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Govt announces $41-billion infrastructure fun -

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ELEANOR HALL: Construction and mining, education and health were big winners in last night's
Budget, with the Government announcing a $41-billion dollar infrastructure fund to go to these
areas.

The Building Australia Fund will receive a boost of $20-billion over two years, education will get
$11-billion and health will receive 10-billion dollars.

There's been criticism about the lack of detail in the massive fund, but most sectors have welcomed
the additional spending.

Brigid Glanville has our report.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The image of massive coal ships queuing along the New South Wales coast for days
as they wait to load at the port of Newcastle, is an image the Government wants to erase.

Improving infrastructure to get the coal onto ships quickly is one of the reasons the Government
has given $41-billion towards infrastructure. It's giving half of it to a fund designed especially
to improve these supply constraints in the building and mining industries, and boost Australia's
economy.

It's now up to the Government-appointed group Infrastructure Australia, to work out exactly where
$21-billion will be spent.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia is the nation's peak industry body. Spokesman, Brendan Lyon,
says it's obvious where that money needs to go.

BRENDAN LYON: But we would expect that things like ports and rail freight, and road freight will be
right up the top there, as well as measures to ease congestion in cities like Brisbane, Sydney and
Melbourne.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: How bad are those supply constraints?

BRENDAN LYON: It's a great inefficiency and burden on the economy when you can't efficiently get
your goods to market and get your goods to the ports. I mean, it's no secret that we face great
challenges, in particularly since the freight task is set to double over the next 20 years.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The mining industry has welcomed the money that will be spent on roads, rails and
ports. But the industry says it's most excited about money in the education fund.

Brendan Pearson, the acting chief executive from the Minerals Council of Australia, says the skills
shortage is critical.

BRENDAN PEARSON: Well we know that we need an extra 70,000 workers by 2015. We also know that in
the last five years we've employed an extra 55,000, but during that period our vacancy rate has
quadrupled.

So we know that we need more skilled and semi-skilled trades people and we need more managers. That
means ... so it's very welcome to have an extra 630,000 places in the training and vocational
education sector. It's very important that there's an expansion of skilled migration to take up
some of the acute shortages that we've got.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Of the massive infrastructure fund, $11-billion has been put aside to go towards
education. This includes money for universities, schools and vocational training.

Glenn Withers, the chief executive of Universities Australia, says the money is desperately needed.

GLENN WITHERS: Research laboratories, to the teaching rooms, to student facilities, to libraries,
to our computing labs, student study spaces.

All of those things we've been in some ways not able to keep up with all the maintenance and all
the new investment we should be able to, and that's a bi-partisan comment actually, the decline
began with Paul Keating and continued with under the Coalition.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The health sector will receive the rest of the money. $10-billion to go towards a
range of health services including building hospitals, breast cancer research, and dental services.

Dr Tony Hobbs is the chairman of the Australian General Practice Network. He says the Budget has
missed the mark.

TONY HOBBS: We certainly know that hospital infrastructure has been allowed to run down over the
last decade or so. However, we would also want to see some of that money invested very wisely in
primary healthcare infrastructure.

Economic modelling throughout Australia and throughout the OECD (Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development) countries shows that a well invested, well resourced primary health
care sector allowing people to access timely, affordable healthcare in their own communities
actually keeps people healthy, keeps them out of hospital and also drives cost efficiencies for the
Government over a period of time.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: As big as the $41-billion fund sounds, it's unlikely to put an end to bickering
between the states and the Federal Government. The mining industry says it's this problematic
relationship that's prevented vital infrastructure being built in the past.

This morning, New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma praised the Budget and money that's being spent
on infrastructure.

MORRIS IEMMA: This doesn't stop us saying that we're fighting for our fair share for the people of
New South Wales, whether it's health, education, whether it's infrastructure in transport.

What you have with last night's Budget is recognition that the Commonwealth has a role in building
infrastructure, in funding infrastructure, in nation building.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma ending Brigid Glanville's report.