Lunch with Chris Eccles
Today, Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Chris Eccles, joined Committee members over lunch to discuss issues of importance to the growth and development of Melbourne and Victoria. With past experience working in both New South Wales and South Australia, Chris has been involved in government operations at the senior levels for many years. During the discussion, a number of advantages Victoria has as a State were noted, these included a long history of strong fiscal policy, sound fundamentals of governance process, as well as a good balance of collaborative leadership across the public, private, not-for-profit and academic sectors. As we have grown and developed as a city and a state, it is this willingness to come together and collaborate that has helped drive good policy. This is something we will again need to rely on as we work our way forward through some challenging economic times as a nation and a state.
Independent Infrastructure Victoria a good move
On Tuesday, the Andrews Government introduced into Parliament legislation to create Infrastructure Victoria, a new entity that will be charged with the responsibility for developing a long-term pipeline of key infrastructure projects. Committee for Melbourne recently released The case for an independent Infrastructure Victoria, a discussion paper outlining best practice principles for a genuinely independent infrastructure prioritisation entity. Key principles raised in our paper included independence, transparency, accountability, evidence-based analysis and a long-term cross sectoral holistic approach. In reviewing the structure and powers of the proposed body, it is pleasing to note that these principles are reflected in the new entity, and that a 30-year time frame has been set as the long-term vision. As a consistent advocate for the need to establish an independent infrastructure entity, the Committee is pleased to see the proposed Infrastructure Victoria structure will be both independent and transparent. This is a significant move forward for the State and the Andrews Government should be supported in taking this important step forward.
Long-term lease of Port Bill blocked
Despite proposing their own plan to lease the Port of Melbourne last year, the Coalition this week indicated they will not support the Andrews Government’s proposed lease. The Coalition have noted particular concerns around the length of the proposed lease (50 years with an option to extend to 70), and a clause that may require compensation to be paid to the port operator if another container port is developed within 70 years. Treasurer Tim Pallas has however contradicted this, indicating that a new container port could be built without compensation as soon as the current Port of Melbourne reached capacity. The current options for progress are for the major parties to work together to find a sensible resolution. Alternatively, Tim Pallas has indicated the government can use powers granted to the Treasurer under the State Owned Enterprises Act to sell the port, or for the lease to gain bipartisan support following an upper house inquiry review of the legislation. Irrespective of which of these paths is taken, it would behove us to move quickly in the interests of securing the $1 billion of additional funding currently available under the federal Asset Recycling program.
Docklands Harbour Esplanade to get an upgrade
In the next stage of development for the Docklands area, Melbourne City Council has approved a new 10-year Harbour Esplanade master plan. The plan envisages making Docklands Melbourne’s major water transportation hub with ferries from Point Cook to run into the Docklands wharfs, as well as including space for a few large heritage ships to dock on the north side of Central Pier. There are also plans for Harbour Esplanade itself to be transformed with new shops on both sides of the street, and for Etihad Stadium to have its solid walls replaced with glass to open up views of the waterfront. While many still consider Docklands to be desolate and windswept, the many major businesses that have moved to the area have shown that with time and the right infrastructure support, this major waterfront precinct will continue to grow as a popular city destination. Having a vision to improve the amenity in Docklands will provide an important boost as has been the case in the Freemantle and Hobart dockside areas which with planning, have been transformed into popular waterside destinations in their own rights.
‘Transparent’ truck a great idea
Speaking at the 7th Annual Victorian Transport Infrastructure conference yesterday, CEO Kate Roffey noted that one of the simplest yet most innovative ideas to come forward was the short clip that ran showing a Samsung ‘transparent’ truck. This prototype safety truck uses a front mounted camera to capture the view of the road ahead, which is then sent via a live feed to an LCD screen on the back of the truck. The idea is to limit the risks to drivers when overtaking large vehicles as they cannot see the road ahead to know if there is oncoming traffic. To overtake, the trailing driver must move out from behind the truck to see if the road ahead is clear before passing, which creates a risk of driving into the path of oncoming traffic. This relatively simple ‘transparent’ truck concept has the potential to reduce overtaking accidents, as well as provide drivers behind large vehicles with information on road hazards ahead. This prototype has been extensively tested in Argentina, but as yet there in no indication of when – or if – such a system would be commercially available, and at what cost.