Aug 1, 2014

Abbott dismantling proper process

Tony Abbott owes the business community an explanation about why he is presiding over the complete collapse of proper process surrounding infrastructure investment.

At a business roundtable in Adelaide today Mr Abbott’s Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs called for responses to the Productivity Commission’s report into infrastructure delivery as he sought credit for investments made by the previous Labor Government.

Mr Briggs should acknowledge the Government is already ignoring the Productivity Commission’s recommendations for proper processes around infrastructure.

The Government is investing billions of dollars of public money on road projects without having subjected them to the independent scrutiny of cost-benefit analysis in direct contravention of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations and its own election promises.

It has already handed over $1.5 billion to the Victorian Government for its East-West Link road project.

The independent Infrastructure Australia has not yet seen a final analysis for the project, nor for Sydney’s Westconnex road project, which has also received federal investment.

In the case of the East-West project, Mr Briggs has already given his friends in the Napthine Government $1.5 billion for the two-stage project, including $1 billion for Stage II, even though construction will not begin until the 2015-16 financial year.

This breaches the Productivity Commission recommendations and Mr Briggs’ own June 6 pledge to the Civil Contractors Federation that:

… we are driving the state governments very hard to give us timetables to ensure that we’re meeting the expected time of delivery of these projects. That we’re hitting milestones, that we’re only making payments to states when they actually deliver the milestones, that they’re not getting money in their bank account prior to milestones being delivered…’’

The Abbott Government’s real agenda is to politicise infrastructure investment.

At the same time it is refusing to take a balanced approach to infrastructure investment, funding only roads, but not urban rail, again defying the recommendations of the Productivity Commission.

Our growing cities need roads, but they also need more public transport.

The former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia to properly assess infrastructure proposals and develop a pipeline of projects.

It also provided transparent information on the projects through the National Infrastructure Construction Schedule (NICS) website.

Labor also reduced costs for project delivery through reforms including uniform public-private partnership guidelines developed by the Council of Australian Governments’ infrastructure working group.

When Labor took office, Australia was 20th among OECD nations in terms on infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP.

It is now 1st.