WHEN it comes to ensuring that Sydney has world-class roads and public transport, there is no substitute for proper planning. Governments can spend on infrastructure, but if they don’t get the planning right, they risk delays, cost blow-outs and producing projects that don’t solve the problems for which they were designed.
Unfortunately, the federal Coalition government’s infrastructure program has suffered from poor planning and not being guided by Infrastructure Australia advice. ABS figures show that public infrastructure investment has collapsed by 20 per cent since the Coalition was elected.
The primary reason is the government cancelling all public transport projects that were not under construction at the time of its election.
And when it comes to road projects, there has been a lot more talk than turned sods. Tony Abbott promised cranes in the sky within one year of his election but the only thing in the sky has been Bronwyn Bishop’s helicopter.
Meanwhile, properly planned projects put in place by the former Labor federal government are being efficiently rolled out because proper attention was paid to planning.
For example, the F3 to M2 link in Sydney, renamed NorthConnex by the Coalition, was finalised in June 2013 in a government partnership with Transurban and is now under construction.
The Moorebank Intermodal project and Northern Sydney Freight upgrade are also under way.
But the Auditor-General has been critical of the Coalition’s approach, particularly its use of an advance payment of $1.5 billion for Melbourne’s East West Link without the commonwealth having a transparent business case.
In light of this, I have asked the Auditor-General to examine the federal government’s infrastructure program including the use of advance payments for projects such as WestConnex.
The proposed project must address Sydney’s traffic needs and Infrastructure NSW’s judgment was clear. It described the city’s first priority as making it easier to move freight to Port Botany. It seems strange then that the current design of WestConnex does not go to the port.
And the cost of the project has blown out from $10 billion to $16.8 billion. Advance commonwealth funding of $2.75 billion has already been provided yet the only work that has begun is extra lanes on the existing M4.
The greatest indictment of the Turnbull regime has been the diversion of $18 million from the infrastructure budget to a government advertising campaign. In new minister Paul Fletcher’s opinion piece yesterday he unsurprisingly failed to mention this scandalous abuse of taxpayers funding. I await his explanation.
In Opposition, Labor has sought to be positive on infrastructure, backing the second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek as well as improving road infrastructure and public transport.
But Labor makes no apology for doing everything in our power to ensure the government plans projects properly and projects funded actually address the city’s transport needs.
The people of Sydney deserve nothing less.
Anthony Albanese is the Opposition spokesman for Transport, Infrastructure and Cities
This piece appeared in today’s edition of The Daily Telegraph