Freight Rail, Passenger Rail

Labor pressures Coalition over IA audit

Labor has accused the Coalition of applying a ‘handbrake’ to infrastructure spending after Infrastructure Australia’s 2019 Audit called for sustained spending to tackle congestion.

Shadow transport and infrastructure minister Catherine King said on Wednesday Australians would have to get used to being stuck in traffic and on long commutes under the Coalition Government.

She pointed not only to the Infrastructure Australia report, but also to a Regional Australia Institute report which last week projected huge blowouts in commute times, and the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, which showed weekly commute times have risen from 3.7 hours to 4.5 hours over the past decade.

“These sluggish numbers don’t just harm commuters – they make Australia less attractive to international investment,” King said.

“At this critical time, Australians are demanding the Morrison Government produce a real plan to protect jobs, curb rising congestion and stimulate the economy. Instead, for six years this Government has left the heavy lifting to state governments and ignored calls from the Reserve Bank and Infrastructure Australia to fast-track investment.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese also used the Infrastructure Australia Audit to criticise the government.

“The Business Council of Australia, the union movement, every economist in the country, knows that all of the economic indicators at the moment are flatlining,” Albanese told a press conference in Wollongong.

“We have economic growth that was downgraded just last Friday from 2.75 per cent to 2.5 per cent, putting it below trend. We have productivity that’s gone backwards for four quarters in a row. We have consumer demand that is flatlining and the lowest retail trade figures since the 1990s. We have household debt that is spiralling. We have a national debt that’s being doubled on this Government’s watch.

“All of the economic indicators showed the economy slowing. That’s why the Reserve Bank has reduced interest rates to just 1 percent. One third of what they were under the Global Financial Crisis. And yet you have a Government that’s complacent.”

The opposition leader said a project nearby his press conference, the Maldon-Dombarton freight rail link, would be a good example of a project that could accelerate growth and cut congestion.

“The Federal Government and State Government should work with the private sector to make sure this project happens,” Albanese said.

“It’s even more important now because it can link up with passenger movements as well, going to the south-west growth centre that will occur around the Aerotropolis at Badgerys Creek Airport.”