We must get more from infrastructure: Hockey

Joe Hockey calls for greater focus on improving existing infrastructure rather than investing in new projects

By Brad Gardner | May 20, 2010

A Coalition government will focus on getting more value out of the transport network and expanding Infrastructure Australia’s responsibilities, opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says.

In a speech yesterday at the National Press Club, Hockey rejected the need for solely funding new investments as the answer to improving infrastructure.

If elected, he says the Coalition will undertake a national audit of infrastructure to determine opportunities for upgrades and how to improve the use of existing assets.

"We all need to invest smarter to get the most value out of our existing infrastructure," Hockey says.

"…I believe we can significantly improve the productivity of existing capital stock without the need to build everything new for a ribbon cutting ceremony by politicians."

The advisory body Infrastructure Australia will be tasked with helping the Coalition exploit opportunities, which prompted criticism from Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese.

"In Opposition they opposed the formation Infrastructure Australia and seem unaware that it completed an audit of nationally significant infrastructure in 2008 – almost 18 months ago," he says of the Coalition.

During his speech, Hockey accused the Rudd Government of underfunding the group and limiting its ability to only making recommendations on new rather than existing infrastructure.

"We will make it work," he says of Infrastructure Australia, which is led by Sir Rod Eddington.

Hockey also indicated the need for greater private investment to fill Australia’s infrastructure shortfall, which he says is around $700 billion.

"This is simply beyond the capacity of government to fill. It is also wrong for the government to fill," Hockey says.

Hockey also rejected the need to throw more money at infrastructure to improve it.

"Spending more money is not the only answer. Better regulation also helps," he says.

Echoing comments made by Opposition leader Tony Abbott, Hockey says the Coalition will not support the tax on mining profits announced by the Rudd Government.

"The resources super profits tax is a bad tax. It is a blatant money grab, boosting the tax take from the mining industry by at least $9 billion a year," he says.

Part of the revenue from the tax is designed to fund $5.6 billion in transport infrastructure in resource rich states, prompting the Government to accuse the Coalition of cutting spending on road, rail and port projects.

"The abolition of the Rudd Labor Government’s $5.6 billion State Infrastructure Fund would be nothing short of economic vandalism, hurting both the resources sector and the wider economy," Albanese says.

"The purpose of the fund is to build the infrastructure our resources sector needs to move products to overseas markets quickly and efficiently."

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