Premier Daniel Andrews’ first official visit to Warrnambool on Friday since taking the state’s top job two-and-a-half years ago was much appreciated.
The premier deserves recognition for answering this newspaper’s calls on behalf of the community for him to tour the south-west’s capital.
But his visit lacked substance.
His headline act was an address at the Warrnambool rail station about the planned $114 million upgrade of the line west of Geelong.
Apart from a vague timeline for the upgrade which was outlined in May’s state budget, his message re-affirmed what Transport Minister Jacinta Allan had announced in April that VLocity trains will be able to run on the line by the end of this decade.
Any investment in trains and rail infrastructure, which we have campaigned for on behalf on the community, is good news. But Mr Andrews had an opportunity to make a statement by riding our rails and detailing his experience on the state’s worst performing line in the past year.
Instead he flew to Warrnambool. Predictably, his honest answer to which means of transport he used – air – was roundly criticised on social media.
Our roads, as identified by a recent scathing auditor-general’s report, are among the state’s worst. Mr Andrews’ failure to experience them was another missed opportunity. His talk of increased funding, again much appreciated but announced back in May, was hollow as a result.
Mr Andrews opened the Port Fairy community centre and inspected Warrnambool’s Reid Oval, which needs to be upgraded so it is capable of hosting AFL practice matches.
But he did not tour Warrnambool Base Hospital’s outdated emergency department that is the centrepiece of a long-campaigned staged redevelopment nor the city’s special developmental school, which is inadequate for teachers and students.
What was the real purpose of Mr Andrews’ visit then?
The Standard will always advocate on behalf of the south-west community and while it was refreshing to have the premier in the region, we have plenty of work to do to convince him that our roads, hospital, special development school and sporting facilities need major attention and cash injections.
We would relish return visits but taxpayers deserve substance from their leaders.