A chance for new beginnings in Victoria
The resignation of Daniel Andrews presents the Labor Government and Victoria with a chance for a new path forward.
It is an opportunity for the new Premier, Jacinta Allan, to overcome her legacy of waste, blowouts and mismanagement, and to return integrity to government.
However, many Victorians will be concerned that what they will get will just be the same old Labor. Looking at Ms Allan’s track record, she appears to have the reverse Midas effect.
As Minister, Ms Allan has been responsible for nearly $30 billion in major blowouts, across major projects such as the Metro Tunnel, the West Gate Tunnel, the North-East Link and the Suburban Rail Loop, among a dizzying array of blown out projects.
Ms Allan was Minister for Commonwealth Games Delivery – not the most apt name if you ask me. She was responsible for its multibillion-dollar blowout – but not before wasting $600m and deceiving Victorians at the May Budget. Perhaps Minister for Commonwealth Games Bungling would be more appropriate?
Another of Ms Allan’s projects is the Suburban Rail Loop. It was already the most expensive infrastructure project in Victorian history and it has already blown out. It has blown out to $125 billion for just stages one and two when the entire project was supposed to cost $50 billion.
This project wasn’t recommended by Infrastructure Victoria. It wasn’t on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list. It wasn’t in the state government’s “Plan Melbourne” blueprint and nor was the Department of Transport consulted. Instead, it was concocted in secret. Only four Ministers knew about it, including Ms Allan.
The Grattan Institute has explained how the government rigged the business case and has said the project should be cancelled, and the Auditor-General has shown that when conducted properly, even before blowouts, the project would return community benefits of just 77 cents in the dollar. One consequence of this mismanagement is that net state debt is now expected to reach $171 billion in 2026.
Figures of these magnitudes can seem ethereal, if not entirely meaningless – and, of course, everyone wants improved infrastructure. The problem is that when Labor blows out projects and rigs business cases, Victorians pay for their mistakes.
They pay either through higher taxes, less services, or the wrong infrastructure in the wrong places – or all three. This is exactly what we see.
Since being elected, Labor has increased or introduced 52 taxes including the Rent Tax, the Schools Tax, the Health Tax, the Jobs Tax and the Holiday and Tourism Tax. Just this week, the Treasurer announced a new tax on property.
And important projects, like electrified lines to Melton and Wyndham Vale, the Airport Rail Link and Geelong Fast Rail have been cancelled. Roads lie littered with potholes and hospitals go unbuilt.
Unfortunately, it is not surprising that we get outcomes that are not in the public interest. Labor has a culture of secrecy, a disdain of integrity and a hatred of anti-corruption agencies.
In 2021/2022, a record 43,978 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were made, because Victorians can’t get the information they need from a government lacking in transparency.
Recently, the former Premier described a report which found that government staff pressured Health Department officials to award a $1.2 million contract to a union as “educational”.
He described Robert Redlich, an eminent Victorian and the former head of IBAC, as “someone who used to do a job who has written a letter that apparently says a whole bunch of stuff” and then sent his lackies into a committee hearing to discredit him.
For Victoria’s sake, let’s hope that Ms Allan can find a new direction to overcome her questionable legacy and to restore integrity.
Evan Mulholland is the Liberal Member for the Northern Metropolitan Region •