The May 3 Budget provides the Turnbull Government with its last chance to make up for breaking its 2013 election promise to “fast track’’ the Inland Rail link from Brisbane to Melbourne.
Despite the promise, the Coalition has not allocated a single dollar beyond the $900 million invested by the former Labor Government.
That included $600 million invested on upgrading existing rail that will form part of the route and $300 million allocated for forward spending.
Inland Rail will speed up the passage of freight down the eastern coast, taking thousands of trucks off the roads and making it easier for agricultural producers to get their goods to market.
We’ve had plenty of talk from the Government, but not a cent of actual investment.
Indeed, just last week Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester penned an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper, promoting Inland Rail as though it was a new idea that had great potential for the national economy.
The planning has been done.
It’s time to stop talking and get on with it.
Even former Nationals Leader and Inland Rail backer John Anderson, paid by the government to prepare an implementation strategy, is becoming frustrated, telling the ABC earlier this month that the farming and business sectors wanted certainty and that the project must be either funded properly or dumped.
Mr Anderson’s frustration is understandable.
The go-slow approach to Inland Rail is being replicated in infrastructure projects all over the nation, with the Government also cutting investment in the critical upgrades of the Pacific and Bruce Highways.
The Government’s inability to deliver explains why Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show public sector infrastructure investment declined by 20 per cent between the September quarter of 2013 and the September quarter of 2015.