Victoria will on Tuesday deliver a budget with a surplus of $1.4 billion and a number of big spending announcements, ahead of what promises to be a tight state election in November.
Roads infrastructure is the major winner, with a $2.2 billion program to upgrade 13 arterial roads in suburban areas announced on Monday.
“This is the single biggest investment in suburban roads in Victoria’s history, to fix local roads and get people home sooner,” roads minister Luke Donnellan said.
Another $110 million is being put into planning works for the controversial North East Link between the Eastern Freeway and the M80 ring road. The project is expected to be the most expensive project in Victorian history at $16.5 billion.
Commitments to public transport are more modest, with the major announcement $572 million to upgrade the Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sunbury lines, which the government said would pave the way for the Cranbourne line duplication.
“Together with the Metro Tunnel and new high capacity trains, the works will transform Melbourne’s busiest train lines – delivering more services, better reliability and room for an additional 234,000 peak passengers every week from Sunbury, Cranbourne and Pakenham,” a government statement said.
Another $3 million will be spent planning a new tram line from Caulfield Station to Rowville that will go by Chadstone shopping centre, Monash University and Waverley Park.
There will also be $50 million for detailed investigations into a high speed rail link between Geelong and Melbourne. The investigation will look into a new fleet of trains capable of reaching between 250-300km/h.
“This vital work will help determine the best way to deliver high-speed rail to Geelong as part of the Melbourne Airport Link,” transport minister Jacinta Allen said.
Outer Melbourne suburbs will also get $60 million for commuter car parking at rail stations.
Schools will be another major infrastructure focus, with $1.38 billion expected to be announced for new school buildings and upgrades, along with a $65.5 million health and wellbeing initiatives package.
More funds for cladding
On Sunday the government announced the budget would contain $25 million to progress work on dangerous cladding in high-rise buildings.
There will be $16.5 million for the Victorian Building Authority to conduct its state-wide audit and increase its inspection and enforcement regime. Another $4.3 million is going to the Victorian Cladding Taskforce to continue its work addressing the “culture of non-compliance” in the construction sector, while $4.2 million will be spent increasing penalties and making legislative changes to protect consumers.
The government said the changes sent a message to building practitioners “that if they cut corners or rely on cheap, dangerous materials that puts lives at risk, their licences will be suspended or cancelled”.
“We’re giving authorities the tools and resources needed to inspect more buildings and keep Victorians safe from cladding fires,” planning minister Richard Wynne said.
Fishermans Bend clean-up continues
Fishermans Bend is getting $5 million to complete planning, on top of $20 million set aside for master planning and preparatory works for the University of Melbourne’s engineering school’s relocation to the old GM Holden site.
The government this year put a pause on development applications in the area, which it has begun to refer to as opposition leader “Matthew Guy’s mess”.
“Inner city families deserve better than a concrete jungle of high rises – they want a neighbourhood they can be proud of. Matthew Guy ignored their needs, but we won’t,” Mr Wynne said.
“We’re getting the planning right to build the schools, jobs, public transport and essential community services that Mr Guy’s botched rezoning ignored.”