Budget: Underspending issue on Canberra commitments

By: Andrew Hobbs

ATA complains about cash gone begging in 2017 budget, with low takeup of Canberra funding

Budget: Underspending issue on Canberra commitments
Funds allocated to a number of worthy programs in the 2017 budget have gone unused


The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has called on the government to focus on delivering its budget commitments after noting that one scheme was underspent by $13.6 million this financial year.

This time last year the Turnbull government allocated $60 million to be spent in 2017-18 on its Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program (HVSPP), for infrastructure projects to help improve heavy vehicle safety.

Having existed since 2013, the HVSPP is a source of funding for state, territory and local governments to apply to Canberra for a grant of up to 50 per cent or $5 million of a project to upgrade road infrastructure.

But the ATA referred to the Budget’s estimated actual spend for the 2017-18 financial year as disclosed in yesterday’s budget – which said that the government had only parted with $46.4 million of the budgeted funds.

ATA CEO Ben Maguire said the figures showed the government needed to focus on delivering budget commitments as well as announcing them.

"Our roads and rest areas are a driver’s workplace, and we have little chance of resolving fatigue if we do not provide drivers with the basics they need to do their job of moving Australia’s freight to homes and businesses," he says.

"The Government needs to focus on delivering its budget commitments and fixing the real problems that Australia’s truck drivers face on the roads whenever they need to take a break."

It wasn’t the only example of the budgeted amount for an infrastructure project coming in significantly under estimates, with only $46.5 million spent of the $90 million allocated to the government’s Bridges Renewal program in 2017-18.

Funds for improving cattle supply chains in Northern Australia last year also went begging, with only $5.6 million expected to be leaving government coffers by 30 June of a budgeted $45.4 million.

But the biggest difference is in the $188.4 million committed to the Northern Australia Roads projects program in the 2017-18 budget – in which Canberra has pledged to fund up to 80 per cent of the total project cost for upgrades to roads identified in Infrastructure Australia’s Northern Australia audit.

According to the Budget released yesterday, only $86.4 million of the money allocated was spent – a good $100.2 million short of the budgeted amount.

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