Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Volume 3 Number 2 Contents futurebuilding 57
Volume 3 Number 2
The Hon Warren Truss MP
When Labor spent not one but two stimulus
packages, the rhetoric proclaimed a Nation
Yet, the Business Council of Australia
estimates that only 14 per cent of the total
spending announced under that Nation Building
agenda actually went to productivity-enhancing
infrastructure -- and, of course, many of the
projects have not yet been completed.
Studies have shown that investment in
infrastructure has a positive effect on economic
growth and has a higher return on investment than
spending in other sectors.
As a government, and as a nation, we need
to place a higher value on ensuring that we
have a modern and integrated multimodal
national transport network.
The Coalition has a track record of investing in
worthwhile projects to grow our economy, and to
build our communities and connect our regions.
In May 2002, the Coalition announced its plan to
create what was then a revolutionary new national
land transport policy. When AusLink was introduced
in 2004, it represented the most signi cant change
since Federation to the way in which national
transport infrastructure is funded.
For the rst time, investment in road and rail
was based on a longer-term agenda, and of course
it was built around corridor studies that addressed
the longer-term freight task. The Coalition remains
committed to the AusLink program; the current
government has renamed it but has essentially kept
it in existence, and we're also committed to its sub-
elements, like Roads to Recovery, the Black Spot
program and the strategic regional roads program.
We're also committed to a new bridges renewal
program to fund the upgrade of some of the 20,000
local bridges across the country that are nearing the
end of their lives.
Substantial upgrades are often beyond the
nancial resources of local governments and, as a
result, many bridges now have strict weight limits
imposed upon them, impacting productivity.
Infrastructure Australia was established in 2008,
with great expectations that it would help to focus
investment on delivering 'nation-building' projects.
Minister Anthony Albanese said in 2007:
'By operating at arm's length from Ministers,
Infrastructure Australia will ensure decisions are
no longer based purely on political interests or the
margin of a particular seat.'
Then the government went on to choose multi-
billion dollar projects for its Nation Building Program
without prior Infrastructure Australia approval. In
fact, the most prominent South Australian project,
the O-Bahn, was reportedly chosen by Prime
Minister Kevin Rudd and the South Australian
Premier of the day during a late-night walk around
Hobart's cold streets.
We all know that the $2.1 billion election
commitment for the Parramatta to Epping rail link in
Sydney wasn't considered by Infrastructure Australia
before its announcement, and there was no cost-
bene t analysis that has been publicly released.
The Infrastructure Australia pipeline is choked with
much-needed projects that have failed to move from
concept to planning, or from design to construction,
and that have no timetable for completion. On the
other hand, the role and process of Infrastructure
Australia is not well understood or explained.
I still come across people who think that all they
have to do is get a tick-off from Infrastructure Australia
and suddenly the money will appear for their project
to proceed. Sadly, it's not that simple.
I also think Infrastructure Australia can do more to
help explain its processes and why particular projects
have been chosen for approval. As an example, I
was surprised that the 2012 priority list gave the
next stage of the Bruce Highway upgrade -- which
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