Treasurer Joe Hockey is seeking to avoid scrutiny over value for money in government infrastructure spending after failing to convince Parliament to accept his plan to pay states for privatising public assets.
Mr Hockey’s Asset Recycling Bill provided no new money for infrastructure but sought to raid the existing Building Australia Fund and Education Infrastructure Fund. Arrangements around both of these funds mandated proper accountability.
Earlier this month the Senate backed Labor amendments to the legislation, requiring that any infrastructure project to receive funding from the proposed recycling fund would need to be the subject of independent cost-benefit analysis to ensure it presented value for money.
Mr Hockey is now attempting to skirt around this important accountability measure to avoid scrutiny over the way in which he spends public money.
He also seeks to defy his explicit pre-election promise to subject any infrastructure proposal worth more than $100 million to cost-benefit analysis.
Mr Hockey’s approach should be identified for what it is – a cheap attempt to sideline the Parliament and reopen the door to the political pork barreling that plagued the Howard era.
He not only wants to kid people into believing his fund involves extra expenditure; he also wants to avoid any scrutiny whatsoever in the way the money is spent.
This position treats the Parliament and taxpayers with contempt.
Mr Hockey should stop whining and misleading people and accept Labor’s accountability amendments on cost-benefit analysis.
He should also get on with the job of delivering Australia the infrastructure it needs to face the challenges of coming decades, including appropriate investment in public transport to ease traffic congestion in the nation’s crowded cities.