Labor welcomes the Grattan Institute’s call for increased transparency and independent analysis of infrastructure projects but notes that this is the job of the already existing Infrastructure Australia.
The former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 to provide impartial advice about the potential economic effects of projects competing for Commonwealth funding.
Infrastructure Australia weighs costs against benefits, then prioritises projects that are competing for Commonwealth funding according to their potential.
The Abbott-Turnbull Government has instead ignored Infrastructure Australia, committing to poorly planned projects that have not been through IA’s rigorous assessment process.
To make matters worse, in order to fund these projects, the Abbott-Turnbull Government has cut funding from projects already assessed and prioritised by Infrastructure Australia.
These projects include the Melbourne Metro and M80 upgrade in Victoria, Brisbane’s Cross River Rail Link and Adelaide’s Gawler Line electrification.
Subsequently Melbourne’s East West Link has collapsed, the proposed Perth Freight Link has been stopped by the courts and the budget for Sydney’s Westconnex toll road project has blown out from $10 billion to $16.8 billion.
In two of these instances –the East-West Link and the Westconnex toll road – the Government chose to make advance payments of billions of dollars before a business case had even been presented.
The problem here is not that there is no avenue for independent assessment of projects.
The problem is the Abbott-Turnbull Government, which has cancelled projects that independent experts found to be worthy, to reallocate money to projects for which no case has been established.
A Labor Government will restore and elevate the status of Infrastructure Australia.
Under Labor, Infrastructure Australia will be transformed from a passive assessor of infrastructure proposals to a central player in the national infrastructure scene, making it easier to get projects off the ground and ensuring that those projects represent value for money and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Projects submitted to Infrastructure Australia will also be required to show, in addition to a cost-benefit analysis, consideration of smart infrastructure technology and sustainability measures.
This will increase value for public money and ensure genuine action is taken to improve the productivity, sustainability and liveability of Australia’s cities.