Some projects in the $120 billion federal infrastructure investment pipeline that the Albanian government has inherited from the coalition will soon be on the chopping block.
This follows the announcement of a 90-day review of the pipeline and sharp criticism from Infrastructure Minister Catherine King of the coalition programme.
Major cost escalations have occurred in many projects. Aside from inadequate cost accounting to begin with, supply chain pressures have dramatically increased the cost of major projects.
The infrastructure pipeline includes rail and road projects in the capital cities, as well as rail and road construction and upgrades in regional and outback areas.
The government keeps the size of the pipeline the same, but the content changes. The outcome of the review is expected to be announced in the semi-annual budget update to be released in December. No new infrastructure projects are announced in the budget of 9 May.
King said the government was determined to deliver on its election promises and implement projects now under construction.
The ambitious inland rail line from Brisbane to Melbourne has already been assessed and guaranteed. The review, by Kerry Schott, recommended a number of ways to improve delivery.
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King said under the coalition, the number of projects had jumped from nearly 150 to 800.
“Projects have been left without adequate funding or resources, projects with no real benefit to the public have been approved, and the clogged pipeline has caused delays and overruns on key nation-building projects,” she said.
Many projects never got underway, and some 160 had commitments of $5 million or less.
The government had to fix the situation. “Australia should have a pipeline of land transport infrastructure projects that are truly nation-building, economically sustainable and resilient to our changing climate,” said King.
The assessment will be conducted by Reece Waldock, a former director-general of the Western Australian Transport Department, Clare Gardiner-Barnes, a member of the Board of Directors of Infrastructure Australia, and Mike Mrdak, who once headed the federal infrastructure department.
The review will consult states, territories and local governments. It is seen as an opportunity for states to name projects they are no longer committed to.
“A well-functioning infrastructure investment pipeline means projects can be delivered with greater confidence about timelines and budgets,” said King.
“Easing pressure on the construction sector will help lower inflation and provide more predictable investment and delivery outcomes from governments.”
Labor accuses the coalition of using the infrastructure program for mass pork. It says that when it took office, only 19% of infrastructure investment program projects with a federal government contribution of less than $50 million were in seats that the ALP had before the election.