Eddie v. Malcolm: who did it better?

* Editorial

Two big budget bombs were dropped in consecutive days this week, and to paraphrase Eddie McGuire: what a big week it’s been politics.

First, there was the $5 billion in federal funding for a Melbourne airport rail link announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull via Herald Sun headlines at 10pm on Wednesday night. In what is understood to be the largest single infrastructure investment in the May Federal Budget, the plan to jointly fund a rail connection (the PM’s estimate of a $10 million wholly publicly owned rail line seems around 33% too optimistic for us, and private sector investment to meet the full cost of the project would surprise very few of us) has been welcomed by Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, who pledged his support, and that support has been echoed with various asides by the Victorian Premier and the State Opposition leader.

Whether this was funding on the run to mitigate the now bellowing calls to address the multi-billion dollar shortfall in federal infrastructure funding in the nation’s second most populous state, or not, it is a bold call to action. The announcement was made with both Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy PM and Federal Infrastructure Minister, Michael McCormack, well aware that no business case has been submitted to Infrastructure Australia for review. Bold indeed.

Who knew what and when probably isn’t a big deal in the greater scheme of things, but it says something for how well constructed announcements on big projects are being planned when a news outlet is informed about an announcement of this magnitude before the Victorian Premier.

If you were cynical of political intentions – and, these days, who isn’t – you might question if the Deputy PM’s Geelong stop off was nothing more than a poorly disguised attempt at bait and switch.

The headline in the Addy carolled: ‘$8m package to fast-track planning for South Geelong to Waurn Ponds line duplication’, but the story was little more than a photo opportunity and a re-announcement of funding already committed.

The real story was already being written up in the Herald Sun offices, ready to drop the next morning.

Timing can be a funny thing and Justin Giddings, the aforementioned CEO of Avalon Airport, was booked to speak to over 100 members of the local business community at the Geelong Business Network breakfast that same morning, and he also seemed pretty bemused by the announcement having dropped out of the blue.

‘I picked up the paper this morning and saw the headlines,’ he said, before going on to joke that if the government finally has an appetite for building train lines to airports, they could probably get $14.5 billion in change from the $15 billion Melbourne Airport rail project if they were to build a connecting station between Lara and Little River directly connected to the new Avalon Airport international terminal.

Maybe the time of the ideas man (and woman) has come, Justin. Who knows what you might read in next week’s paper on an Avalon rail link!

Just as we were digesting the dropping of the airport rail link boost, Eddie McGuire baffled viewers of The Footy Show by hijacking the opening of the show with the carefully articulated and entirely well planned details of a 2-years-in-the-making deal struck between the AFL, the Victorian State Government and the Melbourne Cricket Club to redevelop both the MCG, Etihad Stadium and a commitment to redevelop grounds and facilities of local clubs across the state.

Not only was this latest headline guaranteed to swot the airport rail link off the front pages, it was a glaring contrast of what it looks like when the planning and negotiating takes place before the big pre-Budget announcement, not after.

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