Sydney’s “robbing hoods”

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By Michael Danby MP, Federal Member for Melbourne Ports

In 2014 the former Liberal Federal Treasurer, LNP’s Joe Hockey, announced a $5 billion Asset Recycling Fund in that year’s federal budget. The Fund was intended to reward the Australian state governments for selling off public assets for which they would receive an additional 15 per cent top-up in funding from the Commonwealth for new infrastructure projects built from the proceeds of such asset sales.

However, the Turnbull government has now pocketed more than $850 million allocated to the $4.2 billion asset recycling scheme as budget savings, saying that the state governments – most particularly Victoria, with the sale of the Port of Melbourne lease – had missed the federal “window” to apply for the Asset Recycling program. The lease of the Port of Melbourne will be delivering $9.7 billion to the Victorian people helping to, amongst others, remove 50 of Victoria’s most dangerous and congested level crossings, improve traffic flow across Melbourne, provide improved public transport infrastructure while creating thousands of jobs and continuing to drive our economy.

Unfortunately, and thanks to the Turnbull/Morrison “late call” hatchet job on the state, Victoria will miss out of the additional Asset Recycling Fund which should come as 15% on top of the Port lease proceeds, around about $1.4b.  As stated in the 2016 Budget papers “… no other agreements with the states and territories are likely to be agreed (on) before 30 June 2016, (so) the government has decided to reallocate the remaining uncommitted funding (away) from ARI [Asset Recycling Initiative] to other policy priorities.”  Please note, for the LNP Federal Government, ‘policy priorities’ means using Victoria’s fair share to manage the budget, that is where our infrastructure dollars are going, to make up for the Federal Governments mismanagement of the budget.

They certainly saw Victoria coming with the Port of Melbourne lease sale but “Too bad for us” because, as a Treasury official stated in the budget lock-up “there was no plans for another similar scheme” and that the “short window” (which froze out Victoria)  was to encourage states to sell major public assets.

Now, you won’t often hear me quote approvingly from the Fairfax media but here they summarize it perfectly:  “Under the federal government’s asset recycling scheme, Victoria is entitled to 15 per cent of the sale price for public assets, provided the proceeds are reinvested in productive infrastructure. For the Port deal, 15 per cent equals $1.45 billion.” – The Age Editorial, 21 September 2016.  Perhaps I should balance this with the News Ltd press, as in: “Regarding the Turnbull Government, it must pay Victoria the full 15 per cent of the port lease price – about $1.4 billion – it has promised under its asset recycling incentive program.” – Herald Sun Editorial, 21 September 2016. There, perfect balance.  The Federal budget included $26.9 billion for national infrastructure projects over the next four years but much of this Commonwealth largesse is once again being sent elsewhere with Victoria set to claim only 9.7 per cent of the total infrastructure, versus NSW’s substantial 31 per cent and Queensland’s 28 per cent of the funding.

Not only does Victoria miss out on its fair share of the national infrastructure funding, with only a 9 per cent share, but continue this miserable record we are getting “slugged” by the Liberal’s quick cancelling of the Asset Recycling Scheme immediately before the lease sale of one of Victoria’s (our) largest public assets hurried along by the promise of the Liberals very own recycling scheme.

Not only do the federal government Liberals seem quite pleased with themselves that Victoria will be missing out on its fair share of national infrastructure funding, most especially the additional funds which should have followed the lease of the Port of Melbourne, but even our local Liberal Party leader Matthew Guy and the whole State Opposition, who opposed the Port lease deal every step of the way,  have stayed silent while Sydney-centred Sydney-centric  PM Malcom Turnbull and Treasurer make off with the funds which should be due to Victoria.

Turnubll, Morrison, and the invisible defence minister Marise Payne failed Australia when they allowed the Liberal National Party Government in The Northern Territory to sell the Port of Darwin to Chinese Government interests for a paltry $500 million – for a 100 year lease! (In the last 50 years of the lease, some people’s homes in Darwin will be worth more than the entire lease of Australia’s premier northern port).  This Sydney centric government has already destroyed the auto industry in Australia (particularly in Melbourne), when Turnbull, Hockey chased General Motors (Holden) out of Australia. Despite Detroit wanting to reinvest one billion dollars in their plants, we lost the auto industry. Now we have the further rip off in infrastructure spending. No wonder the Liberal National Party’s down to 47 PP to Labor 53 PP.



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