One would hope that the budget following an election would fulfil the promises made during that election, although it would not be beyond the bounds of reasonableness to spread them out over the term of government.
Somewhat surprisingly, at least to me, the Baillieu government has largely fulfilled all of its promises with its first budget, delivered on Tuesday. Perhaps the most glaring omission was the pledge on teacher wages.
That said, there are some niggles. In transport for instance:
- There’s funding for all the rail extensions and new stations and grade separations promised, but it’s all planning, not construction. This is perhaps understandable in that the planning has to happen first — obviously it hasn’t happened yet, unlike roads, where Vicroads always seems to have done their homework and has them ready to go. It means to properly meet the pledges, the government will need to follow through in the next couple of years.
- The funding is only for the first seven trains (of 40 total). The election pledge said seven in the first term of government. I don’t see this as a big issue, because remember that we’re about halfway through an existing order of 38… and it’s not clear yet what those will all be used for. The extra seven will be more X’trapolises, and the 33 remaining (not yet funded) are flagged to be a new high-capacity model.
- Roads money was 50% higher than PT money, and a bunch of that was continued expansion of the Western Ring Road, which I’m not even sure was an election promise. Maybe they’ve already forgotten that they came to power on the back of PT issues, not roads.
- There was nothing for buses or trams, apart from $8 million to restore a handful of W-class trams (which at best is a heritage investment, not a transport investment — and at worst could cause major disruptions if speed-hobbled Ws get placed onto busy routes, even outside peak times).
I understand one reason there wasn’t more was due to the cost overruns on the Regional Rail Link project and Myki. Mind you it’s still not clear if Myki is being kept or scrapped — there were conflicting messages on this on Tuesday.
The good news is that the Public Transport Development Authority got funding. If this is done right, with expertise and independence, it should help guide future government spending to the right solutions, as well as overhauling things like service coordination and planning.
What was your take on the budget?