Opinion

Chalk and cheese budgets

Last month was a tale of two budgets, with the Federal and Victorian state budgets released within days of each other. Yet, despite their proximity on the calendar, they were about as similar as chalk and cheese.

Victoria sits at a pivotal moment in its history. We are emerging from the pandemic battered and bruised, but optimistic (although, as this recent lockdown has proven, we are by no means out of the woods yet). Snap lockdowns aside, recent forecasting suggests Victoria is on track to experience the strongest economic rebound of all states and territories during the next financial year. 

The optimism felt by many in Victoria was echoed in the Federal budget. Released early in May, it invested heavily in a range of major infrastructure projects designed to create jobs and kickstart the economy. But even more importantly, these projects represent a $15.2 billion investment in our nation and its future freight needs.

Victoria received $4 billion of that spend to ensure its infrastructure grows alongside its population. In addition to a number of significant road upgrades to reduce congestion, the Federal budget allocated $2 billion towards creating a new Melbourne Intermodal Terminal.

Capable of accommodating the Inland Rail Project and its double stacked, 1800-metre trains, this will play an integral role in connecting the state’s port, road and rail networks.

All in all, it was a forward-thinking and prudent budget that gave freight and logistics operators confidence that they’ll be able to operate safely and efficiently into the future as they deliver an invaluable service to Australians.

And so, when the Victorian budget launched just over a week later, many of these operators were wondering what it would have in store to build on the optimism and momentum of the Federal budget.

And what did we get? A budget that was more shrug than shout, and that left many in the transport and logistics industry feeling deflated.    

This in not to say the Victorian budget was irredeemable. In fact, it contained some very welcome items for road users – namely $386 million to reduce the state’s road toll through a new Road Safety Strategy.

But while it was not unequivocally bad, it was certainly disappointing and seemingly lacking the grander vision of the Federal budget. This was particularly true when it came to infrastructure spend, with just a handful of conservatively funded freight projects slated.

With Victoria’s freight needs predicted to double over the next 30 years, now is the time to prepare and invest in our future. With roads already congested, we need to ensure we’re getting on with projects designed to address key choke points, streamline freight movements, and ensure our precious supply chains are protected from disruption.

Let me be clear here; we’ve seen some significant and very-welcome investment in Victoria’s road, rail, and freight networks over recent years and I commend the state government for their commitment to these various projects. But now is not the time to take the foot off the gas.

The Victorian Transport Association will continue to advocate for smart, sensible and   infrastructure projects that will not only benefit freight and logistics operators, but every Victorians. After all we’ve been through, we cannot afford to go backwards.

 

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