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Australia has suffered a $20 billion slump in major project approvals since the coronavirus crisis began, shrinking the pipeline of new construction at the same time political leaders claim their infrastructure plans will boost growth.
A new industry analysis warns the value of major contracts being awarded fell to $6.7 billion in the first eight months of this year, down from $27.1 billion approved last year.
Data shows a looming gap in Australia's infrastructure pipeline.CREDIT:BROOK MITCHELL
The slowdown has sparked fears that construction work will stall when the economy is struggling to emerge from recession and the federal government is phasing out its JobKeeper wage subsidy for more than 3.5 million workers.
While Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has promised new spending on infrastructure in the October 6 budget, the commitments could be too late to sustain a steady flow of work given the shortfall so far this year.
The analysis from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, an industry group, comes as the federal government's peak advisory agency, Infrastructure Australia, says the pipeline has "slimmed down" even though more work is needed.
"This data shows we need to accelerate approvals of large-scale projects, add to the major infrastructure pipeline, and ensure we keep pace on delivery," said Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief Adrian Dwyer.
"As governments prepare for the delayed budget season, this is the time to scale up for the long economic recovery ahead."
The industry group, whose members include investors and infrastructure owners, calculated the figures amid a new debate about whether the pandemic will force a rethink on new airports, roads, ports and urban rail projects.
With migration stopped and population growth certain to fall, Grattan Institute transport director Marion Terrill said some projects may no longer stack up.
Mr McCormack is promising more spending in the October budget, while Labor leader Anthony Albanese is calling for more support for regional infrastructure as the pandemic changes the way people work.
Governments have committed $15.8 billion to public infrastructure since March, says Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, but this is separate from projects going ahead under contracts agreed with construction companies.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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