Bring forward infrastructure, urges industry group

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Bring forward infrastructure, urges industry group Richard Willingham, State Political Correspondent

Level-crossing removals should be fast-tracked to help fill the infrastructure void left by East West Link, the Australian Industry Group says.

Ahead of next month’s state budget, the Ai Group wants the government to provide a pipeline of infrastructure projects. In the short term projects need to be brought forward, Victorian state director Tim Piper says.

“The new Victorian Government needs a bold, game-changing first budget if it is to successfully address sluggish demand, slow employment growth and the looming end of auto assembly,” he said.

Mr Piper said it was important to learn the lessons out of the dumped East West Link, calling on governments to provide better and more-transparent cost-benefit analyses for infrastructure projects to help the public and investors understand the benefits and importance of projects.

“Not only does this build public support for major projects, it also ensures governments can access private finance to invest in infrastructure. Having a transparent and rigorous project creates confidence among investors, and ensures that lower-cost financing and a deep pool of investment funds exist for future projects,” the budget submission says.

Many Ai Group members are concerned with the uncertainty surrounding the near-term infrastructure pipeline in Victoria, especially given many businesses were expecting work from East West Link in 2015.

“Ai Group strongly urges the Victorian government to begin any sound and tested infrastructure projects as soon as practicable in order to fill the void left by East West Link, while also delivering a much-needed boost to engineering construction activity,” the submission says,

Mr Piper suggested bringing forward as many level-crossing removals as possible would help the industry in the short term by providing jobs and opportunities – Labor wants to remove 50 during the next eight years.

“State infrastructure is one of the best ways to kick-start the economy,” Mr Piper said.

Smaller road projects that are planned should also be expedited if possible.

While the group would still like to see East West Link built, Mr Piper also suggested building the western section of the now-dumped project, which would probably receive federal funding.

The submission urges the state to take advantage of its strong fiscal position and triple-A credit rating to invest in productive assets.

The group also wants to see more investment in education to support the promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths skills in schools and tertiary centres.

“It is an area we are falling behind in internationally,” Mr Piper said.

The submission also calls for a government rethink on the new public holiday on Grand Final Eve.