Monday, March 8, 2021

Switching from road to rail in Victoria

Reading Time: 3 minutesThe current political climate reflects a blatant disregard for taxpayers

Last November, the state of Victoria made the switch. From Liberal to Labor.
And when governments switch, so do personnel, departments, and projects. And one such massive project to be dumped by this new Victorian Labor Government is the East-West Link. It was not a surprise decision as Premier Daniel Andrews and his Labor party had always foreshadowed their intention to do so as one of their pre-election promises.
In their defence, the Labor party says it had made its opposition to the East-West link project abundantly clear prior to last year’s State elections. It claims the outgoing Victorian Liberal Government recklessly rushed through the announcement of this project in the final days of their term, fully knowing that if Labor was to be elected they would scrap the project.
However, scrapping the East-West Link project, and replacing it with the newly announced rail project for Melbourne, will end up costing taxpayers a whopping $420 million dollars (as reported by major media outlets). That is $420 million dollars down the drain before any real work has been started on either of the two projects – all of it taxpayers’ money.

Leaving aside the merits of the rail project as stated by the Premier, and the alleged demerits of the East-West Link project, the concern I have with this decision made by Premier Andrews is that it reflects a blatant disregard towards taxpayer money in the face of political grandstanding. This seems to be an imprudent waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds purely to point the middle finger at your opposing political party; especially, when the loudest political debate at the moment in Australia remains about ever increasing budget deficits and challenging economic times.
The Prime Minister, reacted to this announcement by freezing the three billion dollars that the Federal Government had pledged to contribute to the East-West Link project. His pledge for this money ardently remains towards any government that is keen on building the East-West Link. And not towards the rail project announced by the Victorian Premier.
Victoria, much like rest of Australia, is grappling with high levels of unemployment. Several industries and sectors are doing it tough. Economic data and trends paint a pessimistic outlook for the immediate future. In such a volatile climate, it does not reflect well on the Victorian Government to do away with millions of dollars without much of a second thought.

And what if Labor does not win the next term of government in Victoria or at the Federal level? Will this rail project be scrapped again? All in the spirit of seeking political revenge by the other side? When, and how, will this circus end?
I am not a political expert, but as an ordinary citizen with a keen interest in the political debate in Australia, I feel the political genius, and competence within Australian political parties is rapidly diminishing. The political debate has been reduced to mere banter and sledge fests between parties and their candidates. And no current party is exempt from this erosion.
Policies and manifestos, it seems, are drafted merely to seek personal re-election by our politicians. The debate within Parliament often hovers around discrediting rival parties and candidates rather than actual discussion of implementing new laws and programs. Visionaries and true leaders are nowhere to be found within the ranks of modern day Australian politics. Instead, reactive politics aimed at amending unfavourable opinion polls seems to be the flavour of modern times. Plagued by leadership woes, it is a dismal state of affairs at both State and Federal levels. For all major parties.
This East-West Link saga is just another episode highlighting the thoughtless, myopic political decision making currently rife in Australian politics.

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Sanam Sharma
A typical middle class guy who is abundantly opinionated, moderately flawed, and adequately grounded

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