Tony Abbott says he is delivering on promise to be ‘infrastructure PM’

Guardian: Tony Abbott says he is delivering on promise to be ‘infrastructure PM’ Shalailah Medhora. 30 October 2014

In promised annual infrastructure statement, PM outlines projects on which federal government is working with states

East West Link: Labor’s Anthony Albanese has criticised the lack of cost-benefit analysis on large infrastructure projects. Photograph: Victorian government

Tony Abbott has told parliament he is delivering on his promise to be an ‘infrastructure prime minister’ as he outlined the Coalition’s plans for the nation’s roads, railways and airports.

“I said that I hope to be the infrastructure PM [at the last election], and part of that is delivering an annual infrastructure statement,” Abbott said. “We promised that big new projects would be under way within 12 months of a change of government, and we are delivering.”

“Infrastructure does matter. It helps determine our quality of life. Building the infrasture of the 21st century is an essential part of the government’s economic strategy.”

The prime minister outlined a number of projects which the federal government has worked with state counterparts in funding and developing, including Western Sydney’s WestConnex project, Victoria’s East West Link and the second airport at Sydney’s Badgerys Creek.

“Airports are our gateway to the world,” he said, adding that “finally the talk is over” and construction on the controversial Badgerys Creek project will begin in 2016.

“This airport is irrevocable,” he said. “It is the centrepiece of our long-term vision for western Sydney.”

He spoke of the thousands of jobs that would be created nationwide by infrastructure projects, and reiterated his government’s support for private investment in state projects.

“Nothing boosts confidence like cranes in the sky and bulldozers on the ground,” he said.

But Labor’s infrastructure spokesman, Anthony Albanese, said that the government is “struggling” to show results, and that there are “no bulldozers at work, just bull dust”. Albanese said the government had repackaged old Labor initiatives as new Coalition projects, saying of the asset recycling fund, “the only thing that was recycled there was the money.”

He criticised the government’s lack of funding for public transport.

“We [Labor] didn’t just throw money at new toll roads and say we’re meeting the country’s infrastructure needs,” he said.

Albanese also accused the government of breaking an election promise to conduct cost-benefit analyses on projects that would cost the commonwealth more than $100m. He singled out the second phase of the East West Link, which has already received $1bn in commonwealth funding, rejecting the government’s arguments that the cost-benefit analysis is still to come.

“News flash! Do the cost-benefit analysis before giving out funding,” Albanese said.

He criticised the East West Link project in general, saying it is a “political favour for a mate at a time when the government said it had a budget emergency”.

He also said the government’s infrastructure strategy is to “take money from projects that have already had a cost-benefit analysis” and to take money from public transport to put it into roads.

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