Industry Issues, Transport Features

Breaking down the federal governments infrastructure statement

ATN looks at what Australian governments and road transport bodies have had to say on the recent federal government infrastructure statement

Nearly two weeks have passed since an updated infrastructure policy was released by the federal government. In it, the federal government committed to increasing the current infrastructure spend along with prioritising productivity, liveability and sustainability. 

Many state and territory governments, along with road transport bodies, have had their say on the infrastructure statement. 

Those that supported the statement include the Northern Territory government, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), Roads Australia (RA) and the Victorian Transport Association (VTA). 

For the Northern Territory, most of the federal government’s investment will go towards upgrading and sealing Tanami Road,which is now expected to be completed by 2025. 

“The Northern Territory government will continue advocating for its fair share of funding and we are committed to delivering an infrastructure network that improves efficiency, connectivity and safety for all Territorians,” NT infrastructure minister Joel Bowden says. 

Several new projects in the NT government’s pipeline that can now be unlocked because of the review are also set to be released shortly. 

ARA CEO Caroline Wilkie says that the infrastructure provides much needed certainty around rail projects in the pipeline. 

It has been shown overseas that small travel time improvements can have a significant impact on increasing patronage and supporting the economies and communities of cities,” Wilkie says. 

Among the $18.6 billion investment into rail projects following the review includes $1.75 billion being put into the Logan–Gold Coast Faster Rail project, $1 billionfor the Western Australian Metronet project and $61.8 million to go towards the planning and development of the western intermodal freight terminal in Melbourne’s west. 

RA says that recommendations made by the independent reviewers align with the need to transition to a more sustainable 10-year rolling infrastructure pipeline. 

“We must continue building transport infrastructure to meet population demand, matched with industry capacity,” RA CEO Ehssan Veiszadeh says. 

“The core principles of productivity, resilience, liveability and sustainability at the heart of the federal government’s policy statement support this need.” 

Veiszadeh says that RA is looking forward to seeing stronger collaboration between the transport industry and governments. 

VTA CEO Peter Anderson says that the industry has always been interested in collaborating with governments. He says the funding into Victorian projects will go a long way toward ensuring Australian roads are safe. 

“We’re grateful for what is a very substantial reinvestment in our regional roads and bridges nationally, many of which are in varying states of disrepair after fire flood, and through general wear and tear,” Anderson says. 

Investments the VTA is particularly pleased with includeBlack Spot funding increasing to $150 million per year plus $1 billion being put into the Roads to Recovery program overtime. 

There’s also those that are wary of the review, such as the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA). 

NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says that it does welcome the government’s aim of taking politics out of road funding decisions along with reigning in cost blow-outs. 

Clark says that while it can reap a nation dividend from strategic investment in infrastructure, it questions what ‘seeking to unlock extra money’ for future investment means. 

 NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says he still has questions over the infrastructure review

“Governments need more effective infrastructure spending and reforms such as implementing service level standards, and not just end up throwing more money at a broken system,” Clark says. 

IPA CEO Adrian Dwyer says that withunmet demand for infrastructure due to population growth, questions still remain over the fairness of the funding announced. 

“Ultimately taxpayers care little which pot of their money investment comes from, but they care greatly that they have high quality infrastructure,” Dwyer says. 

Dwyer says thatthe review does provide certainty in the infrastructure sector, an area where there hasn’t been too much. 

The Queensland government, Queensland Trucking Association (QTA), the Western Australian and the Tasmanian government have come out against it. 

Queensland transport minister Mark Bailey says that a boost to roads in the state is misleading. 

Bailey says that Queensland’s vast network of regional roads will see it hit the hardest by the funding cuts. 

“We will not be deterred from our campaign to maintain current funding arrangements of 80:20 from the Commonwealth as clearly Queensland should have a different regional roads funding formula to other states given our decentralisation and largest road network in the nation,” Bailey says. 

QTA CEO Gary Mahon says that slower road investment in Queensland will result in a reduction in liveability in Queensland regions along with a higher cost of living and doing business.  

Mahon says that Australia’s new army capital, Townsville, will also be impacted. 

“The reductions and delays in funding for critical new road investments will now limit the country’s primary combat force to only being able to access the rest of the country via the most flood prone highway in Australia, the Bruce Highway,” Mahon says. 

Tasmania infrastructure minister Michael Ferguson says that with the current 80:20 funding arrangements dropping to 50:50, rural Tasmania would be abandoned. 

Ferguson says that the Tasmanian government put up a fight to prevent cuts to the state’s infrastructure pipeline from happening. 

“We know the delayed review has had a chilling effect, with projects delayed due to the uncertainty of whether they can be tendered,” Ferguson says. 

“Every project is critical and now our civil and construction industry can move forward with confidence.” 

WA road transport projects had more than $300 million pulled from them when the federal infrastructure statement was released. 

This includes $200 million being pulled for the Pinjarra Heavy Haulage Deviation, $48 million each for the Marble Bar Road and Moorine Rock to Mt Holland Road upgrades plus $6.4 million for the Great Southern Secondary Freight Network. 

Western Australian transport minister Rita Saffioti says that the WA government is naturally disappointed but accepted that escalations are more significant on the east coast. 

Despite the pulled funding from the federal government, Saffioti says that it remains committed to all its road transport projects. 

“We remain committed to these projects and will now engage with key proponents to look at funding and delivery options,” Saffioti says. 

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