ACT short-changed by federal budget, says Labor

Treasurer Scott Morrison during question time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 11 May 2017. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesIn Melbourne they said Sydney was being spoilt rotten. In Sydney they said it was visionary and nation building.

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But the federal opposition says Canberra can rightly claim to feel short-changed by Scott Morrison’s second federal budget on the key infrastructure spending measures.

Analysis of budget allocations show the ACT will receive just 0.4 per cent of federal infrastructure spending between 2017-18 and 2021-22, well below the capital’s 1.6 per cent population share.

The ACT is receiving the lowest share of any state or territory in three categories of road funding: $15.8 million for roads infrastructure, $5.2 million for road black spot upgrades and $24 million for the roads to recovery program.

A further $1.6 million for interstate road transport spending is the same funding amount as Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

For bridge renewal works, the ACT will receive $3.9 million, slightly more than 1 per cent of the total national funding with just $500,000 delivered next financial year.

Funding for the heavy vehicle safety and productivity program, a road safety measure for freight trucks, sees $1.6 million coming to the ACT.

Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Fenner MP Andrew Leigh said the ACT had been overlooked for new major transport spending, accusing the Coalition of preferring “National Party boondoggles” like decentralisation of government departments over worthy projects in the national capital.

“For the ACT, the promised infrastructure budget delivers nothing – not even the Barton Highway upgrade the Coalition pledged,” Dr Leigh said.

“Infrastructure spending should be based on benefit-cost analysis, not roads to nowhere to pork barrel Coalition electorates. Under the Liberals, Canberra’s infrastructure spending is stuck in the slow lane.

“For example, investment in the Majura Parkway was a project which had a high benefit-cost pay-off, three-to-one as I recall, but one which would have never been funded by a Coalition government because it passed through a Labor seat.”

ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja defended the budget, saying the ACT government had not attended a briefing on infrastructure funding submissions in November or submitted business cases for any projects.

“Despite this, we are seeing a significant infrastructure investment in the ACT through the $500 million public service modernisation fund and various other projects,” he said.

“The Australian government has committed $3.2 million to construct truck lay-bys on the Federal Highway; $1.2 million to strengthen bridges on the Monaro Highway; and $300,000 to install a travel time information system on arterial roads across the ACT.

“The Monaro Highway and Pialligo are key priorities for the ACT in this budget which includes $3 million towards planning and design works for the Monaro Highway and Pialligo Avenue duplication.

He said Belconnen, Gungahlin, Pialligo, Weston Creek and Woden would benefit from roads funding, while black spot spending would go to Lyneham, Isabella Plains, Braddon, Greenway, Kingston and Forrest.

A new regional Australia policy document released by Regional Development and Territories Minister Fiona Nash on Thursday included only one paragraph on the latest decentralisation push, with no new costings or detail.

The 38-page Regions 2030 statement said the “structured decentralisation” plan would create local jobs, economic diversification and stimulate economic growth.

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