Labor is increasingly concerned that the Turnbull Government is interfering with the independence of Infrastructure Australia.
The former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 to independently assess whether rail, road and other projects being considered for Federal funding represent value for money.
The organisation was designed to operate at arm’s length from Government.
Yesterday Infrastructure Australia belatedly released a positive assessment of the long-proposed next section of Adelaide’s North-South Corridor, from Regency Rd to Pym St.
This was released at the very same time the Government was dropping a story to the Adelaide Advertiser that it would provide funding for the project.
While Labor welcomes the long-overdue Adelaide investment, the timing of its release to suit the Government’s media strategy indicates political considerations are clouding Infrastructure Australia’s independence.
The South Australian Government submitted the business case for this project to Infrastructure Australia on June 22 last year – more than ten months ago. There have been persistent calls, including by myself when I visited Adelaide in November, to get moving on the project.
The Federal Coalition Government delayed the approval, advocated strongly by former South Australian Government, until after the South Australian election.
Labor will use upcoming Senate Budget Estimates hearings to examine the simultaneous timing of the release of the assessment and Government’s funding announcement.
I have also expressed concern that in spite of the fact that Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Project was identified by Infrastructure Australia as a priority project in 2012, and was subsequently funded with Commonwealth and Queensland Government agreement in 2013, once the Federal Government changed, so too did Infrastructure Australia’s assessment of this project.
Australia needs increased infrastructure investment after five years of Coalition cuts.
But it also needs a completely independent process that assesses projects promptly, not according to the political agenda of the Government of the day.