Vic premier sidesteps budget politics

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says now is not the time to play politics over the federal government’s carving up of infrastructure spending. 

NSW has received more than double the amount of funding for “shovel-ready projects” than Victoria in the federal budget, despite the southern state suffering a greater economic blow due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As part of the $7.5 million package in Tuesday’s budget, Victoria will receive $1.1 billion for road and rail projects estimated to create about 4000 jobs. 

NSW, meanwhile, will receive $2.7 billion. 

Asked if Victoria missed out on infrastructure spending, Mr Andrews replied: “We’d always argue for more”.

“There wouldn’t be a state premier or first minister in the country that wouldn’t argue for more,” he told reporters on Wednesday. 

He said it wasn’t right to play “politics as usual” as the state works to contain its second wave of the virus, which has killed more than 800 people and led to the nation’s toughest – and longest – lockdown. 

“At a time when we’re working closely with the federal government, I’m not going to stand here from this podium of all podiums and play the usual grizzles and gripes – many of which might be well-founded – but I just don’t think that’s the right thing to do at the moment,” Mr Andrews said. 

He also brushed off concerns the federal government failed to mention the long-awaited rail link to Melbourne Airport in its budget. 

“We’re in – and have been for a long time – in very detailed discussions with the Commonwealth government and I think we’ll have positive things to say quite soon,” Mr Andrews said. 

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas is yet to deliver the state’s budget but in April the government passed legislation to borrow up to $24.5 billion to fund its economic recovery.

Mr Andrews won’t rule out borrowing more. 

“Our budget will do exactly what the federal government did last night – follow the advice of the Reserve Bank Governor, borrow to build, and use the strength of the state budget to protect household budgets,” he said. 

“This is not the time for surpluses and it’s not the time to ignore the fact that if you don’t borrow at historically low carrying costs, then you’ll make a bad situation worse.” 

He said the budget will include funding for social housing as well as an investment in skills and industries. 

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