Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell.

By Colin MacGillivray

MEMBER for McEwen Rob Mitchell has criticised the Federal Government’s $1.62 billion budget pledge for a Beveridge Interstate Freight Terminal, BIFT, claiming the project would likely not be completed for a decade.

Mr Mitchell said in contrast to Labor’s January announcement of $150 million to build a Hume Freeway interchange at Camerons Lane would pave the way for private investment in the BIFT, the government’s announcement would not be underway for years.

“Labor’s commitment was that in our first budget we would have the money for the Camerons Lane interchange, as well as bringing forward the Watson Street [Hume Freeway] interchange at Wallan East,” he said.

“In the forward estimates in Tuesday night’s budget, the money just isn’t there. It’s probably 10 years before it will be fully done.”

When announced last week, Liberal candidate for McEwen Richard Welch said there would be $60 million in the 2022-23 budget, with the remainder in forward estimates.

Mr Mitchell said he was pleased to see the government recognise the importance of the BIFT, which Mitchell Shire Council estimated could help create up to 20,000 jobs in the region.

“It is something the government has avoided for the past six years and hasn’t done a thing about, so I’m glad Scott Morrison has followed Anthony Albanese’s lead by putting money for Camerons Lane interchange in the budget,” he said.

The City of Whittlesea last week joined Mitchell Shire Council in welcoming the government’s BIFT funding commitment.

Chair administrator Lydia Wilson said the BIFT and Camerons Lane projects would be ‘transformational’.

“Securing government funding for this project was one of council’s major priorities in partnership with Mitchell Shire Council as part of our commitment to deliver a strong local economy so we certainly welcome this announcement,” she said.

“We know this project will not only increase local employment opportunities but also encourage additional investment in our rapidly growing northern region.”

But Mr Mitchell said both councils would ultimately be left disappointed by the budget.

“Councils will be happy to see the announcement on the BIFT, but I think even they’re sobering up to the fact that there’s no money in the budget,” he said.