Jan 29, 2014

Abbott seeks to gag independent adviser

URBAN planning experts have accused Tony Abbott of seeking to conceal deliberations about billions of dollars in public spending on roads and public transport.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia says proposed legislative changes to the operation of the independent Infrastructure Australia will make its operation “unacceptably opaque’’ and “open to subjective influence’’.

The assault on transparency follows Mr Abbott’s decision to ignore IA advice to invest in major urban public transport projects including Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail project and the Melbourne Metro.

Mr Abbott refuses to work with the states to invest in public transport to ease traffic congestion in our cities.

Even worse, he wants to silence the independent experts who understand the importance of urban public transport to national productivity and jobs growth.

Mr Abbott’s tactic is simple: If you don’t like the advice, gag the adviser.

Labor created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 to provide independent, fact-based advice about which infrastructure projects have most potential to boost national economic productivity and drive job creation.

In office, Labor funded all of the 15 major projects on IA’s priority list – roads, railways lines and other projects.

We disconnected infrastructure planning from the political cycle because we wanted to end pork-barrelling.

Mr Abbott now wants a return to the old days where decisions about spending were made according to the electoral map, not the national interest.

His approach will worsen traffic congestion and prevent our cities, particularly Brisbane, developing and maintaining a proper, integrated transport system of the 21st century.

Efficient transport systems deliver economic growth and prosperity, which is what Australians need most given increasing pressure on the cost of living.

Last week IA head Michael Deegan warned in a submission that Mr Abbott’s changes would undermine IA’s independence.

NOTE: Submissions to the Senate inquiry on the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 can be found at: http://bit.ly/1e01zFF