure in the other place, and the action that I am seeking is for the minister to speak to the Treasurer to advocate for regional rail investments, including the business case for the Murray Basin rail project’s (MBRP) full standardisation. As part of the minister’s response I would be very keen to find out what the outcomes were from the minister and her federal counterpart, Barnaby Joyce, when they met in February about future rail investment. Many stakeholders I have spoken to are at a loss to know what is stopping the Andrews Labor government from properly investing in the Murray Basin rail project, especially its full standardisation. The wants, needs and perceptions of my region stand in contrast to the recent media release by the government on Tuesday last week, which said that the Murray Basin rail project was ‘on track’ and ‘ahead of schedule’. This is just simply not true. It is four years since it was promised to be completed—and counting. The government further stated:
Works will enable 49 train paths on the Murray Basin network, up from the current 28 paths, and it is estimated to remove around 20,000 truck trips off the road.
If the government is spruiking the benefits of the stage of the works, why has it not explored the potential benefits to complete the Murray Basin rail project?
To the issue of being behind schedule, a Victorian Auditor-General’s report in 2020 found that the MBRP was three years behind schedule with 87 per cent of funds exhausted, without a completion date in sight. The report stated that the MBRP ‘have not met scope, time, cost or quality expectations’. This obviously is starkly opposite to the governments claims last week.
The Rail Freight Alliance, the Victorian Farmers Federation and plenty of councils in my electorate and others are devastated by the way the MBRP has been handled, but there is still time to get it right. I read with huge excitement that Portland to Maroona will receive $2.2 million from the federal budget to investigate the cost of upgrading the Portland line to a 23-tonne axle load. Dan Tehan, the local MP for Wannon, said that:
The business case will determine the full extent of the level of upgrade needed including scope, benefits and beneficiaries, and it will be completed in eighteen weeks …
It is great that the federal government have recognised the genuine potential benefits of the project, but wouldn’t it be great for the state and federal governments to work collaboratively on regional rail in the future? What are we waiting for?
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party was not set up to lobby for regional rail. We are a party concerned with the legal system, victim-survivors and a public register for child sex offenders, but having seen the clear injustices in investment in metropolitan projects versus those of the poor cousin in the south west of the state, I have no choice but to keep bringing this up.
I know it has a long history of neglect and politics, but we need to take the politics out of the Murray Basin rail project and properly jointly fund it by the state and federal governments. So to reiterate, the action that I seek is for the minister to speak to the state Treasurer and advocate for the $5 million for the business case for full standardisation of the MBRP.