Malcolm Turnbull risks wasting public money on dud infrastructure projects if he does not use Tuesday’s Budget to reverse his planned 25 per cent cut to the annual budget of Infrastructure Australia.
Infrastructure Australia was created by the former Labor Government to independently assess proposals for railways, roads and other infrastructure to ensure they deliver value for public money.
But in last year’s Budget, Mr Turnbull slashed its funding from $11.6 million this year to $8.8 million next year, taking effect from July 1.
This savage cut builds on Mr Turnbull’s ill-advised move to sideline Infrastructure Australia by creating a new Infrastructure Financing Unit within his own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Making recommendations on financing options for projects is a core part of Infrastructure Australia’s task.
Mr Turnbull should be supporting Infrastructure Australia in the name of evidence-based policy-making and sensible financial stewardship.
Instead, he is usurping its role and slashing its resources.
When it comes to nation building, there is no substitute for sober decision-making based upon independent expert advice about costs and benefits. That is why the former Labor Government created Infrastructure Australia in 2008.
After four years of infrastructure neglect, next Tuesday the Government must invest in projects that enhance productivity and boost economic growth.
However, choosing the right projects is critical, as is Infrastructure Australia’s determination of its priority list based upon productivity benefits to the national economy.