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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 15 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 December 2009) . . Page.. 5502 ..

In his report to COAG in December 2008, the Chair of Infrastructure Australia, Sir Rod Eddington, stated:

Efficient infrastructure is essential to driving sustainable economic development and growth, lifting levels of productivity and boosting employment. It provides the foundation for vital community services such as schools, hospitals and housing. It is the key to managing population growth and meeting current and future environmental challenges. It is how high standards of living can be achieved.

The report also highlights that the current system is riddled by a:

… lack of accountability and transparency; inadequate evidence to support decisions; cost-shifting between entities; inappropriate infrastructure pricing; and mixed messages to industry and communities about infrastructure investment.

Locally, there has been a call for coordinated, strategic planning for infrastructure delivery for many years. The Property Council, builders and developers, businesses and investors have all identified the need for change in this area and all have been ignored.

The question then becomes: is legislation required to be imposed to guarantee infrastructure has the long-term direction it needs? The federal government came to an unequivocal conclusion when it introduced the Infrastructure Australia Act, which came into effect on 9 April 2008. In a joint statement on 21 January, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government explained that a legislative approach was essential to develop a strategic blueprint for Australia’s infrastructure needs and ensure future projects are determined by economic, social and environmental needs—not short-term political interests.

The federal government absolutely supports the need for regulatory reform to ensure that policy goals are met and not diluted to a mere mirage of politically motivated headlines. Based on our local experience of ACT Labor, the Canberra Liberals believe the need for legislative authority is even more compelling. For too long we have seen the government promise massive capital expenditure but fail to deliver by between a half and a third of their promised amount, as the capital works reports show. For too long we have seen the government promise to deliver projects by a certain date, but miss those deadlines by years, as the GDE demonstrates nearly 10 years after it was first discussed.

Not many years ago, journeys over 40 minutes to work were unthinkable. These days, they are daily occurrences for many Canberrans. In 2001, a four-lane GDE was estimated as costing $53 million and could be completed by 2004. It was not until late 2005 when a contract was signed to even begin on the project. It took until 2008, by which time the road for just two lanes now cost $120 million. If the price tag is adjusted in real terms, we are looking crudely at an approximate doubling of price, but road construction and maintenance costs increased by only 28 per cent over this period, as measured by the federal Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.

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