Infrastructure Australia & the East West Link zombie

Spend more, waste more. Australia’s roads in 2014: moving beyond gambling (July 2014)

Spend more, waste more. Australia’s roads in 2014: moving beyond gambling (July 2014)

The Age: East West Link remains a ‘high priority’, says infrastructure umpire

The East West Link has been singled out as a top priority by Australia’s infrastructure umpire, bringing into question a decision by the Andrews government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars axing the contract for the road.

A landmark report by Infrastructure Australia has warned the road link – joining the Eastern Freeway to the Tullamarine Freeway – will be needed in the near future to avoid crippling congestion.

The East West Link zombie has again raised it’s unwelcome presence in a “landmark report” from Infrastructure Australia. Bear in mind, this is IA headed up by Mark Birrell, who is likely a hand-picked LNP placement after Michael Deegan was apparently sent on extended leave in early 2014 by the incoming Coalition government.

Prior to Mr Birrell, in 2014, acting IA head, Mark Fitzgerald tried to withdraw a IA report entitled “Spend more, waste more. Australia’s roads in 2014: moving beyond gambling”

As noted in the media at the time “it’s not often you read a government report with the word “hideously” in it”

Luckily we got a copy, it’s worth reading in context of the last two years and continued push for bullshit projects such as Perth Freight Link and WestConnex. The current integrity of Infrastructure Australia must be questioned in the light of highly politicised processes surrounding these three megaprojects.

Spend more, waste more. Australia’s roads in 2014: moving beyond gambling (July 2014)

From the executive summary: With expenditure pushing above $20 billion dollars annually, there has never been more money poured into the nation’s roads. Yet in late 2013, Infrastructure Australia’s State of Play report on economic infrastructure ranked roads as by far the nation’s worst asset class, by all measures.

In recent years road spending has in fact outstripped road taxes and charges revenue, meaning Australia’s thirst for roads might now come at the direct expense of other things.

With enough money, most road problems are soluble. But given that governments will never have enough money to pay for all the road outcomes they seek, it would be only prudent to ensure that:

a. broadly speaking, existing taxpayer funds are being spent productively and fairly; and

b. alternative capital uplift sources are actively encouraged – so that less is asked of taxpayers

Yet neither of these things is occurring. Australia has a true gambler’s addiction to roads: the money spent is not a rational investment. Governments assume that major improvement is just around the corner, if they could just spend more.

A third dimension of the problem involves asking whether all of Australia’s road wishes really need satisfying at all. The current Australian system assumes that roads are an answer to most transport problems and seeks more and more funding to that end, with little consideration of alternatives that most other developed parts of the world enjoy, such as significant heavy intercontinental rail networks and dominant heavy mass transit systems.

This matter needs resolution in the interests of national fiscal and economic efficiency, as ‘politically driven infrastructure may – and often does – consist of white elephants as well as of highly useful roads’



One thought on “Infrastructure Australia & the East West Link zombie”

  1. Simon says:

    Is IA’s recommendation based on a new business case? Surely it depends on the cost, which they can’t know.

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