The Age: Labor claims Prime Minister Tony Abbott dodging scrutiny on infrastructure. October 19, 2014 Mark Kenny Chief political correspondent
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been accused of breaking an election commitment to provide a dedicated statement to Parliament on his government’s progress towards its infrastructure agenda in his first year in office.
The opposition’s Anthony Albanese said the Prime Minister had gone quiet on the statement despite regularly claiming the mantle of “the infrastructure Prime Minister”.
“Before last year’s election, the Prime Minister promised ‘unprecedented scrutiny and accountability’ of his infrastructure program via a personally delivered annual statement to the House of Representatives,” Mr Albanese said.
“Yet, more than a year later, Mr Abbott stands mute.”
The attack comes as the opposition and crossbench senators prepare to grill officers from Infrastructure Australia at Senate estimates hearings beginning on Monday.
A spokesman for Mr Abbott described the parliamentary infrastructure statement as being “imminent”.
However, non-government senators – particularly from the Greens and Labor – are likely to press Infrastructure Australia’s “interim acting Australian government infrastructure co-ordinator”, John Fitzgerald, over the controversial $15 billion East West Link road project in Melbourne.
That project is a major political battleground of the forthcoming state election.
Mr Albanese said the federal government’s pledge of $1.5 billion for the project was also a clear breach of the Prime Minister’s commitment to require a full cost-benefit analysis before allocating sums greater than $100 million of taxpayers money from the federal pool.
In a speech to Parliament last month, Mr Albanese attacked Mr Fitzgerald, questioning his impartiality when weighing up which projects to recommend because of his past roles in supporting the East West Link.
“Mr Fitzgerald can hardly be described as an unbiased analyst [having revealed in May] that he had been with the consulting firm KPMG, where he had been a lobbyist for the East West Link project,” Mr Albanese said.
“The job he had prior to that was working on the East West Link project for the Victorian government.”
The Greens are campaigning hard against the 18-kilometre project and Labor has questioned the legal force of agreements, pledging to challenge the validity of any contract for the eastern section in the courts if it is elected.