Apr 29, 2014

Truss must account for broken promises

Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss must explain why he is breaching his own election promise by funding major road projects without conducting cost-benefit analyses.

Mr Truss should also use his appearance tomorrow at the National Press Club to justify the Abbott Government’s blanket refusal to invest in public transport projects despite clear evidence that traffic congestion in cities is inhibiting productivity growth and job creation.

During last year’s election campaign Tony Abbott and Mr Truss explicitly promised they would conduct a cost-benefit analysis into any project costing more than $100 million to ensure it delivered value for money.

Their policy document said an Abbott Government would “require all Commonwealth infrastructure expenditure exceeding $100 million to be subject to analysis by Infrastructure Australia to test cost-effectiveness and financial viability’’. (See policy document at https://www.liberal.org.au/our-plan/infrastructure.)

However, since the election the Government has agreed to plough billions of dollars into Melbourne’s proposed East-West Link (Stages 1 and II) and Sydney’s Westconnex road project.

This is despite the fact that Infrastructure Australia has yet to see a final business case for either project.

In the case of the East-West Link, Mr Truss should also explain reports that he will tear away $500 million that the previous Labor Government allocated to upgrading Melbourne’s M80 Ring Road to fund this untested project.

The M80 is an Infrastructure Australia project with a positive benefit-cost ratio of 2.2, meaning that every dollar spent produces $2.20 in economic benefit.

At the same time, the Government has made clear it will cut billions of dollars earmarked by the previous Labor Government for urban rail projects including the Melbourne Metro, Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail project and a rail link to the Perth Airport.

The only explanation is Mr Abbott’s ideological prejudice against public transport.

Labor believes in investing in whichever mode of transport infrastructure has the greatest potential to contribute to productivity growth, whether it is road or rail.

Mr Abbott’s insistence that public transport is not his business not only lets down Australians who use public transport, but will also fail to deliver taxpayers with the best value for money.

While Mr Truss is at the Press Club he should also explain his clear breach of another election promise – to retain businessman Sir Rod Eddington as head of Infrastructure Australia.

Despite Mr Abbott telling the Menzies Research Centre on April 14, 2011, that Sir Rod’s jobs was safe, Mr Truss replaced him with former Victorian Liberal state government minister Mark Birrell on April 5.