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Industry anger at SA's "pittance" from federal budget

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The Federal Budget's big infrastructure spend hasn't yet extended to rail projects in South Australia with the Oaklands crossing, the Gawler line electrification, and the Adelaide tram network extension in limbo.

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Local industry bodies have lashed out at the Federal Government for a lack of infrastructure spending in South Australia, with the Civil Contractors Federation of SA warning the “pittance” offered to the state could “come well come back to haunt the SA Liberal Opposition” at next year’s election.

The RAA has also warned of delays in the completion of the South Road upgrade as a result of last night’s budget.

While Western Australia has scored $1.2 billion to expand the Perth rail network, and Victoria given $500 million to boost regional rail, South Australia’s light and heavy rail projects have been overlooked at this stage, angering the State Government.

The rail-heavy budget also gives the ACT $67 million for Canberra light rail, while the Commonwealth also committed to financing the Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail project through an additional $8.4 billion investment.

The best hope for South Australia’s passenger rail projects appears to be a new $10 billion national rail program, but the state will have to compete against big-ticket items in other states.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has listed a rail link to a new Sydney airport in the city’s west as a potential recipient for rail funding. The federal and Victorian governments are also tipping in millions to fund the development of a business case for a rail link to Melbourne airport.

State Government ministers have been quick to trash last night’s budget for ignoring South Australian infrastructure, despite an extra $36 million for energy infrastructure, a promise of a $110 million equity investment in a proposed solar thermal energy plant for Port Augusta, and a previously announced $68 million commitment to build a proton therapy unit at SAHMRI in Adelaide.

Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said that of the $70 billion allocated for infrastructure in the budget, SA will receive no new funding.

He said it was the first time since federation that the state had not received any federal budget funding for new infrastructure.

Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan said today that the State Government had been hoping for federal funding to extend the long-delayed electrification of the Gawler rail line beyond Salisbury.

As InDaily reported yesterday, the State Government is going it alone on the Adelaide to Salisbury section of the electrification project, which was first mooted in 2008. The tender process opens today for works on that section.

“With $152.5 million that we’ve currently got, the only funding coming from South Australia… we can only afford to electrify out to Salisbury and that’s why we repeatedly say to the Federal Government and we repeatedly call for their investment to help us,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“The Federal Government needs to do what Malcolm Turnbull says that he’s going to do and that’s fund public transport infrastructure but we’ve seen no evidence of that yet.”

Mullighan also revealed that another long-awaited project – a rail overpass to ease congestion in Adelaide’s south-western suburbs – was now looking doubtful.

He said the State Government had made savings on other Commonwealth-funded infrastructure projects to free up funds to start work on the Oaklands crossing project, but the Commonwealth  was holding off on approval.

“What we’ve said is we’ve made legitimate project savings, we’ve got a project which is really important for people in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, the Oaklands crossing upgrade. (It) would be a co-funded project between the State and the Federal Governments just like all the other projects – let’s just give it a tick and so we can get on with it.”

The other big-ticket transport item on South Australia’s list is the AdeLINK tram network, which is currently the subject of a State Government-commissioned $4 million study, due to be released in the middle of the year.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison indicated yesterday the tram network expansion could benefit from the new rail fund, provided its business case stacks up.

Mullighan told InDaily today that it looked like South Australia might have to “go it alone” to get the AdeLINK project underway.

“Just over 12 months ago Malcolm Turnbull was catching Adelaide Metro trains and tram, talking up his Government’s commitment to public transport projects and yet we are still yet to see one single dollar of new funding,” he said.

“We are finalising a $4 million business case for the AdeLINK project which will detail planning and design, identify precise tram routes and stops, as well as project benefits and final costs for this city-changing project. However we are deeply concerned that the federal Government is seeking ‘value-capture outcomes’ from funding these projects. In other states, this means new property taxes and charges on people living next to new public transport projects.”

Finance Minister Matthias Cormann said today the State Government should stop whingeing and focus on trying to claim its share of the rail fund.

“If they took a constructive approach instead of just whingeing and not even reading the budget papers properly, they would see the $10 billion new allocation in a national rail program,” he told ABC radio.

“They would see that there’s an opportunity to get additional funding towards rail infrastructure into South Australia.”

Mullighan questioned why South Australia had to “jump through all of these hoops”, when other projects, such as the Western Australian rail project, “hadn’t had any project assessment or a business case”.

The State Government’s map of the five proposed tram route extensions that make up AdeLINK.

Two key industry bodies also slammed the budget, with the South Australian Freight Council (SAFC)  saying it failed to deliver “one new dollar” to transport infrastructure in South Australia.

The council’s executive officer, Evan Knapp, said while South Australia has been passed over for new funding, the federal budget delivered billions of infrastructure dollars to the eastern seaboard and Western Australia.

‘‘While east coast transport networks have been funded to the tune of many billions of dollars, the Turnbull Coalition government has ignored South Australia’s infrastructure needs,” Knapp said.

“Funding for the new Western Sydney Airport alone reached $5.4 billion, but the Commonwealth Government couldn’t find a single new dollar for SA.

“There is no new South Australian road infrastructure funding, no funding for SA freight rail projects, and no guaranteed funding for new passenger rail in SA – including the proposed AdeLINK tram network.

“There is no funding for future sections of the North South Corridor along South Road – a project the Turnbull Coalition government has committed to fund.

“All current sections of the corridor will be finished by 2019/20, leaving the skilled road construction workforce that has been developed on these projects out of a job, and SA with a half-finished urban freeway.”

The Civil Contractors Federation of SA was even stronger in its criticism, accusing the Federal Government of severely short-changing South Australia on infrastructure spending.

Federation CEO Phil Sutherland warned the budget could have political consequences.

“Federal Treasurer Morrison has missed a golden opportunity to revive SA and set the state up for the future by investing in productive infrastructure, a proven mechanism to deliver jobs growth and economic expansion,” he said.

“Less than a year out from a state election, last night’s budget could well come back to haunt the SA Liberal Opposition.

“With the incumbent State Labor Government being in power for the past 15 years, it would be reasonable for State Opposition Leader Steven Marshall to have expected more support from his federal colleagues.”

He said that despite rhetoric to the contrary, “SA has been severely short-changed on funding for major infrastructure projects needed in this state”.

“Other states have received billions of dollars in the budget, while SA – again, the poor relative – receives a pittance.

“The Federal Government’s investment in infrastructure in SA pales into insignificance when compared with the investment earmarked for infrastructure in the other states.

“A number of key road and other projects have simply been re-announced to pad out the investment in SA.”

The RAA says the lack of funding for the next stage of the South Road upgrade will lead to significant delays in the project.

The motorists’ body says about $373 million was needed to upgrade the next section of South Road, between the Superway and Pym Street.

The RAA’s senior manager roady safety, Charles Mountain, said the failure to fund South Road would cause significant delays to the overall upgrade.

“The lack of funding for South Road is a serious oversight,” he said.

“The Abbott Government had committed to a complete upgrade of South Road within a 10-year period. Without a funding commitment for the next section, it’s very unlikely this commitment will be honoured.”

However, Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said the State Government was to blame for the lack of funded projects.

“I think the real problem in terms of infrastructure is the State Government hasn’t put up many projects to the Federal Government for funding,” he told InDaily.

“They haven’t worked in a constructive way with the Federal Government and we’re paying the price in SA for that.

“One of the great things about the budget is billions and billions of dollars are now on the table in terms of infrastructure… SA should be putting in applications.”

He said industry groups were “annoyed with this lazy State Labor Government for not putting projects up to Infrastructure Australia and the Federal Government”.

“There’s no state plan… this is why the Liberal Party has said we’ll establish Infrastructure SA.

“We’re the only party in SA putting forward a plan for a massive increase in productive infrastructure. All they’re doing is whingeing [and putting up] pet projects in marginal seats around electoral cycles.”

At a press conference today, Marshall appeared to echo his miss-step during the last state election campaign, when he urged voters to vote Labor.

Today’s comment was a little more ambiguous. He said a “hard-working Labor government” was the “best guarantee for more money coming to South Australia”.

He made the comment in the context of criticising state Labor for whingeing instead of working constructively with the Federal Government.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said that while South Australia had been “dudded” on infrastructure spend, there was some good news in relation to local roads funding.

This point was reiterated by the Local Government Association (LGA), which said the return of Financial Assistance Grants indexation and supplementary road funding would add “millions in additional funding” to South Australian councils.

The budget provides $40 million in supplementary local road funding over two years.

– additional reporting from AAP and Tom Richardson

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