Nov 20, 2013

Truss blind to infrastructure priorities

Warren Truss continues to spurn the views of Infrastructure Australia about the nation’s urban public transport needs despite claiming he is committed to accepting the organization’s independent advice.

Today Mr Truss introduced legislation to restructure Infrastructure Australia, which was created by Labor to assess the nation’s infrastructure needs and advise government on priorities for delivery of major projects like roads, ports and railway lines.

But it is hard to take Mr Truss seriously when he has blatantly ignored Infrastructure Australia’s advice about the need for Commonwealth investment in urban public transport.

Mr Truss says he will take an evidence-based approach to infrastructure and heed independent advice.

However, he refuses to contribute a cent to Brisbane’s proposed Cross River Rail project, identified by Infrastructure Australia as critical to tackling urban congestion.

He has also refused to contribute to the proposed Melbourne Metro, named by IA as a higher priority than the city’s $1.5 billion East-West Link, which Mr Truss will fund.

Mr Truss also refuses to get behind the Perth Airport Rail and has cancelled the proposed upgrade of the Tonsley Park passenger line in Adelaide.

Also in Adelaide, Mr Truss has ignored IA advice about the need to proceed with the Torrens-to-Torrens upgrade of South Road, opting instead lower-priority Darlington project to the south, which a Senate Estimates committee heard on Monday had not been subject to the same level of IA scrutiny.

Urban congestion is a brake on economic productivity and, therefore, a job killer.

The only independent advice Mr Truss wants is the advice that supports his own political priorities.

Labor will closely examine the detail of the IA legislation, including the fact that it appears to limit IA’s discretion in assessing infrastructure projects by giving the minister greater power to direct its activities.