Feb 27, 2015

Abbott ignores regional infrastructure needs

Tony Abbott has short-changed Ballarat when it comes to infrastructure investment, failing to deliver any new projects that were not planned and funded by the former Labor Government.

Today we inspected the Ballarat to Stawell section of the Western Highway, a project that was conceived and funded in full by Labor.

While it is pleasing that work is proceeding on this great project, I am very concerned that nearly halfway through its term of office, the Abbott Government has done nothing to develop the next wave of nation building infrastructure in this country.

Instead, Mr Abbott and bumbling Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss have simply re-announced dozens of old Labor projects which, like the Western Highway work, were already on the government’s work program when it was elected.

It’s time they focused on building upon Labor’s good work, rather than seeking to claim it as their own and skimping on forward investment.

That’s why the 2015 Budget, to be delivered in May, must contain that next wave of infrastructure investment.

Properly targeted investment in better roads, railways and ports improves the productivity of the economy and leads to jobs growth.

A good example is the former Labor Government’s investment in Victoria’s Regional Rail project, which is separating the regional rail lines serving cities like Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong from the Melbourne suburban rail network.

Work began in 2010. When the project is finished later this year, it will provide an extra 54,000 commuter seats a day.

The former Labor Government invested $3 billion in Regional Rail – the biggest single Commonwealth investment in public transport in the nation’s history.

The project will save the Victorian economy $300 million a year by reducing traffic congestion.

That means faster travelling times for residents of these critical regional centres and a more productive Victorian economy.

The former Labor Government also invested $9 million in the Ballarat Freight Hub, part of the Ballarat West Employment Zone, which will provide a catalyst for further investment.

The former Labor Government also injected an extra $1 million into the Western Highway project to allow for the re-connection of the lost section of the Avenue of Honour.

These are the sorts of investments that lift economic productivity and lead to job creation.

During the 2013 election campaign, Mr Abbott talked endlessly about his ambitions for infrastructure investment.

It’s time he started investing.