Other states would love to have the problems Victoria does.
Treasurer Tim Pallas delayed the state budget so it would not cause problems for the Labor Party’s tilt at the federal election.
When the party lost, it wiped out a $2 billion promise to fund a half-finished train tunnel.
Earlier, a 13.6 per cent slump in stamp duty — paid when properties change hands — hammered the figures.
Combined, it still couldn’t push the Victorian budget into the red of deficit.
In fact, there are growing surpluses projected across the four-year forward estimates process.
The Budget projects net debt rising to nearly $55 billion by 2022-23, but the surplus is forecast to reach $4.9 billion by the same period.
Jealousy is a curse, but you wouldn’t blame other state treasurers for curdling with envy when Tim Pallas stood up in Parliament on Monday to say this: “$107 billion of state capital projects are commencing or underway. Now remarkably, we are currently investing more in Victoria than the Commonwealth intends to spend across the entire nation over the next decade.”
His colleagues— who control 55 of 88 seats in the Lower House — roared for him to repeat it, and he happily did.
The Commonwealth may dispute the total, but given their well-documented history of under-funding infrastructure in Victoria — based on the percentage of Australia’s population it holds — it’s probably not an argument they’ll step into.
The booming economy is driven by the arrival of almost 3,000 new residents per week.
Every time the figure is tallied, the tipping point is redrawn closer.
It’s created a frenzy of concrete and jobs.
The central business district looks like a construction site from end to end, as a five-station rail tunnel is built.
In the suburbs, a program to remove level crossings is being expanded.
Seventeen new schools are being built and a massive freeway will complete a “ring road” around the capital.
Three-and-a half years from the next election, with global economic indicators looking poor and the Reserve Bank of Australia mooting two interest rates cuts, you’d expect a state government to get out a sledgehammer — to bring the pain now before wooing the electorate back later.
It’s a measure of Victoria’s financial position that, except for a $1.8 billion “efficiency dividend”, or cuts in the public service, the targets for new taxes are almost comically niche — commercial gold miners, luxury car buyers, suburban land-bankers and foreigners buying residential property.
Everyone has problems. But there are much tougher ones than dealing with the issues created by a solid, sustained growth in the economy.