05/02/15

Committee Communiqué

Put major infrastructure decisions in safe hands

In a Herald Sun Business Opinion piece, CEO Kate Roffey noted "the one positive thing to come out of the East-West Link fiasco is that it highlights the need for decision-making around major infrastructure to be removed from politics and handed to an expert independent entity". As the validity of signing contracts prior to an election continues to be debated, we seem to have forgotten that contracts are signed with the State of Victoria, not personally with the Premier, or the Minister, or the Liberal or Labor party. They are legally binding, and as the elected representatives of the State, politicians of both sides will tell you they have the right to make decisions from the time of their election, to the time of their removal from office (excluding caretaker periods of course) – that is part of a democracy. Both sides of politics have been guilty of making unilateral decisions that lock future governments into contracts they may disagree with, and both sides will continue to do so until such time as the election cycle and decision-making process are fully separated. Read the full Op Ed article.

Confidence will tell if interest rate cuts are effective

The recent cut in interest rates by the Reserve Bank will provide a good indication of the level of confidence people have in the economy. Cutting rates in an effort to stimulate investment via cheap borrowings is one thing, but to be effective there must be a certain level of confidence in job security, economic growth and personal wealth. With our city once again being ranked as one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, housing affordability continues to be a major issue for many Melburnians. ’Affordable housing’ is a term that now affects not just low income earners, but also many middle income earners who cannot afford to buy into a very expensive market. In the end, regardless of the interest rate, you still need to fund a deposit and cover repayments to buy property. For a growing number of people, that is a dream that will remain well out of reach.

Time for trams to step up

This week Lord Mayor Robert Doyle again raised the proposal to extend the Elizabeth Street tram line to Flinders Street toward Southern Cross Station or Jolimont. The key thinking behind this proposal is to open up access along Flinders Street and to allow for some long overdue sprucing up of the tired-looking south end of Elizabeth Street. It also highlights a need to start thinking about upgrades to our tram system as a means to increase public transport capacity. On 3AW this week, CEO Kate Roffey noted that in the absence of any work commencing in the foreseeable future on the Metro train project, some much-needed upgrades to the tram network – such as the Elizabeth Street proposal and concept to extend the Collins Street tram extension through to Fishermans Bend – will make an important contribution to increasing public transport capacity and need to be seriously considered in the short-term.

Don’t throw the PPP baby out with the bathwater

True, PPP projects may not be as financially advantageous as builds fully funded by government dollars. Also true, in recent times we have seen some examples of PPP projects in New South Wales and Queensland go very wrong. Despite this, we should not run scared of using PPPs to fund much-needed infrastructure build. In the absence of massive surpluses, and a strange reluctance of governments of all persuasions to borrow money against very strong AAA credit ratings at a time when interest rates have never been lower, PPPs are one of the few options we have left for large-scale funding. There are many good examples of projects that should be funded in this manner. A sound PPP proposal has been put forward to fund essential upgrades along the Dandenong rail corridor. This proposal should be signed off and works commenced as soon as possible to provide not only a much-needed lift to capacity along this overcrowded line, but to also stimulate some economic activity and create jobs.

Major events keep Melbourne on top of the world

The Australian Open Tennis Championship has once again placed Melbourne in the world spotlight in the month of January. Thanks to some magnificent venue upgrades completed over the last five years – including the new Margaret Court Arena, which is now one of the best tennis viewing venues in the world – the Open attracted a record crowd of 703,899 people, and provided massive exposure to millions worldwide. In Japan alone, 10.5 million viewers tuned in to watch Kei Nishikori’s first round match, and in the US more viewers tuned in to the tennis than the top rating US college basketball league – and every one of those viewers saw the Melbourne brand on screen with every ball hit. Our major international events not only inject valuable international and interstate dollars into the Victorian economy every year, they also expose the Melbourne brand to a worldwide audience. In addition to providing Melburnians with a feast of elite live sport, they play a key role in boosting our economy; and this is a contribution we cannot afford to underestimate.

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