Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1613..
MR SESELJA (continuing):
new and widened roads. Many of the worst choke-points on our arterial roads have been ignored. The traffic problems of Gungahlin will not be fixed by duplicating Flemington Road and dumping more traffic onto Northbourne Avenue. There is no fix for Majura Road. This road is a growth corridor that carries pressure from growth areas in Gungahlin and Queanbeyan. It also connects to a heavy flow of Tuggeranong traffic. Yet we see no plan to fix it.
The capital works budget is a long list of little ideas, small and medium projects, plus some stale re-announcements that have come back from the dead. Where is the broad vision? Outside health spending, there appears to be little which will make a large difference for ordinary Canberrans. The opposition is very pleased to have a debate about infrastructure spending, because for a long time we have said that Labor has been letting the ACT's assets deteriorate and has not invested windfall surpluses into any lasting legacy.
There is no party less qualified to handle infrastructure investment than the ACT Labor Party. They have an unrivalled record of bungling on this issue. After the Labor Party first came to office in the ACT, they were initially quite honest about their disinterest in infrastructure. Labor's first two budgets significantly cut the amount of new money committed to capital works. In 2001, the previous Liberal government committed $89 million towards new capital works. By comparison, the next two Labor budgets only committed $56 million and $58 million to new works to be undertaken in 2002-03 and 2003-04 respectively.
But after that initial blatant gutting of the infrastructure spend, Labor came to realise that there was a growing public expectation that it should be spending more on infrastructure. So Labor has become more cunning about its underinvestment. Since 2004, Labor has played a dishonest game with infrastructure numbers. Labor has published some impressive promises of increased spending at budget time in May. Then, at the end of the financial year, every year, it turns out that between a half to a third of the promised investment is never delivered.
The truth about how much money has been acquitted is detailed in the low-profile capital works reports. On average, Labor's completion rate has been 59 per cent for its capital works promises made over the six years from 2002-03 to 2007-08. The inverse statistic to the completion rate is the underspend rate. Labor's underspend was as high as 48 per cent of the promised funding in 2004-05 and 48 per cent in 2005-06. In the last audited report their underspend for 2006-07 was 38 per cent.
The capital works reports are written by independent Treasury officials and they used to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly. They give a picture of actual ACT government investment, not just budget promises. In 2006, Mr Stanhope, as Treasurer, deemed that these reports should be suppressed. He hated the scrutiny and he hated the public finding out how little of his headline promises on infrastructure was ever spent.
Fortunately, the Canberra Liberals have been able to obtain the release of the capital works reports through the freedom of information process. My colleague Brendan Smyth has been putting in regular FOI requests. Thanks to these reports, we