Oct 19, 2015

Turf war erupts over who is running cities policy

 

The Turnbull Government’s diabolical ministerial arrangements were on full view today when an unseemly turf war erupted in Question Time over which minister is responsible for infrastructure.

In Question Time I asked Cities Minister Jamie Briggs about the Government’s cut to funding for the Melbourne Metro project, its insistence no business case or costings have been conducted into the project and its claim that Infrastructure Australia has not reviewed the project.

The fact is that planning and preconstruction work for the Melbourne Metro was funded with $40 million from the 2009 Federal Budget.

This enabled the business case to be completed by the Victorian Government in December, 2011.

That case was assessed by Infrastructure Australia as a worthy project and the former Labor Government provided $3 billion in funding in the 2013 Budget.

The incoming Coalition Government then cut the $3 billion, providing $1.5 billion to the Victorian Government in a pre-payment for the shelved East West toll road that has been sitting idle in the Victorian Government’s bank account since June, 2014.

After I asked Cities Minister Mr Briggs about the project, Leader of the House Christopher Pyne intervened to redirect it to his senior colleague, Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

Then, amid chaotic scenes on the government front bench, Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss finally offered an inadequate response to the question.

The only thing missing was Paul Fletcher, as Major Projects Minister, trying to intervene to give his version of the position.

It is now clear that there is a turf was going on between ministers Truss, Hunt, Briggs and Fletcher, as well as parliamentary secretary Michael McCormack and Northern Australia Minister Josh Frydenberg over who is actually responsible for infrastructure.

If the Minister for Cities is not responsible for a rail line in the centre of Melbourne, then it is perplexing as to what his responsibilities might actually be.

Given there is no Major Cities Unit nor any structure in the government for urban policy development and implementation, it is clear that Mr Briggs has been left with a letterhead, a new business card and not much else.

The confusion suggests that while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wants to be seen as having a deep policy interest in Australia’s cities, he has failed badly when it comes to creating an administrative structure to deliver any meaningful policy.