Greens want limits imposed on infrastructure fund

Greens won't back Building Australia Fund unless it rejects roads and coal ports and focuses on climate change and transparency

The Greens will not back the Rudd Government’s Building Australia Fund unless it rejects roads and coal ports, focuses more on climate change and adopts greater transparency.

Greens spokeswoman on transport and climate change Christine Milne wants the fund—which will be used to finance port, road, rail and communications projects—to be overseen by a parliamentary committee.

The committee will be designed to scrutinise funding allocations of more than $50 million made by Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese.

"We cannot allow a situation where ministers may make multi-billion dollar decisions without the public being able to test them against the evidence," Milne says.

Despite the Government establishing its Building Australia Fund to finance ports, road and rail projects, Milne says too much focus on road and coal ports will have adverse consequences.

"If the Government continues to focus infrastructure spending on roads and coal ports, it will become far more difficult and expensive, if not impossible, for Australia to reduce our emissions and prepare for peak oil," Milne says.

To limit investment in such projects, the Greens want two people with expertise in climate change or peak oil be appointed to the Infrastructure Australia board and for projects to be financed only if they address both issues.

"Any government serious about climate change must put it front and centre in its infrastructure planning," Milne says.

It also wants decisions from the advisory boards to be made public immediately.

Milne says the amendments will bring about a "Green New Deal" and help build a zero emissions economy based on forward-thinking and transparent infrastructure planning.

The Greens’ proposals follow comments from the Southern Cross Climate Coalition, which wants greater investment in rail freight and a government commitment to creating "green jobs" to reduce Australia’s carbon output.

"The economic downturn provides an opportunity to invest in the creation of new green jobs while making significant inroads to reducing carbon emissions as part of an overall stimulus package," ACTU President Sharan Burrow says.

The coalition says new jobs can be created if governments support renewable energy, sustainable water industries, waste recycling and biomaterials.

The coalition is made up of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the ACTU, the Australian Council of Social Service and the Climate Institute.

The Building Australian Fund is part of the Government's 'nation-building' agenda. It will draw $20 billion from future budget surpluses to finance projects, with the Government allocating just over $12 billion this financial year.

Funds will be spent following the completion of Infrastructure Australia's priority list, which will outline where spending is required.

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