May 8, 2012

Budget 2012-13: Nation Building for Australia’s future: Vision and courage

The 2012-13 Budget maintains and adds to the Federal Labor Government’s unprecedented capital works program, one that’s building the modern, well-planned infrastructure which makes working people’s lives easier, our businesses more competitive and the Australian economy more productive.

From the outset we were determined to return the Budget to surplus without sacrificing the long term investments vital to unlocking our nation’s full potential and securing our future prosperity.

In the competitive, globalised world of the 21st century, infrastructure matters.

Through the establishment of Infrastructure Australia we have overhauled the
way our nation plans, priorities, finances, builds and uses infrastructure.  And on any objective assessment these reforms, together with our unprecedented $36 billion Nation Building Program, are making a real and substantial difference.

For example:

  • Total public and private investment in the nation’s roads, railways, electricity generators and water storage facilities is 40 per cent higher, in real terms, than it was during the last full year (2006-07) of the former government.

For our part, Labor has doubled annual Federal infrastructure spending from $141 to $269 per Australian, with the large scale road, rail and public transport projects initiated expected to generate long term economic, social and environmental benefits worth almost three times more than what they cost to build.

  • There’s been a marked improvement in the condition and safety of our major highways.  According to the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) just 17 per cent of the National Road Network is now rated ‘high risk’, down 6 percentage points since 2007.
  • The Interstate Rail Network is carrying more freight than ever before
    and at much faster speeds, with average transit times between Brisbane and Melbourne, for example, now seven hours shorter than they were
    in 2005.

In four short years we have turned around declining investment in the nation’s infrastructure and begun building for the future.  We’ve replaced neglect, buck passing and short-termism with a comprehensive, long term plan inspired by Labor’s century old nation building tradition.

THE NATION’S UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Part of building for the future involves finding solutions to the challenges our predecessors avoided or simply deemed too hard to fix.  The 2012-13 Budget takes further action on four such long standing impediments to faster economic growth, rising living standards and higher productivity.

Labor will never accept that Australians no longer have the ability to think big, the courage to make hard decisions nor the ingenuity to build great infrastructure.

Building a national road network fit for the 21st Century:

The 2012-13 Budget injects an extra $3.56 billion into Federal Labor’s Nation Building Program, funding which if matched by the NSW Government could be used to complete the full duplication of the Pacific Highway by the end of 2016, a goal first established by former Prime Minister John Howard.

The latest estimates put rebuilding the remaining sections at $7.1 billion.

Federal Labor’s prepared to step up.  But completing this massive nation building
task – the largest and most complex road construction project ever undertaken in this country – sooner rather than later will require a genuine 50:50 partnership between both levels of governments.

If such an agreement can be reached, then in just five years the nation’s three biggest cities – Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – will at long last be linked by dual carriageway highways designed and built to the highest engineering and safety standards.

In the meantime, a significant milestone in the delivery of this great national endeavour will be reached.  More than half a century after work began on rebuilding and duplicating the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne, the job is on track to be completed by the middle of next year.

Beyond the duplication of the Pacific and Hume highways our $28 billion road construction program, the biggest since the creation of the national network almost 40 years ago, is also updating key sections of the Bruce, Warrego, Newell, Stuart, Princes, Colder, Dukes, Midland, Great Eastern and Great Northern highways.

Significantly, three quarters of the Federal roads budget is earmarked for projects in rural and regional Australia.

Of the 217 major roads projects scheduled to be delivered under the existing National Building Program (2008-09 to 2013-14), 103 have been completed and a further 81 are underway.

Rebuilding rail and restoring its competitiveness

As well as rebuilding large stretches of the National Road Network, the Federal Labor Government is also making the largest investment in generations in modernising the Interstate Rail Freight Network.  All up, we are currently rebuilding more than a third (3,800 kilometres) of this vital piece of national infrastructure.

Our aim is simple: we want more freight on the back of trains.  This would not only take the pressure off our highways and make them safer; it would also be good for the environment and good for national productivity.

That’s why the 2012-13 Budget adds two new projects to our capital works program:

  • Moorebank Intermodal: We will commission the private sector to design, build and operate a major, new facility in Sydney’s south west.  When up and running in 2017, it which will take 1.2 million trucks a year off the City’s road network, prevent gridlock around Port Botany and ultimately transform the movement of freight across the entire eastern seaboard.
  • Torrens and Goodwood Junctions Upgrade: We will upgrade the section of the Interstate Network which runs through the heart of Adelaide by eliminating two existing bottlenecks: one at Goodwood and the other just north of the CBD.

This will not only speed up the movement of freight trains through the City but also allow bigger trains to operate along the rail corridor between Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

As a result of this Budget decision, we’ve now committed funding to every nationally-significant, ‘ready-to-proceed’ project listed on Infrastructure Australia’s original 2008 Priority List.

Of the 42 major upgrades scheduled to be delivered across the Interstate Rail Network under the existing National Building Program (2008-09 to 2013-14), 22 are completed and a further 14 are underway.

A new era of better, smarter regulations

As well as improving the infrastructure which the nation’s $61 billion transport industry relies upon, the 2012-13 Budget provides $38.0 million over three years to finalise and bed-down historic reforms to the way it’s regulated.

After more than a century of failed attempts, Australia is now only months away from historic reforms which will free up the movement of interstate trade and boost national income by $30 billion over the next 20 years.

From 1 January 2013, gone will be the existing 23 separate state and federal regulators covering heavy vehicles, rail safety and maritime safety, along with their costly and confusing array of regulations.  In their place will be just three national regulators administering one set of modern, nationwide laws.

A second Sydney airport

For a country as vast in size and as remote from the rest of the world as ours, the importance of aviation to the Australian economy cannot be overstated.  But after years of delay and inaction our premier international gate, Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport, is rapidly running out of room.

Following the release of the independent report written by senior Federal and NSW planning and infrastructure bureaucrats, as well as representatives from the private sector, we are now in a position to move forward.

We will take the next step towards securing Sydney’s status as a global city by getting the planning right on the new airport that’s so desperately needed.  Securing this new piece of infrastructure would produce significant economic and social dividends for the whole of the country for decades to come.

THE NEXT STEP: BEYOND NATION BUILDING I

Despite the very real progress over the past four years, we have always said it would take more than one or two parliamentary terms to put right a decade of neglect and begin building for the future.

That’s why we are already working on our next Nation Building Program which is due to start in 2014-15.

But already it’s beginning to take shape, with the 2012-13 Budget committing new funding to maintain a range of initiatives which have helped to make our roads better and safer, including:

  • $300 million to extend the Black Spot Program for a further five years, an investment which can be expected to prevent over 2,000 accidents and the loss of 14 lives a year.
  • $1.75 billion to extend the Roads to Recovery Program until 2019 to assist the nation’s councils and shires to maintain and upgrade their local roads, supplementing the support they receive under our Financial Assistance Grants Scheme.
  • $140 million to continue the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package, with the funding to be used to provide the safe, modern rest stops and other roadside facilities which truck drivers rely upon.

Over the next 12 months, a full schedule of major road, rail and public transport projects will be finalised in consultation with Infrastructure Australia, industry as well as state and territory governments.

But as a nation our past achievements should give us the confidence we need to face the future.  Australia does have a proud record of building visionary but practical infrastructure.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge; the transcontinental railway and the Snowy River Scheme are all lasting examples of this fact.

It is this tradition – what we in Labor call “nation building” – that drives this Government.  It is about putting the resourcefulness of our people and the natural wealth beneath our soils to work building the future we want for our nation.

BUDGET: Nation Building – The Next Stage

BUDGET: Nation Building – Driving Australia’s Productivity

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Major Works on Australias Interstate National Networks

Major Works on Australias Interstate National Networks

 

Capital Works on Australian Interstate Rail Network

Capital Works on Australian Interstate Rail Network