Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Major project funding off COAG agenda - TheAge

WEEKS of agitating by the Victorian Government have failed to put debate over $40 billion pledged to major projects onto the agenda for a meeting of premiers with the Prime Minister later this week.

Kevin Rudd's office last night confirmed to The Age that the meeting would not discuss the funds despite weeks of pressure from Premier John Brumby and his Government.

The decision means Victoria will be forced to deliver its response to Sir Rod Eddington's $20 billion plan to redesign Melbourne's transport system with billions of dollars in federal funding in doubt. The Government is scheduled to release its plan by the end of the year.

Mr Brumby and Treasurer John Lenders have repeatedly called on their federal counterparts to back up their budget promise to deliver $40 billion for investment in health, education and transport, and have focused attention on Saturday's meeting as an important forum.

Relations between the state and the federal government have been icy since Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan said earlier this month that only $26 billion of the promised $40 billion had so far been set aside and the global economic crisis meant he could not guarantee the rest.

Victoria wants at least $10 billion from the package, and Mr Lenders has said that if the money is not delivered it will limit the state's spending on transport projects.

But the state is at the mercy of the Federal Government, which sets the official agenda at the meeting.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said the Building Australia Fund — the fund dedicated to major projects like roads and rail lines — will not be on the agenda. "This is not a COAG decision," he said. "It will be determined by the Commonwealth."

A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd, who is in charge of the agenda, endorsed the remarks.

In a speech to the National Press Club last week, Mr Brumby called the meeting on November 29 "a once-in-a-generation opportunity" and said that, among many other things, it must deliver "action from the Commonwealth to significantly lift its commitment to infrastructure"...

Read the entire article at TheAge.com.au

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