Budget's Short-Term Decisions Hurt Ballarat

Budget's Short-Term Decisions Hurt Ballarat

Published 5 April 2019, The Courier, Ballarat

Committee for Ballarat recently made the case for fast rail to Ballarat (see The Courier 5 March 2019).

Committee for Ballarat and its members will not be deterred by the fact that no further rail funding for the Ballarat line duplication was included in the 2019–20 federal budget.

The people of Ballarat and regional Victoria need to know that this lack of funding is a travesty and one that needs reflection by all levels of governments and political parties.

The facts are that Infrastructure Australia in February 2019 published its priority list of projects.

The only Victorian train priority list project with a “near term” delivery timescale was the Ballarat Line Upgrade.

The reason for this is that “Infrastructure Australia considers that, on balance, the project will deliver marginal net economic benefits to Australia. The proponent’s stated benefit-cost ratio (BCR) for the project is 1.1”. So for every $1 spent, $1.10 will be returned in productivity. A positive equation.

The project that received funding in the federal budget was the South Geelong to Waurn Ponds duplication.

“Infrastructure Australia has not included the Waurn Ponds Duplication Stage 2 as a project on the Infrastructure Priority List at this time. The proponent’s business case, as currently presented, shows that the costs of the project are likely to exceed the benefits. The proponent’s stated benefit-cost ratio (BCR) is 0.6”. A negative return on investment.

The key reason for establishing Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure Victoria was to have priority infrastructure projects independently assessed on their merits in order to move away from politics and election cycles.

In the example of the Ballarat Line Upgrade vs the Waurn Ponds duplication, politics has won the day in this federal budget.

Committee for Ballarat appeals to all politicians at the state and federal levels to listen and act on the advice of Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure Victoria for the betterment of our state.

Regional Victoria and Ballarat in this case cannot afford to have short-term decisions being made over nation-building projects that actually give a return on investment.

Meanwhile, Ballarat development suffers.

Reference: The Infrastructure Priority List is available at www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au.

Nick Beale
Chair, Committee for Ballarat