Premier Andrews: Keep Infrastructure Victoria Independent.

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In a controversial move that would badly undermine the independence of new planning ‘umpire’ Infrastructure Victoria, Daniel Andrews is set to appoint Transurban Queensland Director Elana Rubin as its inaugural chair.

This comes despite Transurban being wrapped up in negotiations around a proposed $5.5 billion new tollroad – the Western Distributor – which if successful would see the government grant generous extensions to their City Link tolling rights.

According to the Australian Financial Review, this has left Treasury and senior figures in the sector ‘gobsmacked.’

"This is a serious misstep on the part of the Premier’s office."

In terms of good process the unsolicited Western Distributer proposal is already deeply unfortunate: out of the blue a toll road company has fed the government a transport ‘solution’ which, lo and behold, happens to be a toll road. In effect the government is handing over responsibility for transport planning to an entity that is capable of coming up with only one kind of proposal.

And now an officer of that company is to be put in charge of the body that is supposed to objectively assess transport proposals? 

Transurban is starting to look like the de facto transport planner for the State of Victoria. 

After the botched East West toll road process, the need for an independent planning umpire is more obvious than ever — not one beholden to a monopoly toll road company.

As Mr Andrews himself put it: “The establishment of Infrastructure Victoria – a standing, independent expert body – would ensure a long-term approach to capital projects beyond election cycles to ensure that the state does not go backwards under listless Governments." 

If we learnt one thing from the East West Link debacle, it's that when it comes to major transport decisions it’s not good enough for interested parties to nominate a (road) project and then mount a push to convince people what a great idea it is. Instead goals need to be set and the issues examined objectively and transparently—with possible solutions then canvassed and assessed against each other. Infrastructure Victoria was going to save us from yet more impulsive and self-interested project-pushing and move us to honest, long-term decision making. That hope is now under threat from this proposed appointment.

"If this were to go ahead the conflict of interest would be staggering," said Berish Bilander from the Public Transport Not Traffic campaign.

"To think that a monopoly toll road operator could be handed the keys to Infrastructure Victoria – a body that is meant to be totally impartial – is to say the least disturbing.

"Transurban already owns the second most profitable toll road in the world: City Link. We have to start worrying when multinationals with a vested interest in making people car dependent get to decide on which projects are approved and which are scrapped."

Transport planning must be objective and impartial and be seen to be so. Whatever her personal merits Ms Rubin as a high ranking officer of Transurban is hopelessly compromised. The Government should not proceed with this appointment.

TAKE ACTION: 

Contact Daniel Andrews telling him to stick to his election promise to keep Infrastructure Victoria independent.

• Write a letter to the Editor of the Herald Sun or the Age.

• Support our campaign by getting involved or making a donation.

 

* Image courtesy SBS online news.

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