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No new tram money in state budget, but four small surpluses

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Premier Steven Marshall says there won’t be any new funding for trams in tomorrow’s budget and doesn’t know anything about reports of a $185 million federal cash splash earmarked for extending Adelaide’s tram network.

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At a news conference today, Marshall said there were “contingencies” in the budget for the Liberal Party’s promised King William Street to North Terrace tramline right-hand-turn, but identified no specific dollar amount, and denied any approach from the Federal Government about the reported trams funding.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Rob Lucas revealed that the budget would be in surplus.

Yesterday, News Corp masthead the Herald Sun reported leaked details of a $7.6 billion roads and rail package – included, but not publicly identified, in the May federal budget – which former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had planned to unveil ahead of the next election.

The story featured an info-graphic, showing $185 million for an Adelaide tram extension.

Labor this morning urged the Marshall Government to “perform the backflip that is required” on tram policy by matching the federal funding with equal State Government money – to secure a tram service to North Adelaide, or a city loop.

A rebuild of Adelaide’s historic tram network, to known as AdeLINK, was a key policy SA Labor took to the last two elections, in contrast to the Liberals who do not want to extend the tram network beyond the CBD and, possibly, North Adelaide.

But Marshall told reporters the Federal Government had made no approach to his office about the reported $185 million spend.

Moreover, he said his government would seek to divert any such funding into higher “priority” projects, such as the North-South corridor upgrades to South Road.

“There has been no approach from the Federal Government to my office, to the Treasurer’s office or to the Transport Minister’s office about trams coming to South Australia, but if there is additional money available we will be putting it towards our priority projects, most importantly the South Road upgrade,” said Marshall.

“We’ve seen no information from the Federal Government – either from my office, the Treasurer’s office or the Minister for Planning, Transport and Infrastructure – about any additional money for the tram project here in South Australia.

“We made it very clear to the people of South Australia in the lead up to the election what our priorities are and we will be sticking with those priorities, so if there is more money available from the Federal Government then we will be putting that money towards our priorities, in particular more productive infrastructure to get this state moving in the right direction – South Road is a classic example.”

He said “of course” there are contingencies in the budget for the right-hand turn – another election promise from the Liberals.

“But we don’t outline specifically dollar amounts against those contingencies,” said Marshall.

“I’ve already outlined what our position is with regards to the right-hand turn: we need to get the detailed information back from the Department.

“We can’t budget for it until we actually have that plan back from the Department.

“We’ve secured a commitment from the Department to do that detailed work as soon as that’s presented to us then Cabinet will consider how we progress that commitment that we made in the lead-up to the election.”

Lucas, meanwhile, said the Government expected “modest operating surplus” in each of the next four financial years.

“Ultimately, we pledge to, and we will be delivering tomorrow on our promise to have (a) balanced budget so there will be modest operating surpluses all the way through the forward estimate years,” he said.

“We won’t be spending like drunken footballers at the end of season football trip.

“The reality is, this budget is going to be about cutting waste, cutting from the former Labor Government’s priorities, projects and programs.”

Earlier this morning, Labor Transport spokesperson Stephen Mullighan told reporters: “It’s clear from these Liberal leaks that there have been secret talks between the State Government and the Federal Government, to the extent that former Treasurer, now Prime Minister Scott Morrison has allocated $185 million for a tram extension in South Australia.

“There is no excuse for Steven Marshall and Rob Lucas not to have the matching $185 million in tomorrow’s budget.

“With state budget matching funding, having nearly $400 million to extend the tram means that O’Connell Street here, or even Hutt Street, as part of a city loop, would benefit in a huge way from the sort of development activity, the visitation, the extra food, and beverage and retail outlets that follow where trams go in a capital city.”

– With reporting from Stephanie Richards

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