Dec 19, 2017

Barnaby’s infrastructure challenge

Incoming Infrastructure and Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce must use his appointment to reverse the Coalition’s cuts to investment in nation building infrastructure.

Since taking office the Coalition has slashed investment in rail, road, public transport and other infrastructure at the very time it should have been increasing it to drive economic activity and jobs growth.

According to the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, Commonwealth infrastructure investment, as measured as a percentage of GDP, will halve from 0.4 to 0.2 percent by 2020-21.

The Government is not only slashing funding over the next four years, but has also failed to deliver on the promises made in their first three budgets.

And this year’s Budget will be no different.

Indeed, at Budget time just seven months ago, the Government said it would invest $8 billion in the nation’s road and rail infrastructure in 2017-18.  However, yesterday’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) revealed that they will actually invest $7 billion, which represents a $1 billion cut.

That takes the total infrastructure cuts over their first four budgets to $4.8 billion.

Properly targeted infrastructure investment boosts economic activity in the short term while lifting productivity in the longer term.

Mr Joyce must boost investment, not just in rural and regional roads, but also in public transport within our cities in order to tackle worsening traffic congestion, which is eroding people’s quality of life and acting as a handbrake on productivity and economic growth.

I wish outgoing Minister Darren Chester all the best on what must be a difficult day following his shabby and appalling treatment by his own side.

He retains my respect as a man of integrity.