We know that city deals should take a bottom-up approach. I know, from discussions with the Western Sydney mayors, that there’s a great deal of concern that, indeed, they’re not really partnerships; they’re more impositions from the top down. If City Deals are going to be successful, they do need to be from the bottom up and they do need to have proper funding mechanisms. If that is done properly, there’s no doubt that they can achieve a substantial amount.
Similar to the government’s announcement of the creation of the Infrastructure Financing Unit in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet last year, I’d be interested to know of the minister why that was transferred from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet into the minister’s department? What projects have been approved for private sector infrastructure investment as a result of that? It’s pretty clear that this body, a bit like some other more fanciful off-budget financing, was an attempt by the government to look like it was doing something when nothing was actually happening. What is actually happening on the ground, of course, is that we’re seeing underinvestment in infrastructure.
The budget shows that Victoria is still being short-changed. They’re receiving eight per cent of infrastructure investment in this financial year, despite being 25 per cent of the Australian population. We’re seeing that South Australian investment will fall from $832 million in the current financial year down to $236 million across the forwards in 2021-22. We’ll see funding in New South Wales fall from $2.67 billion in the current financial year to $825 million in 2021-22. In Queensland, we see many of the promised announcements being put off on the never never—projects like Cooroy to Curra and the M1 upgrade—with the overwhelming majority of the funding being outside of the forward estimates. In Tasmania, the same thing is happening, with three out of every four dollars in the budget not being there in terms of the forward estimates—being outside of that. Even in Western Australia we’re seeing funding fall from $1.16 billion this year to $411 million in 2021-22. In the Northern Territory, it falls from $222 million down to $61 million in 2021-22. In the ACT—essentially, the ACT is being ignored. The last major project in the ACT supported by the Commonwealth government was, of course, Majura Parkway, which, like other projects funded by the federal Labor government, they were happy to go to the opening of even though they opposed the infrastructure investment at the time.
This is a government that has not matched its rhetoric with real funding, with real dollars, with the real approach for urban policy that’s required or with the real approach for regional economic development that is required.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.
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