Budget pours $15b into infrastructure projects

The federal budget contains a $15.2 billion cash injection for infrastructure projects which the government says will help rebuild Australia’s economy from covid-19.

Scott Morrison

It includes work to build roads, rail and bridges in every state including:

  • The Singleton Bypass and Bolivia Hill Upgrade in New South Wales ($603m)
  • The upgrade of the Shepparton and Warrnambool Rail Lines in Victoria ($530m)
  • The Coomera Connector in Queensland (750m)
  • The Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network in Western Australia ($80m)
  • The Main South Road Duplication in South Australia ($136m)
  • The Tasman Bridge Upgrade in Tasmania( $65m)
  • The Carpentaria Highway Upgrades in the Northern Territory ($120m)
  • The Molonglo River Bridge in the Australian Capital Territory ($87.5m)

There’s also $2 billion for road safety upgrades including $1 billion for the Road Safety Program and an additional $1 billion for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) Program.

A further $40 million over two years is being invested in South Australian Local Roads Supplementary Funding.

The Stronger Communities Program, which provides grants of between $2,500 and $20,000 to local governments and community organisations for small capital projects that deliver local social benefits, will be extended with an additional $28.2 million.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also announced $2 billion in funding for water infrastructure including dams, weirs and pipelines across the country.

Meanwhile, budget brings forward approximately 50 per cent of the 2021–22 Financial Assistance Grant funding.

“This cash injection of more than $1.3 billion will give councils vital support to assist with the combined impacts of drought, bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

ALGA said the budget addressed many of the issues it had been advocating for for many years.

“This year’s Federal Budget further recognises local government’s essential role in supporting local communities, employment and businesses,” it said.

Local Government Professionals Australia said the $1 billion injection under the LRCI program would empower local councils to deliver local jobs and stimulus.

“With this new phase including greater funding and a longer delivery window, local governments will be able to take on more complex projects with more valuable and lasting impacts on their communities,” President Victoria MacKirdy said.

Windfall not all it seems

However Labor said the government’s claimed record infrastructure spend was illusory.

Opposition infrastructure spokeswoman Catherine King said the budget papers revealed there would actually be a $3.3 billion cut to infrastructure spending over four years.

She also said 55 per cent of the new spending was beyond forward estimates, with only WA and South Australia seeing more than half of their promised windfall within the next four years.

Meanwhile, 87 per cent of Victoria’s funding and 99 per cent of new NT funding was beyond forward estimates.

However, the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia said the $15.2 billion funding commitment would leverage planning, policy and procurement and support productivity and livability in both urban and regional areas.

“We welcome the federal government’s continued commitment to an infrastructure-led recovery, which now represents more than $100 billion over 10 years,” said ISCA CEO Ainsley Simpson.

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