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Governments are banking on infrastructure projects to help the Australian economy recover from the coronavirus recession, but not everyone is convinced it will be worthwhile.
With almost $300 billion already committed to infrastructure before the COVID crisis, state and federal governments have announced an additional $15 billion for projects since the beginning of the pandemic.
But not everyone is convinced it will be worthwhile.
Michael Keating was secretary of prime minister and cabinet during the last recession, in 1991.
He thinks the money can be better spent.
"I've got very strong reservations about an infrastructure or major infrastructure response to a recession," he told 7.30.
"Most people won't say they're white elephants.
"I say they're white elephants because they are un-economic."
Former NSW Premier Nick Greiner thinks infrastructure can be an effective part of the response when it is done properly.
"I don't think there is a perfect answer to getting it right," he told 7.30.
"And we don't have a good track record in Australia on major projects, frankly."
But Mr Greiner thinks the response to the COVID-19 outbreak can provide a lesson for the delivery of infrastructure projects.
"If you trust the experts, you get a better answer," he said.
"I think listening to the experts doesn't just work in a pandemic, I think it works in infrastructure."
'Keeps us employed'
WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti says the Metronet project will keep people employed in vital industries.(ABC News: Richard Glover)The West Australian Government promises Perth's new Metronet project will "change how people live and travel".
"Metronet is the biggest rail infrastructure program ever undertaken in Western Australia," WA Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti told 7.30.
"It is a comprehensive package of new rail lines and new stations."
It was planned well before coronavirus pushed the economy into recession, but Ms Saffioti said it was the right time to push ahead with the project.
"What we've seen through the COVID pandemic is a loss of jobs in many industries," she said.
"But with the construction industry, we've been able to keep those jobs going and keep employment in those vital industries."
The WA Government is pushing for local companies to get a high percentage of the work.
One of the beneficiaries is Eilbeck Cranes.
"Metronet allows us to basically retain the employment base that we have," Operations Manager John Rasmussen told 7.30.
"It's been quiet the last couple of months due to the COVID-19 uncertainty in the market.
"It is important for governments to focus on local supply.
"For one thing, that keeps us employed, but we also have the capability.
"The know-how and the quality is already here in Australia."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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