Andrew Barr criticises Coalition’s “disregard” for Canberra in Budget speech

The ACT Government has criticised the federal Coalition Government’s re-election as it announced its 2019-20 Budget plans for Canberra.

The ACT’s Budget incorporates the territory’s biggest ever infrastructure program, including the development of the stage two light rail to Woden. Stage two of the rail was somewhat stymied in May by the Coalition’s election, which meant that the ACT missed out on a promised boost of $200,000 for the project.

The ACT Treasury said in a statement that it couldn’t allow for local services and infrastructure to fall behind as Canberra’s population grows by around 8,000 people a year.

“The federal Coalition Government has not invested in Canberra over the past six years,” the statement read. “The ACT has received just 0.8 per cent of national infrastructure funding during the Coalition’s last two terms, despite our strong and consistent population growth.”

ACT Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr echoed these comments in his Budget speech yesterday, criticising the Coalition Government’s approach to Canberra.

“Under the federal Coalition Government, we have had to do the heavy lifting of delivering infrastructure and services for Canberrans for the past six years,” he said.

“Despite the ACT’s steady and ongoing growth, we have received far less than our fair share of national infrastructure investment.

“Public service job cuts, decentralisation and unequal funding deals in key areas like health and education have underlined the Coalition’s disregard for Canberra.”

The ACT Government said it plans to bring the light rail to Woden as soon as possible by progressing design, planning and enabling works from the city centre to Woden.

Works will commence on a new bus interchange at Woden that will integrate with the future light rail network on Callam Street. The ACT Government also announced plans to replace the MyWay ticketing system with a new method that can be used across bus and light rail services.

In addition, a park and ride facility will be built at Gungahlin to accommodate “the record numbers of people using light rail in Canberra’s north since it launched in April”, the Government says.

Barr added that with around 270,000 people expected to be living, working and studying within 800 metres of the City to Woden corridor by 2036, it was important that the light rail investment be delivered promptly.

“With stage one of light rail to Gungahlin successfully up and running, we are turning our focus to delivering stage two to Woden,” he said.

“Canberra needs a clean, fast and accessible public transport network to help keep our city moving as we grow, and stage two will provide the southern spine for our integrated network.”

Infrastructure sector calls on Coalition to convert rhetoric into action

Industry think tank Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has called on the Federal Coalition Government to ensure it keeps to the promises laid out in its 2019 Budget following its surprise election win last week.

The group’s chief executive Adrian Dwyer lauded both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition leader Bill Shorten for their respective efforts in the election before commenting that the government’s approach to infrastructure would “define the success” of its term.

The Coalition’s funding package includes national initiatives such as a $2.2 billion road safety package; $4 billion urban congestion fund; $2 billion fast rail plan that includes a high-speed link between Geelong and Melbourne, and several further fast rail business cases in eastern Australia; the Melbourne-to-Brisbane Inland Rail project; and the $5 billion Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

“The 2019 Budget showed that the Coalition Government takes infrastructure seriously, and now that rhetoric needs to convert into action,” Dwyer said.

“In this new term of parliament there are a number of major issues that will need to be front and centre on the Prime Minister’s infrastructure agenda.”

The Coalition Government has lifted total infrastructure funding to $29.5 billion above forward estimates, and has a long-term plan to raise transport infrastructure investment to $100 billion over the next 10 years.

While Dwyer praised these plans, he added that the Coalition would have to tackle reform challenges such as settling energy policy to end the investment strike, boosting productivity with “big ticket infrastructure reforms” and address road funding concerns.

“The Coalition has already taken the sensible step of reversing the recent decline in funding for critical projects, lifting total infrastructure funding to $29.5 billion over the forward estimates,” Dwyer added.

“Much more however will need to be done to ensure that Australia retains its hard-won reputation as a leader and global standard bearer for sound infrastructure policy.”