Jul 19, 2016

Coalition must re-examine Nation Building

Malcolm Turnbull must return to the policy drawing board on Nation Building after scraping back into power without a cogent plan to tackle Australia’s infrastructure constraints, particularly the serious traffic congestion in our cities.

Despite Mr Turnbull feigning interest in infrastructure policy, his 2016 election campaign included no funding commitments for critical projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail, Adelaide’s Adelink or the Western Sydney Rail project.

The Prime Minister also had no policy for broader urban issues beyond proposing ill-defined “city deals,’’ which he used as political fixes to copy strong Labor commitments in politically sensitive areas like Townsville and Launceston.

Instead of serious infrastructure investment, Mr Turnbull succumbed to crude pork barreling by allocating $750 million for 77 small road projects around the country – 75 of which were located in Coalition electorates.

In contrast, Labor offered a clear, comprehensive and integrated infrastructure plan including investment in urban rail, light rail, roads and important rail freight projects like the duplication of Sydney’s Port Botany freight line.

Labor’s infrastructure plan was strategic. It was aimed at eliminating bottlenecks, building capacity and boosting productivity as a way to facilitate economic and jobs growth.

The strong support for Labor on July 2 in outer suburban areas of all of our capital cities indicates Australians want a government prepared to tackle traffic congestion, which Infrastructure Australia has warned will cost the nation $53 billion a year by 2031 without action now.

Labor approaches infrastructure investment as an economic policy, not simply as a way to win votes.

Mr Turnbull should go back to the drawing board on infrastructure. He should start by reading Labor’s infrastructure policy document, which is available on the ALP website at http://bit.ly/29KAoQO.

Labor is proud of our record on infrastructure.

When the former Labor Government took office Australia was 20th on a list of OECD nations in terms of infrastructure investment. When we left office, Australia was 1st.

Between 2013 and 2016, the Abbott-Turnbull Government cut infrastructure investment, including scrapping all public transport investment in 2013 and cutting its own infrastructure budget by $1 billion this year.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show total public sector infrastructure investment fell by 20 per cent between the September quarters of 2013 and 2015.