Infrastructure shopping list

A PROMISE by the NSW treasurer, Mike Baird, of more money for the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund is welcome. It isn’t clear how much money will come, nor when it might arrive, but Hunter people should accept the statement of intent and keep working on the region’s wish-list.

Mr Baird made it clear the government hoped to receive submissions on projects that will enhance economic productivity.

Many may also see the fund as an opportunity to remedy deficiencies in social infrastructure, and it is apparent that a number of the projects already approved in the first round of applications belong in this category.

One vexed question is whether the region should seek money from the infrastructure fund for items that ought, by rights, to be covered by the general state budget. In theory this should not occur, but some will argue that money is so hard to wring from the state that cash from any source ought to be seized with both hands. There is little doubt that all the money could be quickly swallowed by road projects alone. The Hunter’s roads become more overburdened with each passing year, and any number of choke points could be nominated for work.

Money to boost capacity in the public health system would be welcome too, but any truly helpful expenditure – extra beds, for example – would have to be accompanied by an increase in recurrent funding. With the government in cost-cutting mode, that seems a forlorn hope, especially when a promise for improvements for cancer treatment at the Calvary Mater hospital appears already to have been broken.

Newcastle’s efforts at accommodating visitors from cruise ships in the harbour have attracted some criticism, suggesting one possibility for a funding submission.

Any preparatory work on a Fassifern to Hexham freight rail bypass of Newcastle would help attain the goal of getting heavy freight out of the suburbs and providing new scope for improved passenger services.

Duplication of the Tourle Street bridge over the Hunter River to Kooragang Island would also make sense, although that job – arguably – should have been done when the old bridge was replaced.

Starting work on the railway station component of the Glendale interchange project would also be welcomed in many quarters.

Guide dogs at risk

WHEN an uncontrolled pet dog attacks the guide dog of a blind person, some might suggest the attacking animal ought to be treated as if it has attacked the person directly. To many minds, that must surely appear the case.

Guide dogs are so difficult and expensive to train, and their relationships with their owners are so close and important, that little tolerance ought to be extended to those responsible for attacks.

In severe cases it might be suggested that the owners of attacking dogs be required to show cause why their animals should not be put down, and in any case, the owners ought to be heavily fined.

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