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Coalition electorates favoured 3 to 1 in Abbott government infrastructure spend

Melbourne Metro Rail lost federal funding in the 2013 election.

Melbourne Metro Rail lost federal funding in the 2013 election. Photo: Penny Stephens

The Abbott government has been accused of pork-barrelling after analysis of the budget's infrastructure spending revealed Coalition electorates are favoured for new money by a ratio of three to one.

A Fairfax Media analysis of the Abbott government's 2014 budget has calculated that, of the new projects announced and funded, just under three-quarters were in Coalition electorates.

Including the infrastructure projects which aren't new but which have received more funding under the incoming Coalition government, such as the Warrego Highway in Queensland and the Swan Valley Bypass in Western Australia, there was a total of 50 projects benefiting Coalition electorates.

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In comparison, the majority of projects which lost federal funding in the 2013 election were in non-Liberal electorates, such as Melbourne Metro Rail in Victoria.

Monash University professor of transport Graham Currie said it was common for Liberal or right-wing leaning governments to be concerned about infrastructure in rural areas.

But while it was not uncommon for governments to use public money to prop up their own electorates, he said the government had to decide whether it was going to be political or professional.

"A real truth is that there's always a bit of a silver lining or a bit of gold plating around your own electorates [but] I'd like to point out that a three to one ratio is to a new level," he said.

Professor Currie said Australia's independent body for infrastructure decisions, Infrastructure Australia, was not being used by the current government to decide which projects to fund.

"The question is whether they want to be a professional government or they want to pork barrel, and whether we'll forge the idea of trying to be professional about how we manage resources or just do it on a political basis.

"I don't think that's how a country should be run."

The shadow Infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese has joined Mr Currie in accusing the federal government of using publicly funded projects to gain votes in marginal seats.

But a spokesperson for Infrastructure minister Warren Truss said the government had decided on infrastructure projects based on advice from the states and territories and the independent body Infrastructure Australia.

He said the Abbott government was making a record investment all over Australia to get on with building Australia's infrastructure, after what he said were six years of Labor neglect.

"The Australian government's $50 billion infrastructure investment includes funding for a range of major new motorway projects across a number of states and territories," he said.

"This significant investment in Australia's road, rail, port and airport networks increases the capacity for state and territory governments to fund urban rail public transport projects."

He said the projects which had been cut by the federal government, such as Melbourne Metro, had been picked up and funded by state Coalition governments.

Fairfax Media analysed the new projects announced in the 2014 Budget by which electorates they benefited, taking into account that a number of investments affected multiple electorates, such as the new Outback Way and the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan.

Mr Albanese said in fairness a large number of projects which would have been funded by a re-elected Labor government also fell across Liberal electorates, such as national highways.

"Having said that, what they did do were the sorts of things that are nothing to do with national highways but are in Liberal seats - state roads or local roads, like the Great Ocean Road, were pork-barrelling basically," he said.

"And where they made the cuts are where they don't help any particular seat."

He said the government had made very political decisions about where the infrastructure funding should go, all against the advice of Infrastructure Australia.

"The whole purpose was to set up an independent advisory council to break that nexus between the political cycle and the investment cycle. And they haven't listened to Infrastructure Australia, in fact the opposite," he said.

"They've taken money from projects they recommended to projects that they haven't assessed."

56 comments

  • It was the Coalition electorates which were neglected and suffered under Labor for six long years in relation to infrastructure spending. If there is any truth to this story then it is only fair that the pendulum swings the other way for a while.

    Commenter
    Gassius
    Location
    Kambah
    Date and time
    June 16, 2014, 6:49AM
    • I notice a total lack of evidence for your assertion.

      Commenter
      Good Logic
      Date and time
      June 16, 2014, 8:21AM
    • For Gods sake don*t quote any sources for your assertions. They will shoot them full of holes.

      Commenter
      David D
      Location
      Ettalong Beach
      Date and time
      June 16, 2014, 8:43AM
    • What a load of bollocks. What are you basing that statement on???

      Infrastructure Australia was estavlished to take the political loading out of the equation. There should be no funding allocated by the Commonwealth, it should all go into a single fund and be allocated to projects based on merrit and cost benefit. The whole reasoning behind IA.

      This govt doesn't care, the Melb East-West tunnel is a perfect example, it hasn't even submitted a fuel business case to IA and it is getting enormous funding.

      The funding shouldn't be based on new infrastructure alone either, upgrading existing infroastructure and improving its safety will generate greater return on investments than a lot of the politically funded crap based aorund ribbon cutting.

      Politics need to be put aside and what is best for the nation as a whole priortised.

      Commenter
      JPC
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      June 16, 2014, 9:19AM
    • And yet the article specifically states 'a three to one ratio is a new level' so I don't think we are seeing a rebalance of neglected funding.

      Commenter
      ljb
      Date and time
      June 16, 2014, 9:22AM
    • What rubbish. Go to the outer suburbs and you will find neglect. And that's only because they don't vote for the Lie-berals.

      Tell me - why did Napthine lie about the east-west tunnel? Why did the Lie-berals oppose the east-west tunnel in opposition and then do a Tony Abbott? And that in spite of polls which consistently show the inner eastern suburbs do not support wasting $8 billion on a five km tunnel which will cost each user at least $12.50 each way, on top of the $8 billion?

      An election is looming and if Napthine is blinkered enough to go ahead with the tunnel and not make up the cuts that his mates in the federal Lie-beral party are inflicting on us, then he is even more pompous and out of touch then we think he already is.

      Commenter
      Jim
      Location
      South Yarra
      Date and time
      June 16, 2014, 9:23AM
    • And u know this how?

      Seriously how?

      Or is that just flat made up

      Seriously is that a genuine response? No wonder discourse is so poor in this country

      Commenter
      Toby
      Date and time
      June 16, 2014, 9:25AM
    • So what you're saying is that you're happy for a "tit for tat" system i.e. When Labor gets back into power they should neglect all Liberal seats? Don't you think it's time for government, regardless of whether it's Liberal or Labor, to do their job and govern for all?
      Such a typical response, "Labor did it so it's okay for Liberal to do it". Whoever is in power should be more accountable full stop. Holding an electorate to ransom for not voting for them is a governments worst mistake in my opinion.

      Commenter
      Jay
      Date and time
      June 16, 2014, 9:25AM
    • Like to offer any evidence to your suggestion that the previous government ignored coalition electorates? It would seem to me that they mainly used independent advice or big ticket items like school buildings and NBN favoured everyone equally.

      Commenter
      Mike
      Date and time
      June 16, 2014, 9:26AM
    • You got any facts to back that up Gassius? Or are you just assuming Labor did it because the LNP are?

      But I guess pork barrelling should be ok no matter who does it. i wonder what your reaction was when Labor did it?

      Here's an idea - governments should be for ALL the people, not just for favoured electorates, and should address all those in need.

      Oh wait, the LNP don't care about those in need, as the recent budget demonstrates...

      Commenter
      Honour
      Date and time
      June 16, 2014, 9:28AM

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