Jun 10, 2010

Risky Abbott’s infrastructure policy: bottlenecks and lost export earnings

Risky Abbott’s infrastructure policy: a return to bottlenecks and lost export earnings

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

June 10 2010

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has confirmed he is opposed to further public investment in Western Australia’s road, rail and port infrastructure, a move which would again leave the mining sector struggling to meet the growing international demand for our resources.

When asked on radio whether he supported the Rudd Labor Government’s $6 billion Regional Infrastructure Fund, he dismissed it as unnecessary because the private sector would build the infrastructure we need.

That’s the same approach adopted by the former Howard Government to justify their cuts to infrastructure spending, including more than $2 billion from the roads budget.

As a result, during the last resources boom bottlenecks at our ports and capacity constraints on our rail lines quickly emerged, costing our economy tens of billions of dollars in lost export earnings.

For instance, the NSW Minerals Council estimates inadequate rail and port infrastructure in the Hunter Valley alone meant Australia missed out on more than $2 billion in coal export earnings between 2005 and 2010.

While it’s true the private sector has lifted its spending on infrastructure in recent years, the bottlenecks and capacity constraints that characterised the last resources boom are proof governments must also play a role.

But don’t take my word for it. According to the Minerals Council of Australia (press release, 26/05/09):

“There are significant gaps in Australia’s export infrastructure and some of the nation’s existing capital is in a state of disrepair.

“Despite extensive investment by the minerals sector in both industrial and community infrastructure – some $30 billion during 2008 – too often governments in the past have abrogated their responsibility to local communities and thus constrained the investment that private sector has wanted to make.”

Despite being a senior minister in the Howard Government, Mr Abbott appears to have leant nothing and seems determined to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Our commitment to a $6 billion Regional Infrastructure Fund is further confirmation that only the Rudd Labor Government has a plan to build the stronger economy which will deliver a fairer share to all working families, including those living in Western Australia.