O’Brien backs local health over city rail

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien says he strongly supports the decision of The Nationals and Liberals to shelve the proposed Cheltenham to Box Hill rail link and divert every cent of the funding to fix the state’s health crisis.

Mr O’Brien said he had long held concerns about the Labor Government’s proposed suburban rail loop and the impact it would have on country Victoria.

“I said at the time legislation was passed in Parliament that this project was firmly in the category of ‘nice to have’ but simply not affordable.

“I think the idea is good in principle but I also think it would be nice to have a private island in the South Pacific – neither are affordable or realistic and Labor’s rail loop doesn’t factor in the effects of the pandemic including changed working arrangements and population forecasts.

“I was always concerned that this mega project of three stages, of which the first stage is $35 billion would lead to country Victoria missing out on the vital infrastructure we need.

“Under The Nationals and Liberals policy the expected $35 billion cost of the first stage of this project will now be dedicated to fixing the health crisis.

“We also have our 25 per cent Regional Infrastructure Funding Guarantee which means that $8 billion of that will be available for health needs in rural and regional Victoria.  That includes our commitment to build a new West Gippsland Hospital.

“This is the focus we need to have at the moment, not on yet another mega city transport project that is at least 13 years away from completion, and which the independent Parliamentary Budget Office estimates could cost $200 billion in total.

“I’ve been inundated in the last 12 months by people in Gippsland who can’t get an ambulance, struggle to get the surgery they need and are generally suffering from the Labor induced health crisis.

“We need to address that without jacking up taxes, adding to Labor’s existing $167 billion debt burden or increasing the cost of living for Victorians.  Shelving the Cheltenham to Box Hill rail and investing that money in our health system is the appropriate way forward and will deliver huge benefits for Gippslanders.”

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