Official figures from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development prove Malcolm Turnbull and his Ministers have been serially misleading Australians about their level of investment in new railways, roads and other infrastructure.
While the Government has claimed for years that it will spend $50 billion on infrastructure between 2014/15 and 2018-19, the actual money committed is $34 billion.
Proof of the Government’s misleading behaviour comes amid growing calls from economists and business leaders for it to boost infrastructure to support jobs and economic growth. Those calls have increased since this month’s National Accounts showed the economy contracted by 0.5 per cent in the September quarter.
Mr Turnbull and his ministers have rejected these calls, claiming they are investing $50 billion on infrastructure.
However, in an answer to a question on notice to a Senate Budget Estimates committee about investment levels, the Government’s own Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has debunked Mr Turnbull’s misleading claims.
The department says the Government’s “total” program over its first five years in office will be worth $34 billion, with another $8 billion proposed to be invested “onwards.’’ meaning into the unspecified future.
Mr Turnbull must now explain to Australians why he has been misleading them about infrastructure investment.
He must also apologise for misleading Parliament on November 24, when he claimed to be spending $50 billion when making his annual address to Parliament on the progress of his infrastructure program.
He should also explain why he wasted $18 million of public money on pre-election television and newspaper advertisements repeating his misleading claims and why he actually cut infrastructure investment to pay for these advertisements.
But above all, the Prime Minister must actually invest in infrastructure.
At a time of economic transition, investing in the right projects will support economic growth and jobs in the short term while unlocking productivity gains that will fuel further growth over the long term.
The Government could begin to boost investment simply by delivering on its promises.
In its 2014 Budget, the Coalition undertook to invest $8 billion on infrastructure in the 2015-16 financial year. But the recently released Final Budget Outcome for 2015-16 shows the Government invested $5.5 billion.
That underspend followed an underspend of $900 million in the previous year.
It is time Australia had a government prepared to support economic and jobs growth, not just talk about it.
Mr Turnbull must stop misleading his fellow Australians and actually invest in the nation’s future.
BACKGROUND NOTES AND LINKS TO SOURCE DOCUMENTS
Speech to the National Roads Summit—’Roads, Jobs and Growth’
19 May 2016
The Turnbull Government is funding infrastructure at record levels all around Australia. We are investing over $50 billion for the period 2013-14 to 2019-20 onwards, in critical road and rail infrastructure. In 2016-17 we will spend over $9 billion on transport infrastructure, a record for any Commonwealth Government.
ABC AM with Michael Brissenden
19 October 2016
Look, let’s be clear. The Turnbull Government is spending $50 billion on infrastructure between now and 2019/20 all around the country. This year we will spend $9 billion, that’s the budgeted figure of $9 billion 2016/17.
ABC AM INTERVIEW
17 February 2016
Michael, I think it shows how important infrastructure is and also how much is already going on. The Turnbull Government has a $50 billion program of infrastructure spending over 2014/15 to 2019/20 projects all around the country upgrading the Pacific Highway, the Bruce Highway, Western Sydney airport—we’ve made a commitment to that which had been not progressed for many years.
24 November 2016
Darren Chester: Thank you, Paul, today’s government response to the Infrastructure Plan is an important part of the journey in terms of seeing our foundation for our next stage of infrastructure investment. Right now we have a $50 billion infrastructure investment program rolling out right across Australia, not just in our cities, not just in our regional highways but also in those small country and rural areas and we recognise when you invest into infrastructure you can change people’s lives, you can save people’s lives. It changes lives by reducing congestion, improving productivity and also saves lives obviously in relation to reducing road trauma which is an issue of national significance.
Transcript available on Mr Chester’s ministerial website.
COALITION 2016 ELECTION DOCUMENT
The Turnbull Government is investing a record $50 billion in Australia’s land transport infrastructure – to improve road and rail links, reduce travel times and support economic growth.
Annual infrastructure statement to the House of Representatives
November 24, 2016
That includes $50 billion for transport infrastructure and $30 billion for other infrastructure like the National Broadband Network, water infrastructure, regional grants programs and other major project financing.
EVIDENCE THESE CLAIMS ARE WRONG
There is no $50 billion infrastructure program.
In February, Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie asked at a Senate Budget Estimates committee hearing for details on total infrastructure spend in her home state of Tasmania. The Department took the question on notice, and recently quietly tabled a comprehensive table showing that the total infrastructure spend around the nation as at August 31, 2016 (below).
It shows that in the first five Coalition budgets (2014-15, 15/16, 16/17, 17/8 and 18/19) $34 billion will be invested in infrastructure.
A further allocation of $7.9 billion is for “onwards”. No time is given for that investment. It has been pushed off to the never never.
Note that back in February, when the Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Mike Mrdak,undertook to the Senate committee to provide the details about the infrastructure program on notice, he said: “We can give you the whole program.”
So the “the whole program”is $34 billion over five years with vague promises of $8 billion some time off into the future.
WILL THE GOVERNMENT SPEND THAT FULL AMOUNT?
In the 2015-16 Final Budget Outcome document it emerged that the Government had invested only $5.5 billion in that year. But in the 2014 Budget, it had promised to invest $8 billion in that period.
That’s an underspend of $2.5 billion. However, the figures also included a $490 million payment to the WA Government as GST compensation. So the underspend is closer to $3 billion, or about 35 per cent of the total budget for that year.
And that is just for one year. There was a $900 million underspend the year before.
Anthony Albanese issued the release on this issue on October 18, 2016.
SHADOW MINISTERIAL MEDIA RELEASE
Oct 18, 2016
Infrastructure funding slashed by 35 per cent
The Turnbull Government cut its own infrastructure investment Budget by $3 billion in the year to June 30, according to Treasury figures tabled in Parliament.
In its notorious slash-and-burn Budget of 2014, the Government promised to invest $8 billion on transport infrastructure in the 2015-16 financial year.
But Treasury figures show actual Government investment on infrastructure was $5.5 billion in 2015-16.
This included a one-off payment to Western Australia of $490 million that was not included in the Government’s proposed $8 billion figure.
This means a cut of $3 billion or over 35 per cent – more than a third – over what was originally promised.
It follows a $900 million underspend in actual investment in 2014-15 compared with the 2014 Budget figures.
The cuts have been made to projects including the Pacific Highway, Bruce Highway, Adelaide’s South Road upgrade and Brisbane’s Gateway North project.
Forward projections form this year’s Budget show that in 2019-20 investment on rail will fall to zero (2016-17 Budget Paper Number 1, page 5-38).
As Australia deals with the decline in the investment stage of the mining boom, the Government should lift infrastructure investment to maintain economic activity and support construction jobs.
Instead, the Coalition has cut investment, scrapping public transport projects and then failing to deliver its preferred toll roads.
To add insult to injury, Malcolm Turnbull wasted $18 million of public money prior to the election on propaganda advertisements which falsely claimed the Government had delivered record investment.
Only a Labor Government will deliver the rail, roads and other infrastructure our nation needs to sustain economic and jobs growth.