A $6 billion hospitals project to build a new medical precinct in inner-Melbourne and upgrade two nearby facilities has been billed as the biggest in Australian history.
Flanked by hard hat, hi-vis-clad nurses on Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews announced a plan to upgrade the Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s hospitals and build a new medical precinct in the future suburb of Arden.
The project’s total cost is estimated at between $5 billion and $6 billion – double that of the new $2.4 billion Royal Adelaide Hospital – and is expected to create more than 1800 extra beds and treatment spaces.
Labor has committed to make an initial investment of up to $2.5 billion towards the medical precinct, which will become home to new campuses for both hospitals.
Stage one works of the 12-year project are slated to begin in 2025 and be completed in 2031.
Stage two and three to expand parts of the Parkville hospitals would start once the first of two hospital towers open at Arden, with the full project to be completed by 2034.
“This is the biggest hospital project our country has ever seen,” Mr Andrews told reporters at the Arden train station construction site, which would link the precincts.
Non-urgent patients would be treated at Arden, allowing the Parkville precinct’s oldest buildings to be demolished and limiting disruption.
The Victorian government is prepared to entirely fund the project, although is open to any Commonwealth contribution.
A funding breakdown will be outlined as part of a pre-election budget update, released before Victorians head to the polls in November.
The project is not an election promise, with taxpayers’ money already spent on its planning after an Arden campus was flagged in Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy.
But it comes after a string of health-related election promises from both the government and opposition.
Shadow treasurer David Davis said Labor was adding to Victoria’s mounting debt and declined to guarantee the new hospital campuses would be built at Arden under a coalition government.
“Splitting the campus like that is likely far less than ideal,” he said.
The Liberal campaign has again come under the spotlight on Tuesday, after the Herald Sun reported deputy state director Scott Samson was forced out along with several staffers.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy is adamant the party has not lost any senior campaign workers.
“There was three people in the campaign unit of 60 who changed over at the start of the campaign,” he told reporters in Doncaster while announcing a schools funding boost and literacy plan.
“We’re here to win. We’re not here to come an honourable second.”
Under the coalition schools pledge, an extra $175 million would be paid to non-government schools annually over four years to finance infrastructure upgrades, better facilities and resources.
There won’t be a requirement to match funding dollar for dollar and it will not be means tested for wealthy schools.
Another $220 million has also been earmarked for the coalition’s “Better Readers Plan”, which includes the introduction of a program that teaches students to sound out words.
Meanwhile, the Victorian Greens have pitched a plan to ban the sale of petrol cars in Victoria from 2030, scrap Labor’s electric vehicle tax and instead hand out a $15,000 “eco-bonus” to drivers who make the switch.