Federal Government’s “fluff and puffery” around Beveridge Freight Terminal criticised

By Colin MacGillivray

MITCHELL Shire leaders are calling for detailed plans for the Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal after the Federal Government dangled a $2 billion carrot for the project in last week’s budget.

The proposed site at Beveridge is one of two locations shortlisted to act as the southern hub of the multi-billion-dollar Inland Rail project, with Truganina in Melbourne’s west also being considered.

The Federal Government declared it would provide $2 billion for one of the two proposed locations provided the State Government matched its commitment.

Detailed planning work for the freight terminal has yet to be undertaken. Logistics company Qube Holdings will develop the 1100-hectare site, but has not submitted plans to the State Government.

The Northern Councils Alliance, which includes the municipalities of Whittlesea, Mitchell, Hume, Banyule, Darebin, Moreland and Nillumbik, estimated the construction of the Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal would support 20,000 jobs.

It urged the State Government to work with the Federal Government to bring the project to fruition.

“The BIFT represents a city-shaping, legacy project, which will fundamentally support neighbouring economies and importantly be a significant ongoing job generator,” the group said in a statement.

Mitchell Shire Mayor Rhonda Sanderson said Beveridge was the perfect location for the terminal.

“The BIFT … will support the north as it continues to grow over the coming decades. Now is the time for the State Government to invest in local jobs for our region,” she said.

“Beveridge is the natural gateway from Melbourne to the rest of the country. With the Hume Freeway, the future Inland Rail and Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal, it is central to Australia’s freight and transportation network.”

Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell said while the Federal Government’s $2 billion announcement sounded good, the money had not been allocated in the budget forward estimates.

“It’s a con job. They haven’t said what the timeline is and there’s nothing in the budget paper to say when it has to be done,” he said.

“Just over half – around 55 per cent – of all the funding and projects that they had previously announced are beyond the budget estimates in the next four years.

“A lot of them aren’t starting until 2027. There’s a lot of fluff and puffery to make everyone feel good, but the devil is always in the detail.”

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said he was confident of reaching a funding agreement with the State Government.

“We’ve got mid-2020s [as a timeline] for the Inland Rail to be up and running,” he said.

“I’m open to both Truganina and Beveridge, and we will work not just with the government but with communities and transport operators.”

Mr Mitchell said he believed the State Government’s preference was to complete the Western Interstate Freight Terminal before the Beveridge project.

He said planning for Melbourne’s Outer Metropolitan Ring Road was also required before the Beveridge terminal could be built.

Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said both projects were important for the State Government and accused the Federal Government of attempting to create a false narrative.

“I think the Federal Government is being too cute by half and trying to drive a wedge between two fabulous projects that are very much needed to move freight around the country,” she said.

“It’s their own Inland Rail project, and I think they’re … trying to defer their obligation.

“Export facilities are quite clearly the absolute, 100 per cent obligation of the Federal Government. I think their announcement in the budget is just trying to cost shift some of that onto the Victorian Government.”

Ms Green said the Beveridge terminal would remain a priority for the State Government whether or not the Western Interstate Freight Terminal was funded first.