Dec 10, 2013

Truss bill will gut Infrastructure Australia

Warren Truss is seeking to engineer a return to the political pork barrelling of the Howard era with legislation preventing Infrastructure Australia from providing unbiased advice to government.

The Infrastructure Minister’s proposed changes will undermine Infrastructure Australia’s independence, risking the productivity gains and new jobs that come from proper planning for the delivery of new roads, railway lines and other critical projects.

Labor created Infrastructure Australia in 2008 to assess the nation’s infrastructure needs and prioritise big projects on the basis of their likely contribution to lifting national productivity.

The new approach was in part an attempt to stamp out the pork barrelling of the Howard era through programs such as the discredited Regional Partnerships Program.

However, Mr Truss’s Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 will undo Labor’s reforms, giving him the power to direct Infrastructure Australia’s considerations by telling it which projects to assess and which to ignore.

It will allow Mr Truss to order Infrastructure Australia to assess his pet projects or to totally ignore projects that do not suit his political ambitions or agenda.

The previous Labor Government did not issue orders to Infrastructure Australia.

We wanted it to produce independent analysis as a basis for non-political government decision-making.