Jun 26, 2014

Labor saves Infrastructure Australia

Tony Abbott has abandoned his plans to meddle in the affairs of Infrastructure Australia, folding in the face of Labor’s seven-month campaign to preserve its independence.

Labor created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 to review proposals for infrastructure projects and rank them according to their potential to add to national productivity.

It was designed to be independent of government and its research was to be published so taxpayers could assess government spending decisions against the non-political advice of IA.

But last November Mr Abbott proposed changes to allow the Government to order IA not to examine “certain classes’’ of infrastructure, such as public transport.

Mr Abbott also wanted the right to order IA to conceal its research from the community.

However, the Prime Minister today capitulated, agreeing to 29 Senate amendments that protect IA’s independence.

Every government has the right to make decisions about spending on infrastructure.

But taxpayers deserve to know that funding decisions are based on evidence that investments represent value for public money.

The alternative is the type of pork-barrelling that blighted the Howard era.

Independence and transparency were central to the design of IA and Labor is pleased to have been able to protect the organisation from Mr Abbott’s attempt to turn it into a government lap dog.