Jul 17, 2014

Labor delivers infrastructure protections

Labor amendments requiring the Government to subject asset sales to parliamentary scrutiny and publish cost-benefit analyses for major new projects before they can access incentive payments from the Commonwealth have passed the Senate.

The Abbott Government’s flawed Asset Recycling Fund Bill lacked transparency and accountability provisions to ensure taxpayer money is spent on projects which provide the greatest productivity enhancements.

Labor’s amendments to the Encouraging Privatisation (Asset Recycling Fund) Bill 2014:

  • Keep the Education Infrastructure Fund separate to the Asset Recycling Fund, preserving its $3.5 billion balance for education and research infrastructure
  • Empower the Australian Parliament to scrutinise the assets that will be privatised by requiring the Government to table a disallowable instrument for each privatisation and reinvestment transaction.
  • Ensure new projects over $100 million receiving the 15% incentive payment are assessed by Infrastructure Australia with a published cost benefit analysis
  • Prevent States and Territories accessing the 15% incentive payment where the asset being sold is an essential service.

Labor believes that the federal government should provide a leading role in working with States and territories in funding Nation Building infrastructure projects, including setting governance standards that allow decisions to be made in the national interest, not in accordance with the political cycle.

The Abbott Government’s Bill incentivised asset sales by the States and Territories regardless of the nature of the assets sold and gave the Parliament no ability to oversee the process to ensure such decisions are made in the national interest.

This approach could have the effect of rewarding States and Territories for selling off essential services and pouring Commonwealth funds into major projects that do not deliver the greatest productivity enhancements for the nation.

The Coalition’s also took funds from the former Labor Government’s Education Infrastructure Fund to pay for infrastructure projects.

The former Labor Government started the Education Infrastructure Fund in 2008 to supporting world-leading, strategically-focused infrastructure investments that will transform Australian tertiary education and research.

This recognises the potential of education infrastructure to drive productivity growth.

The amendments passed today protect the Fund and lock in long term, best-practice accountability and transparency provisions which will ensure public funds are put to the best use to grow jobs and economic prosperity.

Labor recognises the support of Senate crossbenchers in passing these important, nation-building transparency and accountability provisions.