Tony Abbott’s return of $150 million out of the $500 million he cut from Melbourne’s M80 highway upgrade highlights the duplicity of his failed infrastructure agenda.
While Labor welcomes the partial return of funding for the M80 project, which has been assessed and approved by the independent Infrastructure Australia, it should not be forgotten that Mr Abbott ignored Infrastructure Australia’s advice to back the upgrade in 2013.
Instead, he transferred a $500 million M80 investment allocated by the former Labor government to the proposed East-West Link toll road without even seeing a cost-benefit analysis on the project.
It has since emerged that East-West Link toll road is a dud that would return a paltry 45 cents in public benefit for every dollar invested.
Mr Abbott’s fake infrastructure narrative is now in tatters.
Prior to the 2013 election, he promised not to fund any infrastructure projects worth more than $100 million without published cost-benefit analysis ticked off by Infrastructure Australia as he feigned commitment to funding projects on the basis of their economic merit, rather than his political interests.
But after the election, he tore funding away from IA-assessed projects like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Link and allocated it to projects which, like the East-West Link, had not been the subject of independent analysis to determine whether they represented value for money.
Today’s partial return of the M80 funding comes after a public backlash over the fact that the 2015 Budget allocated only 8 per cent of the government’s total infrastructure spend to Victoria, despite the state having 25 percent of the national population.
Mr Abbott’s contempt for expert advice is further highlighted by his decision to slash Infrastructure Australia’s funding from $15 million this year to $8 million by 2018-19.
As Bill Shorten announced in his Budget reply earlier this month, a Labor Government will restore Infrastructure Australia to the centre of government and take its advice seriously.