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Opposition derides infrastructure audit -

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LISA MILLAR: The Federal Opposition is sceptical about the Commonwealth's plan to fast track an
audit of the country's infrastructure needs.

The move comes after pressure from the States and it's designed to help Australia weather the
global financial crisis.

But the Opposition leader is worried the move is designed to bail out Premiers who've neglected
their State's infrastructure needs until now.

Kirrin McKechnie reports.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Kevin Rudd is talking big.

KEVIN RUDD: What we've decided to do on the infrastructure front is to bring forward a report on
priority national infrastructure projects from infrastructure Australia. And that was due to be
considered next year. We'll now bring that forward to the end of this year. And that's practical
projects like roads, rail, ports, high speed broadband.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: The Prime Minister agreed on the plan at yesterday's COAG meeting after pressure
from his State and Territory counterparts.

The move is designed to fast track multi-billion dollar capital works and therefore stimulate
growth, boost confidence and create jobs to shield Australia from the global financial turmoil.

But the Opposition leader is not convinced.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Everything is in the execution. And you know there's a tendency for politicians
to say we will spend more on infrastructure. Well the answer to that should be: Yes, yes, what's
next? Which infrastructure? Where's it going to cost? What's it going to do? How's it going to
integrate with other infrastructure, with other roads or water systems or electricity grids, you
know, whatever infrastructure it may be?

So, you know, Mr Rudd is operating at a very high rhetorical level. He's flying at 80,000 feet.
He's got to bring these projects down and land them.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Malcolm Turnbull is worried the plan is simply designed to come to the rescue of
Labor State Governments which have been asleep at the wheel.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: It's a question of management and discipline. The big concern we have with Kevin
Rudd's infrastructure funds is that they will just be used as a slush fund to bail out failing,
flailing State Labor Governments who have infrastructure problems that they have allowed to
accumulate and in many cases where they've got infrastructure projects which are being very poorly

BRENDAN LYON: The Federal Government set up Infrastructure Australia who are doing the
prioritisation as an independent arm's length body to make sure that exactly that doesn't happen.
They've set up Infrastructure Australia with 12 eminent Australians on it, chaired by Rod
Eddington, and that's to remove it from the day to day of ministerial decisions that can be tainted
by political decision making and to take it back and really focus on what the key national
objectives are and what the projects are that will match it.

But at the same time the Opposition are right. It's a big investment of taxpayer dollars and
they're right to push for greater transparency around the decision making.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: Brendan Lyon is the executive director of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia,
the nation's peak industry group. He says while the Wall Street collapse will have an adverse
impact on private investment in capital works, any delay would be worse.

BRENDAN LYON: Despite the fact that projects will get more expensive with money costing more and
finance costing more, we believe that the right projects will still stack up.

KIRRIN MCKECHNIE: And now is the right time to go ahead with those projects?

BRENDAN LYON: Look, there's no better time to go ahead with infrastructure. We have a massive
shortfall. Congestion already costs $16-billion. We're facing a doubling in the freight task in the
next 13 years, 12 years, and a tripling between now and 2050. Unless we get these assets done we'll
be playing a massive game of catch-up and it will be very expensive and we'll be missing out on
productivity and our cities will continue to drown under congestion.

LISA MILLAR: That's Brendan Lyon from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, ending Kirrin
McKechnie's report.