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Grubby politics must not dictate infrastructure decisions.



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Tue, 7th October 2008 GRUBBY POLITICS MUST NOT DICTATE INFASTRUCTURE DECISIONS

The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and COAG and Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on Emissions Trading Design

Mr Rudd needs to assure the Australian people that merit rather than grubby politics will be the basis on which critical infrastructure decisions are made.

Reports that Mr Rudd and Mr Swan have dismissed a major North-West Metro infrastructure project in Sydney because there are no votes in it puts a lie to all the Government rhetoric about merit, objectivity and national interest being put front and square in decisions.

The Coalition strongly supports infrastructure spending but all of the fears about the Rudd Government treating the hard-earned surplus as a Labor slush fund have been reinforced by today’s front page report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Government can start to reassure the public by confirming that the activities of Infrastructure Australia are fully transparent.

In particular, Mr Rudd needs to confirm that the analysis which supports any project recommendations of Infrastructure Australia are made public before final decisions are taken by the Rudd Cabinet.

Mr Rudd’s announcement today of the guidelines that will apply to assessment of infrastructure priorities are valid and somewhat self-evident.

However, you can have all the guidelines in the world, but if politics is allowed to come in over the top the guidelines may be to no avail.

As well the guidelines need to be applied effectively.

The first major infrastructure project of this government - “Computers for schools program” - is already failing, with States deserting the project. The lack of a whole-of-life assessment of the cost of this project has meant that additional capital and recurrent costs, two to three times the initial cost, were not factored into the roll out of the program. This beggars belief.

When it comes to the application of guidelines, actions speak louder than words.

Given the sorry record of State Labor governments with infrastructure projects, and the dismal start by this Government, great scrutiny will need to be applied to the Rudd Government’s infrastructure program.