Libs hanging election hopes on carparks
You would never have seen a Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia, who has just announced a massive Budget spend, officiating at a ceremony to promise a carpark.
But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and cabinet colleague Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge were out together in suburban Melbourne today spruiking the pledge of more car spaces at a railway station.
It was part of the government's $500 million Budget wooing of the park-and-ride crowd, the constituency seen as important by Liberal in vulnerable seats.
And particularly those in vulnerable Liberal seats in Victoria, the home state of Mr Frydenberg and Mr Tudge. And the money will be lumped into the $100 billion the Liberals say they would spend on infrastructure over 10 years.
The political objective is to underline a grassroots community involvement by Liberal MPs and empathy with voters, which could be crucial in surviving the coming election.
Whether the measures would ease congestion by encouraging greater use of public transport has not been firmly established. But the additional parking bays could provide greater commuter convenience, and that is the political imperative.
Today it was the seat of La Trobe, held by Liberal Jason Wood.
Previously the Treasurer has promoted extra station car spaces at near-Melbourne suburbs of Bentleigh and Hampton (federal seat of Goldstein, held by Liberal Tim Wilson), Croydon, Ringwood and Mitcham (Deakin, Liberal Michael Sukkar) and Ferntree Gully (held by Mr Tudge himself).
These six seats alone will benefit, under government proposals, from an extra 2093 car bays at a cost of $68 million.
It seems this policy has been a long time in the planning.
In late March, Mr Wood of La Trobe tweeted: "Are you sick of getting to the train station at 6am to find it's already full?! I'm fighting to secure Federal funds for the urgently needed carpark upgrades for the train stations in La Trobe."
And what do you know, he succeeded.
One difficulty with this program is that it now is up to state governments and municipal councils to carry out the task identified by the federal cash handout, even if they had other projects. And there is no evidence the federal government consulted the other two branches of public administration on their plans.
This was made clear by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who holds the highly marginal seat of Dickson just outside Brisbane.
"I've secured $11 million from the Morrison Government to build an additional 350 carparks at Ferny Grove train station," said the newly emerged champion of those on daily road-to-rail journeys.
"Thank you to everyone for signing the petition and joining the campaign.
"It is now up to the state government to deliver the carparks."
However, the Queensland Labor Government had already allocated $9 million for 590 new parking spaces. Mr Dutton has dismissed this as not "future proofing" the Ferny Grove car facilities, which he clearly believes will soon be subjected to overwhelming demand.
The Victorian Government - Labor, as in Queensland - had allocated $20 million for station carparks.
It would appear the Liberals are attempting to gazump the states and Labor in particular.
Mr Frydenberg is keen to promote the promise.
"A $500 million commuter carpark fund that will improve access to public transport hubs and take tens of thousands of cars off our roads," he said after the Budget.