Feb 8, 2016

Truss falls further behind on inland rail

Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss’s pre-election promise to “fast track’’ the Inland Rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne is tatters, with the minister forced to delay spending earmarked for this financial year to the following year.

During the 2013 election campaign, Mr Truss vowed a Coalition Government would accelerate the development of the 1730km rail line, which would allow more freight to be carried by rail rather than on the nation’s busy highways.

However, since taking office Mr Truss has not provided a single dollar to the project beyond the $300 million allocated by the former Labor Government.

Today a Senate Budget Estimates committee heard that despite having a budget of $100 million to spend developing the project this financial year, Mr Truss had spent only $29.1 million as at December – halfway through the year.

The committee also heard that $11 million of this year’s allocation would have to be carried over to the following year.

Labor supports Inland Rail, which would benefit agricultural producers along its proposed path and drive productivity gains that would benefit the entire Australian economy.

In office, Labor allocated the $300 million to get the project underway after investing almost $600 million on improvements to existing railway network that will form part of the project.

Mr Truss has not only lacked the clout within Cabinet to secure extra funding, but is also struggling to deliver progress developing the early stages of this important project using money allocated by Labor.

His failure helps explain why the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed last month that public sector investment in infrastructure has collapsed by 20 per cent since the Coalition took office.

Labor understands the need for nation building investment right around the nation – in cities and in regions.

This is why we delivered record infrastructure investment between 2007 and 2013, including rebuilding a third of the nation’s rail freight network.

When we took office, Australian was 20th among OECD nations in terms of infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP.

When we left office, Australia was 1st.