DERAILED: Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster, acknowledges that the lack of additional funding for the Murray Basin Rail Project in the 2020 Federal Budget is hugely disappointing, but says the Basin Rail Project is “a Victorian Government project”. Photo: supplied

Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster, has acknowledged in a media release that “the lack of additional funding for the Murray Basin Rail Project in the 2020 Federal Budget is hugely disappointing for Mallee people”.

However, she said, additional funds could not be appropriated without “affording opportunities for all stakeholders to see and discuss a business case to justify it.”

“The Australian Government has already committed $240 million in response to a $199 million commitment by the Victorian Government based on details and assurances contained in a 2015 business case provided by the Victorian Government,” Dr Webster said.

“It was supposed to be finished by 2018. Instead, the entire thing ended up under investigation by the Victorian Auditor-General who in March this year reported to the Parliament of Victoria that the Andrews Government’s handling of almost every aspect of the project had been ‘deficient’ and ‘inadequate.’

“This is a Victorian Government project. They own the railway line, they manage the works, they laid the second hand 100-year-old steel that now needs to be replaced. And it’s not just about worn-out tracks, it’s about converting them from our old ‘broad’ gauge to the national ‘standard’ gauge,” Dr Webster said.

“It was supposed to put us onto a national rail-track network, with potential to reach beyond state borders.

Dr Webster said it was true that a ‘revised business case’ had – as Victoria’s Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, claimed on Wednesday – been “sent to the Commonwealth in May.”

However, Dr Webster said, it had been provided to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, on the understanding that it would remain a matter of Victorian Cabinet-in-Confidence.

“The Deputy Prime Minister is therefore not at liberty to release this document or publicly discuss its contents.” Dr Webster said.