Infrastructure funding boost in budget

The Australian Logistics Council has welcomed the strong infrastructure focus in the 2013/2014 Budget.

As part of his $100 billion nationwide infrastructure blueprint, the Treasurer has committed to funding big projects around the country.

Victoria will receive $3.8 billion for projects including Melbourne Metro rail, Ballarat freight hub and upgrades to the Monash Freeway.

NSW has benefited from a $2.7 billion injection to fund improvements to the New England Highway, extensions of both the M4 and M5 and upgrades to roads on Mt Ousley.

Queensland has been handed $2 billion plus $4.1 billion for the Bruce Highway. Projects will include Gateway North upgrade and widening of the Ipswich motorway.

Western Australia is set to receive $1.1 billion plus $500 million for public transport with the Tonkin and Leach highways both set for upgrades.

In other states, South Australia has been flagged for $577 million, Tasmania $180 million, the Northern Territory $160 million and ACT $144 million.

The ALC said a strong infrastructure spend will ensure supply chain efficiencies are improved.

 “A strong financial commitment to improving our road and rail links is critical to improving freight efficiency and productivity levels in the industry,” said Michael Kilgariff, ALC Managing Director.

“The Government’s intention to boost infrastructure spending under Nation Building 2 is welcome but we also note a number of major projects are contingent on partnership arrangements with the states and also on coming to commercial agreements with the private sector.

“Nation Building 2 will be critical to meeting our future freight challenges, and so ALC looks forward to future governments taking this program forward and ensuring the proposed projects are delivered in a timely fashion to improve supply chain efficiency.

“This will depend in part on the government putting in place appropriate taxation measures to encourage greater private sector investment in freight infrastructure.

“We therefore encourage the work of the Infrastructure Finance Working Group to continue so governments can leverage much needed private capital in freight logistics infrastructure,” he said.

Kilgariff praised the Government for including ‘Moving Freight’ as one of its four core themes under the Nation Building 2 program.

“ALC hopes this more formal recognition of freight in the Nation Building 2 program will help to ensure funds are targeted at freight logistics projects which are in the national interest and have broad and lasting economic and social benefits,” he said.

“Infrastructure projects must have a greater focus on improving supply chain efficiency and increasing capacity on key freight routes, particularly in our major cities and around our ports.

“In this regard, we welcome the proposed investment in track upgrades around Port Botany in Sydney which are critical to supporting growth in containerised freight from the Port, as well as the future expansion of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in Sydney’s west.

“To maximise efficiencies across the network we also need to harness 21st century technologies and so industry also welcomes the funds allocated to progress the Advanced Train Management System.

Kilgariff said the funds allocated to progress an inland freight route was sensible, long term thinking.

“With growing levels of congestion in our cities, it is abundantly clear that greater effort is required by both industry and government to get more freight onto rail, particularly along the north south corridor,” he said.

“The money set aside to undertake further environmental work and to protect corridors for the inland freight route will help to ensure the line can come to fruition which it is economically feasible to do so.”

In announcing the funding, Treasurer Wayne Swan said he the government would partner with both the private sector and state governments to deliver the infrastructure.

"These investments will boost productivity, build capacity, improve safety and relieve congestion," he said.

"As well as improving the quality of life in our communities across the nation."

Infrastructure: merit vs. votes

The Federal Government has released Infrastructure Australia‘s “Prioritisation Methodology” and guidelines for the evaluation of infrastructure proposals just as The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a high-level meeting to allocate funds where there are “federal Labor votes in it”.

According to the government’s release, “the guidelines outline the evidence-based approach that will be taken to select the transport, water, energy and communication projects that Australia needs.

“All proposals will be assessed against their ability to:

•         lift national productivity,

•         strengthen Australia’s international competitiveness,

•         develop our cities and regions,

•         reduce greenhouse gas emissions,

•         and improve the quality of life of Australians.”

But the Herald reports that “the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, told a meeting in February involving the former premier, Morris Iemma, and senior state bureaucrats that they were not interested in the rail project because Labor had no marginal seats in the area it would service, senior NSW sources said.”

The Herald’s revelations fly in the face of continuing assurances given by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese that the funds will be allocated based on merit, and not used as a federal Labor “slush fund”, as the Opposition has charged.

The NSW Government’s priority list contains a large number of road projects, with only the West Metro ($10 billion) focusing on public transport and the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor ($3.1 billion) having direct and significant impact on freight movement around the state.

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