Infrastructure investment under attack: Albanese


Critical infrastructure investment may be put on hold as the Opposition picks apart budget surplus

By Brad Gardner

The Rudd Government may look at pulling back on its infrastructure commitments if its budget surplus dwindles in the face of opposition from the Senate.

In a speech to the Sydney Institute this week, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure reiterated concerns over the Senate’s refusal to pass a number of tax measures, which the Government claims will blow a hole in the Budget.

While not detailing what projects may be affected as a result of the Senate’s actions, Albanese told attendees the $20 billion Building Australia Fund — established to drive greater investment in road, rail and port infrastructure — is at risk if the Budget is not passed in full.

He says the billion-dollar investment is critical due to current state of Australia’s infrastructure, but it will only go ahead if the Opposition supports controversial budget measures such as the ‘alcopops’ and luxury car tax, which will

"Every time the Opposition votes in the Senate to diminish the surplus, they are voting to reduce infrastructure spending and are putting short-term political interest before long-term national economic interests," Albanese says.

During the speech, Albanese listed the Government’s achievements to date, including its decision to bring forward construction of the Townsville Port Access Road.

He also spoke of repeated calls for single national transport regulations in the road and rail industries.

The Australian Transport Council (ATC) will submit its recommendations to the Council of Australian Governments (CoAG), which support a national heavy vehicle registration system, a national system for maritime safety regulation and the establishment of a road safety council.

"Commonsense dictates that in a country of just 21 million people, one consistent set of transport laws and regulations is the position we should be aspiring to," Albanese says.

He says the "ad hoc approach" has failed, as demonstrated by Sydney’s road network and congestion levels.

As well as criticising the Opposition’s approach in the Senate, Albanese told the Sydney Institute the Government’s infrastructure approach is part of its long-term vision for national and economic reform.

However, opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss has accused the Government of "blackmail", claiming it is threatening to scrap up to 103 different projects if the Opposition does not alter its position in the Senate.

According to Truss, local communties "have much to fear" from the Government.

"Everything is at risk. This is payback of the ugliest kind," Truss says.

"Labor must reveal which projects are in the firing line and stop trying to blame others for their own economic and political mismanagement."

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