Libs back down on Infrastructure Australia amendments

By: Jason Whittaker

Despite threatening to force a stalemate over the establishment of Infrastructure Australia, the Liberals acquiesced to Labor’s refusal to amend

Despite threatening to force a stalemate over the establishment of Infrastructure Australia, the Liberals acquiesced to Labor’s refusal to amend aspects of the bill by approving it in the Senate today.

The approval paves the way for the national body to be set up, which will consist of 12 members drawn from industry and government.

Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese says the establishment of Infrastructure Australia shows a commitment to addressing Australia’s infrastructure woes.

He says the national body will allow the Rudd Government to work towards cutting inflationary pressures while boosting productivity, removing bottlenecks which hinder the efficiency of freight movement and developing initiatives to reduce traffic congestion.

But the establishment of Infrastructure Australia was precariously placed yesterday, as the major parties remained deadlocked on the issue over the running of the infrastructure body.

Shadow transport minister Warren Truss yesterday said the Liberals would use its majority in the Upper House to block the bill if Labor did not listen to his party’s demands.

However, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese refused to budge, saying amendments proposed by the Liberals would not enhance the running of Infrastructure Australia.

The Opposition accused the Government of wanting to set up a body which could not act independently, while Labor countered this with claims Liberal amendments would reduce transparency.

A spokesman for Albanese says the Liberals passed the bill because "they saw merit in what the Government is doing".

According to Albanese, the establishment of Infrastructure Australia means the Government will work towards "replacing neglect" and ending the "buck passing and pork barrelling" by implementing long-term planning projects to meet infrastructure needs.

While the members of Infrastructure Australia are yet to be announced, Albanese says Sir Rod Eddington’s appointment as chair will be followed in the coming weeks by the appointment of the remaining 11 members.

Once appointed, the members will work to complete a national infrastructure audit encompassing water, energy, transport and communications.

Furthermore, Infrastructure Australia will compile a priority list to be presented to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to guide future public and private investment decisions.

The Government expects the body by year’s end to develop nationally consistent guidelines for public-private partnerships.
"Infrastructure Australia will also provide advice on regulatory reforms which will help improve the use of existing infrastructure, streamline planning approvals and unlock billions of dollars of new investment," Albanese says.

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