Jul 29, 2014

Experts question road obsession

Tony Abbott must reconsider his obsession with funding only roads and not passenger rail after the emergence of leaked advice warning that the nation’s road spending is “hideously inefficient’’.

The advice, in a draft report produced by Infrastructure Australia, warns that the nation’s governments adopt a roads-first policy when it comes to infrastructure delivery without knowing whether building roads presents the best value for the taxpayer dollar.

The present political appetite at all levels of government is to build more roads. But the ‘just give us more money’  approach observable from Australia’s road agencies cannot be considered a prudent course for governments to agree to ….

Spend More, Waste More report

The draft report is a timely warning for the Prime Minister that his blanket refusal to fund passenger rail in Australia’s crowded cities and his insistence on building only roads is flawed.

Since taking office, Mr Abbott has dumped billions of dollars’ worth of investment allocated by the former Labor Government for urban rail projects like the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail Link, Adelaide’s Tonsley Park project and a rail link between the Perth CBD and the city’s busy airport.

In his 2014 Budget, Mr Abbott reallocated money earmarked for such projects to road proposals like Melbourne’s East-West link and Sydney’s Westconnex project despite neither having been subject to independent cost-benefit analysis.

Labor believes in Commonwealth investment in an integrated transport system that includes roads and rail.

We also believe that infrastructure investment must always deliver value for money.

I am also concerned that acting Infrastructure Australia head John Fitzgerald has attempted to disown this report, despite the fact that the leaked draft is clearly marked as an Infrastructure Australia document.

Infrastructure Australia was designed as an independent adviser to government on the facts surrounding infrastructure provision.

It would be a great concern of the organization moved to a position where it was prepared to release its research only if its conclusions backed government policy.

Our nation needs to take an evidence-based approach to building roads, railways and other infrastructure.

Facts are facts and they should be made available not only to governments, but also to citizens whose taxes fund infrastructure.

The Infrastructure Australia report can be found at: http://bit.ly/1tUW0P6