Catherine King: Infrastructure review to probe former government’s projects


Hundreds of infrastructure projects across the country will be probed and potentially scrapped under a wide-ranging review commissioned by the Albanese government.

The 90-day independent review, announced by Infrastructure Minister Catherine King, will probe the 10-year, $120 billion pipeline – which she said had been blown out from 150 projects to nearly 800 “press release” projects under a decade of Coalition governments.

With Australia’s core inflation rate now sitting higher than any G7 country, Ms King said the Coalition governments had had an “appetite for announcing projects that wasn’t matched with a commitment to deliver” but the Albanese government was committed to substantially changing the make-up of the infrastructure pipeline.

As supply chain pressures drastically force up the cost of major projects, with many needing additional funding to ensure timely delivery. Meanwhile, there is a shortfall of about 95,000 workers on public infrastructure projects across the country.

Ms King has said projects already under construction would proceed.

But the Australian Constructors Association have expressed “serious concerns” that the review will result in significant cancellations and deferrals.

“Delivery of infrastructure is not like a tap. It can’t simply be turned on and off,” chief executive Jon Davies said.

“It is vital that industry is consulted in the review to avoid inflicting further pain on an industry that is already doing it tough as a result of having to absorb significant rises in material and labour costs.

“If projects are cut, governments must take action to reallocate a proportion of the saved funds to help industry by compensating contractors who have incurred significant additional costs without any fault of their own and currently lack contractual relief.

“Construction currently accounts for 26 per cent of all business insolvencies in Australia and the implications of these failures on the wider economy are huge.”

Ms King said if any projects were deemed undeliverable, money could be routed elsewhere.

While the government has not committed to any savings target, Finance Minister Katy Gallagher on Sunday said the government had found billions more in savings throughout the budget, ahead of next Tuesday’s Budget.

Ms King says the review was prompted by discovering projects committed to by the previous government were left without adequate funding or resources; projects that offered little benefit to the public were approved; and the “clogged” pipeline caused delays and overruns in more important, nation-building projects.

While in opposition, Labor accused the Coalition of using infrastructure projects as “pork barrelling”, a claim somewhat reinforced by the 160 projects in the pipeline worth less than $5m.

“A properly functioning infrastructure investment pipeline means projects can be delivered with more confidence about time frames and budgets,” Ms King said.

“Easing the pressure on the construction sector will help drive inflation lower, and deliver more predictable investment and delivery outcomes from governments.”

She said that the government was committed to maintaining significant infrastructure investment for the medium term.

Labor’s election commitments will not be among the projects up for scrutiny.

“Communities will benefit from national significant infrastructure with shorter and safer travel, more liveable cities, suburbs and regions, while the economy benefits from the certainty brought by a smoother delivery of investment matched to project timelines,” she said.

“It is time to clean up the mess left by the Liberals and Nationals clogging the pipeline with ‘press release projects’ – announced but unable to be delivered.

“This review will put confidence back into the investment pipeline, benefiting the states and territories and the communities we all serve.”

The review was agreed to by state and territory governments when national cabinet met on Friday, with those governments to be consulted, and given the chance to have their say, throughout the review period.

The review will be undertaken by former public servants and land transport infrastructure experts Reece Waldock AM, Clare Gardiner-Barnes and Mike Mrdak.

Originally published as Hundreds of Coalition government’s infrastructure projects under scrutiny in new review


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