In the US Presidential campaign of 1992, Bill Clinton’s team famously had the slogan, ‘It’s the economy stupid’, pinned to its office walls. Clearly, the Coalition Governments, both federally and in the states have something similar reminding them just how important the improvement of the country’s infrastructure is to the economy, or their ratings in the polls.
This year has seen a series of commitments to infrastructure spending from governments with massive figures being bandied about, a few billion here, and a few billion there. This week has seen another series of announcements in speeches by politicians.
The ‘Infrastructure’ Minister in Abbott’s ‘Infrastructure’ Government is Warren Truss and this week he continued his tour of the country by talking about how much is going to be spent on the new Bridges Renewal Programme and Round Four of the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program.
These are relatively small commitments, $500 million over the next five years, but Truss is pronouncing these kinds of things weekly. Last week, it was Northern Territory development, Queanbeyan bypass and the Bruce at Cairns. The week before it was the second Toowoomba Range Crossing…..
In New South Wales, Roads and Freight Minister, Duncan Gay, talked about record funding to up productivity and efficiency of the NSW freight network, as part of the 2014-15 State Budget. His statement is another list of spending commitments for freight related improvements.
As an industry, trucking needs to work out how much of this is new money and how much was already in the pipeline. Is there actually going to be that much more and improved infrastructure available to freight, than there would have been before all of these announcements were made?
What we do know for sure is, governments now understand spending on and thinking about freight is important. This is a victory for lobby groups who have been banging on to the authorities about the massive increase in the freight task for well over ten years.
Another victory is the presentation to the Senate of rule changes to increase the independence of Infrastructure Australia. This should free up the way infrastructure development is planned, funded and carried out. More good news for the freight industry.
This all seems to be good news, and it is. We are still not sure how much of this spending is new money, but funds from government asset sales will definitely boost the amount available. If there is a cloud on the horizon, it’s the prospect of massive road works over periods of years in the areas where congestion is already a major problem. C’est la vie.