October 6th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Bank plan a sure bet to build up PNG and our Pacific neighbours

VICTORIA Infrastructure fiasco clogs Melbourne roads

CANBERRA OBSERVED Ex Lib leaders seldom follow the rule that silence is golden

THE ECONOMY A shower of cold facts may counter coal phobia

POWER AND ENERGY SECURITY Not the moment to hit the snooze button, Australia

LIFE ISSUES Abortion grief: a restoration of honour

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Drought: just one element in a bigger climate picture

FREEDOM OF SPEECH Former High Court chief defends free speech on campuses

EUTHANASIA Seeking peace in a poisoned chalice

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Migration numbers: a new discussion begins

OPINION Victorian election 2018: How will you vote

FICTION A gentle dying

MUSIC Amy Winehouse: A natural jazz talent

CINEMA Searching: Digital window on the soul

BOOK REVIEW Biological realities v social constructs

BOOK REVIEW A little application of common sense

CHINA Social Credit System gives complete control of every citizen

LIFE ISSUES Bowing to the goddess of abortion law reform: the pseudo-religion of radical feminism

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VICTORIA
Infrastructure fiasco clogs Melbourne roads


by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, October 6, 2018

Without the beautiful natural location and magnificent beaches of other capital cities around Australia, the people of Melbourne have long consoled themselves that they lived in what was “the world’s most liveable city”. No longer.

Traffic has slowed almost to a halt.

The policies of the Andrews Labor Government of reckless development and extravagant infrastructure spending has turned the city and suburbs into a giant construction zone, with apparently uncontrolled building of high-rise apartment blocks around the central business district, central thoroughfares like St Kilda Road blocked off for years, and new suburbs being built on the outskirts without regard to the necessary infrastructure needed to support them.

The figures tell the story. Melbourne’s population has recently passed 5 million, 20 per cent of Australia’s total population; a figure that just 20 years ago, when the city’s future infrastructure was being built, was not expected until 2040.

It is currently growing at a rate of 100,000 a year. Little wonder that the main freeways into the city and the ring road around it resemble car parks for hours every day, as people struggle to get to and from work.

Decentralisation

The proper response to this crisis would be to spend public money in a genuine decentralisation program. A good start would be to shift as many government services as possible to the provincial cities and country towns, to serve as an engine for their economic growth.

There is no necessary reason why major state functions such as health, education, taxation, infrastructure, and road and rural services, could not be provided by people living in cities such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Warrnambool or Sale, rather than Melbourne’s CBD.

The policies of the Andrews Labor Government are exactly the reverse. Worse still, it seems to have learned nothing from history, including its $5 billion white elephant, the desalination plant at Wonthaggi, and the billion dollars wasted in 2014 when it cancelled East West Link, an infrastructure project to link two major arterials that had been signed by the previous Liberal government.

It is building a new underground railway line into the city, at a cost of billions of dollars, which will undoubtedly funnel more people into the city. It is building a new underground tollway from the western suburbs into the city, and has spent billions on an unpopular elevated suburban railway line through the south-eastern suburbs.

Even its spending on country rail services is primarily designed to help people get more quickly into Melbourne.

Its recent announcement of a $50 billion (yes, you read it right, $50 billion) railway line through suburban Melbourne from Frankston on the bay, to the airport, and then down to Williams­town, fits neatly into its pre-election narrative as a go-to government.

But it ignores the unhappy history of airport rail links elsewhere in Australia, particularly in Sydney and Brisbane, over recent decades. Brisbane’s airport link, an excellent express service to the city, has twice gone bankrupt due to low levels of patronage.

In the case of Melbourne’s proposed outer-circle railway line to the airport, there is already an inexpensive government bus line along substantially the same route that attracts little patronage. Further, there was an outer-circle railway line built in Melbourne a century ago that operated for a few years before being closed down, never to re-open.

Melbourne airport is at present well served by public and private bus services, as well as all types of motor vehicles including taxis. These provide fast and efficient services, at no cost to taxpayers.

New solar subsidies

No doubt to win the preferences of the Greens in the forthcoming Victorian election, the Andrews Government has announced massive new subsidies for the installation of solar roof panels, while doing nothing to increase dispatchable power, despite the closure of the huge brown coal-fired Hazelwood Power Station in 2016.

Not surprisingly, power prices in Victoria, which previously were among the lowest in the country, have skyrocketed.

Not content with this act of economic vandalism, they have also banned (until at least 2020), oil and gas exploration and development within the state, despite the fact that the 50-year-old Bass Strait gasfields are nearing depletion.

As a result, wholesale gas prices in Victoria have more than doubled over recent years, and will likely go higher as local sources of energy disappear.

There is a high level of dissatisfaction with the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria, as also with the Liberal Opposition, which seems unable to articulate a program for the future.

Not surprisingly, in both city and country areas, there are calls for something better. With Victoria’s election to be held late in November, the people will have an opportunity to decide whether to continue with a Government whose agenda is clearly known, or to look for a credible alternative.

Peter Westmore is publisher of News Weekly.




























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