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Tas infrastructure minister happy with Budget

Tasmanian infrastructure minister Rene Hidding says the federal budget has delivered for the Apple Isle’s future infrastructure needs.

Hidding, who has served as infrastructure minister since March 2014, credited the positive result to the “strong collaborative relationship” between the Hodgman Liberal Government of Tasmania, and the Turnbull Government.

$202 million in federal funding will be spent on Tasmania’s  road and rail infrastructure in 2016/17, Hidding said, “including critical freight rail upgrades through the Freight Rail Revitalisation Program”.

“Tasmania’s economy is growing at its fastest rate in six years, and the strong infrastructure investment in the 2016/17 federal budget will build on that growth,” Hidding continued.

“The quality of the major rail lines in our productive regions will also be improved with a federal contribution this budget year of nearly $21 million through the Freight Rail Revitalisation Program, to be matched by an equivalent state contribution,” he added.

Federal shadow infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese disagreed, saying on Thursday the Coalition had “cut in half” the Tasmanian rail investment program.

The last budget, presented by Joe Hockey in May 2015, budgeted $59.9 million in federal investment towards Tasmanian rail investment between the 2015/16 and 2018/19 financial years (a four-year stretch).

While some of the annual figures have been adjusted up or down, this year’s budget still dedicates $59.9 million to Tasmanian rail over that same four-year stretch.

Regardless of how you view the figures, however, Albanese says the budget is not a good one for Tasmanian infrastructure.

He spoke critically of the budget during an interview with Tasmanian radio on Thursday morning.

“There hasn’t been a new [Tasmanian] major infrastructure project announced by the government in its three years and I find that quite extraordinary,” Albanese said.

“They’ve handed down their budget and there’s nothing in it for Tasmanian infrastructure.

“It didn’t take too long in the budget lock-up to get through the infrastructure and regional development portfolio papers because there was nothing there for just about anyone but certainly nothing there for Tasmanians.”

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