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Tens of billions of dollars is set to be spent on extravagant new infrastructure projects across Australia that haven’t been properly assessed to see if they stack up financially or if they’re even needed at all.
This runs the very real risk of taxpayers’ money being chucked at “outrageous” and expensive road and rail projects that provide no return on investment.
During the election campaign, the Coalition committed $5 billion to a rail link to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport and kicked $2 billion into a pot to build a higher speed rail line to Geelong — yet neither is considered a “high priority” on a road and rail wish list produced by the Government’s own infrastructure scrutiny body.
A $1 billion road upgrade in Queensland is so low priority it doesn’t even make it onto the list, while a $1.6 billion promise to extend the M1 motorway in New South Wales is rated as no more important than an “active walking strategy” for Sydney’s CBD.
An infrastructure expert says governments shouldn’t commit to huge infrastructure projects until they know they are actually worth building.
A rail link to Melbourne Airport will be built at a cost of around $10 billion. But it’s not ranked as a ‘high priority’ project.Source:Supplied
Speaking on Wednesday at the AFR National Infrastructure Summit in Melbourne, federal Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge said the Morrison Government had a 10-year $100 billion infrastructure pipeline.
“The bulk of the funding is on the large city-shaping road and rail projects along with key national roads of strategic importance,” he told the audience.
“(Our objective) is to improve the lives of all Australians, take pressure off our major cities while supporting growth in our regions and getting people home sooner and safer.”
But speaking to news.com.au on the sidelines of the summit, one of Australia’s leading thinkers on large-scale infrastructure said many of the announced projects hadn’t yet proved themselves worthy of having billions lavished on them.
“I’m always concerned about projects that are announced by a politician when they don’t have a business case, and that’s because we don’t even know if it’s going to have a terrible benefit-to-cost ratio. No one does,” said Marion Terrill, transport and cities program director at think tank the Grattan Institute.
“The only way we know is if we do a proper assessment.”
This article first appeared on www.news.com.au
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