Jun 2, 2014

Abbott thumbs his nose at proper process

Tony Abbott’s risks wasting billions of taxpayer dollars by ramming through major road projects without proper analysis of whether they represent value for public money.

The Prime Minister who in Opposition vowed he would require cost-benefit analysis on all major infrastructure proposals worth more than $100 million is now thumbing his nose at proper process by attacking it as “analysis paralysis’’.

Infrastructure projects need to be properly researched and assessed by the independent Infrastructure Australia to ensure they add to national productivity and represent the best value for scarce taxpayer dollars.

That’s why Labor created Infrastructure Australia.

Now, as well as proposing legislation that guts Infrastructure Australia’s independence by opening the way for greater political interference in its activities, Mr Abbott is rejecting proper process as paralysis.

He would prefer the bad old days of pork-barrelling to prop up Coalition seats, rather than subjecting projects to expert examination.

Mr Abbott’s revelation about his true views about process follows a federal Budget in which he lavished money on projects not yet properly analysed and stripped billions of dollars out of urban rail projects like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail project, which IA had assessed as worthy investments.

For example the Government will make advance payments of $1.5 billion into Melbourne’s East-West Link road this month, despite having produced no business case and despite the fact that $1 billion of this money is for Stage II, construction of which will not begin until 2015-16.

It is also providing unconditional support for Sydney’s Westconnex road project despite there being no finalised business case and the fact that its current design does not serve its stated aims of taking commuters to the city and freight to the port.

Mr Abbott does not want expert advice on Westconnex because experts would tell him that as it is currently planned, it is a road to a traffic jam.

Decisions about big road and rail projects need to be examined in terms of their ability to boost national productivity and the Commonwealth should invest in roads and urban rail to deliver a properly integrated transport network.

Mr Abbott’s idea of productivity is moving from three-word slogans to two-word slogans.