Albanese government to scrap infrastructure

The Albanese government in Australia is set to review projects in the $120 billion federal infrastructure investment pipeline inherited from the Coalition. A 90-day review of the pipeline has been announced, following criticisms of the program by Infrastructure Minister Catherine King, and there have been cost escalations in several of the projects. King claims there were inadequate costings to begin with, and supply chain pressures have led to significant increases in the costs of major projects. The pipeline contains rail and road projects in regional and outback areas as well as in the capitals.

Although the size of the pipeline will not change, the government is set to alter its contents. The outcome of the review is due to be announced in December, as part of the mid-year budget update, and no new infrastructure projects will be announced in May. The government will still deliver on its election promises, and projects currently under construction will continue. The Brisbane to Melbourne inland railway, which was guaranteed by the review conducted by Kerry Schott, is also set to proceed.

During the Coalition’s time in office, the number of projects in the pipeline increased from nearly 150 to 800, according to King. She added that many of the projects did not have adequate funding or resources, and some never started. The review, which will be conducted by Reece Waldock, Clare Gardiner-Barnes, and Mike Mrdak, will consult with states, territories, and local governments. It is also an opportunity for states to name projects that they are no longer committed to.

King argues that a properly functioning infrastructure investment pipeline would allow projects to be delivered with greater confidence about timeframes and budgets, and this would help drive inflation lower and deliver more predictable investment and delivery outcomes from governments. Labor accuses the Coalition of using the infrastructure program for pork barrel politics, with only 19% of the infrastructure investment program projects with a federal government contribution under $50 million in seats held by the ALP prior to the election.

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