May 4, 2016

Billion dollar infrastructure cut fails the nation

Malcolm Turnbull last night slashed infrastructure investment by $1 billion, worsening the dangerous 20 per cent decline in public sector infrastructure investment that has already happened on the Coalition’s watch.

The 2016-17 Budget included no new major projects and cut $853 million in unallocated funds from the Government’s asset recycling fund as well as $162 million from its broad infrastructure investment program.

It contained no new investments in public transport, leaving Australian cities at the mercy of worsening traffic congestion, which is damaging the economy and eroding the Australian quality of life.

While Mr Turnbull says he wants to diversify the nation’s economic base to aid our transition out of the mining boom, he has failed to invest in the new railway lines and roads required to facilitate that transition.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported that public sector infrastructure investment fell by 20 per cent between the September quarter of 2013 and the September quarter of 2015.

This decline is attributable to the incoming Coalition Government cutting more than $4 billion of investment in public transport projects in line with former prime minister Tony Abbott’s absurd view that the Commonwealth should not invest in public transport.

While Mr Turnbull promised a new approach after ousting Mr Abbott last September, he has failed to reverse those savage cuts or to outline the next wave or productivity enhancing public transport projects about the nation.

Traffic congestion is a hand brake on productivity growth.

Infrastructure Australia has warned that traffic congestion will cost the nation $53 billion a year in lost productivity by 2031 without government action.

Last night’s Budget was an opportunity for Mr Turnbull to act.

He failed.

Instead of investing directly in public transport, Mr Turnbull is offering vague promises about complicated “value capture’’ deals which he has struggled to explain and which appear to be favour his friends in the development and banking industries.

A Shorten Labor Government will invest directly into railways and roads required to promote economic and jobs growth in this nation.

We will also create a $10 billion infrastructure financing facility to leverage more private investment into infrastructure and augment our investment with sensible value-capture arrangements, such as selling the development rights to space over new railway stations.