Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was splashing the cash and making promises we hope he is able to keep on a trip to his home town of Wangaratta on Friday.
Mr Andrews joined Health Minister Jill Hennessy to confirm $15.2 million to fund a new 12-bed critical care unit, emergency department expansion and relocation of the oncology unit at Northeast Health.
The announcement of the Victorian money came one year to the day since former Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella told a public forum that Northeast Health had missed out on $10 million – because the voters of Indi had failed to elect her.
The comments, aired to a live television audience on April 21 last year, backfired and no doubt hurt rather than helped Mrs Mirabella’s bid to win back the seat from Cathy McGowan. Twelve months on, Mr Andrews said Mrs Mirabella was “completely irrelevant to my government's agenda”. And with $15.2 million safely in the pocket of Wangaratta hospital, Northeast Health board chairman Brendan Schutt simply said “it’s history”.
On matters of history that stretch back a great many more years than that particular incident, Mr Andrews said he wanted to do a deal with the federal government to fix the long beleaguered North-East rail line.
If the federal government puts up the money to fix the track, Mr Andrews says his government will pay for new trains.
Now, we’ve heard a lot of talk from a lot of pollies in the past and – it has to be said – we’ve grown weary of it. But, dare we say it, this sounds promising. It is certainly the strongest indicator yet that the federal and state governments might combine to do something about this issue.
Mr Andrews reckons he is the “best briefed Premier in the history of this state on the failings of the North-East line”.
“Let's have the federal government provide the money for the track and my government will provide the money for the trains and we will get on with making this service much, much better.”
Acknowledging that residents of the North East are sick and tired of the same old issue, he promised: “We stand ready once allocations are made to improve the track to fulfill our important obligations around trains”.
While passengers who tolerate the second-rate North-East service are no doubt worn down by the saga, the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the oil – and we must continue to make plenty of noise.