Jun 16, 2017

Talking Point: Federal Government delivers political fix, not a serious funding plan


June 16, 2017 12:04am

THERE’S an old saying that actions prove who a person is, while words prove only who they want to be.

When it comes to the infrastructure needs of Tasmania, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is a wannabe who talks a lot but fails to match his rhetoric with actual investment.

In the lead-up to last month’s Federal Budget, Mr Turnbull and his ministers went to great lengths to create the impression they planned to increase investment in railways, roads and other infrastructure.

They even embraced aspects of the Opposition’s approach to infrastructure, including the notion that it can make sense to borrow to invest in good infrastructure projects that enhance productivity and thereby drive economic and jobs growth.

But the shift was purely rhetorical.

Budget 2017 cut national infrastructure investment by $1.6 billion this financial year alone.

Spending will fall off a cliff over the next four years, from $7.6 billion this year to $4.2 billion by 2020-21.

Tasmania was particularly hard hit.

Budget documents show that while the Commonwealth expects to invest $174.6 million in ongoing Tasmanian infrastructure projects in

2017-18, the figure will collapse by more than two-thirds to $52.6 million by 2019-20.

Since taking office the Turnbull Government has not commenced a single new project in Tasmania. Instead it has sought to mask its inaction with vague promises about City Deals.

City Deals originate from the United Kingdom as vehicles for co-operation between national and local government on shared economic development goals.

The national government delivers infrastructure funding based on these shared objectives and shares any resulting revenue increases with the councils.

Mr Turnbull’s City Deals bear little resemblance to the UK model.

They are political fixes.

The three City Deals proposed in last year’s federal election campaign, in Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney, all came in response to actual infrastructure investment commitments by the Labor Party.

Unwilling to commit to real funding for real projects, the Government proposed City Deals.

Traffic congestion is becoming a major problem in Hobart. Picture: MATHEW FARRELL

The Hobart City Deal, proposed after last year’s election, is yet to materialise, despite the local community’s push to build it around a move of the University of Tasmania STEM campus from Sandy Bay to the CBD.

Hobart does not need more talk from Mr Turnbull. It needs actual investment.

That is why in last year’s federal election campaign, Labor proposed an upgrade to the Hobart Bus Mall, a Bellerive public ferry pier, and offered seed funding for a local traffic modelling system to address traffic congestion.

Hobart also needs light rail, a project the former federal Labor government sought to progress back in 2013 by allocating money to advance the project’s business case.

This article was originally published in The Mercury