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State and feds argue about infrastructure paperwork

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The budget fight between the state and federal governments over infrastructure spending has descended into a debate about paperwork.

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South Australia received a below per-capita share of the federal $70 billion infrastructure package, with no new funding announced in Tuesday’s Budget.

The State Government and local industry bodies – including the RAA, the Freight Council of South Australia and the Civil Contractors Federation of SA – all slammed the budget yesterday for failing to fund projects such as the next stage of the South Road upgrade, the Oaklands Crossing overpass, the completion of the Gawler rail electrification and the expansion of Adelaide’s tram network.

The Federal Government hit back today, accusing the State Government of failing to lodge a single business case for funding via Infrastructure Australia.

“It’s galling of Tom Koutsantonis and Stephen Mullighan to attack the Federal Government for not funding projects when they haven’t even bothered to submit a proper business case to seek funding,” senior minister Christopher Pyne told The Advertiser.

The federal funding body, Infrastructure Australia, requires the provision of business cases for projects, but the State Government argues the budget did fund some projects, notably an expansion of the Perth rail system and upgrades to Victorian regional rail, without business cases or Infrastructure Australia approval.

Premier Jay Weatherill said today that the Federal Government had plenty of documentation on South Australia’s infrastructure wish-list with sufficient detail for the local projects to be assessed for funding.

“It’s extraordinary isn’t it – the Federal Government blaming us for what isn’t in their budget,” he told journalists at the airport before flying out to China for a trade delegation and the Port Adelaide AFL match in Shanghai.

“They have had repeated documentation which you could stack end on end…

“They have funded more projects with less documentation in other states.”

He indicated he would not tempering his criticism of the Federal Government.

“The only language these people understand is when you assertively criticise them when they have made a mistake.”

The Premier promised to release “a stack of documentation” about South Australian projects that had been provided to the Federal Government.

One of the contested projects – the electrification of the Gawler rail line – has been subject to inter-government brawling for years.

It was first mooted by the State Government nearly 10 years ago, with some initial works completed, and federal funding secured.

The state “suspended” funding for the project in then Treasurer Jack Snelling’s 2012 budget, due to deteriorating revenues. The following year, the Abbott Government withdrew federal funding.

State funding has now kicked back in, with a tender process for works opening this week. However, the South Australian contribution is only sufficient to extend electrification from Adelaide to Salisbury.

In Infrastructure Australia’s latest priority list, released in February 2017, the project is listed as a “proposed initiative” that was at the “business development” phase.

The State Government says the Oaklands Crossing project, designed to end a bottleneck in Adelaide’s south-west, does not require additional federal funding – just approval to re-allocate funds from other local, federally-funded projects.

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan says the State Government was “specifically requested by the Prime Minister and his ministers to provide a project proposal report for Oaklands Crossing and we have done this”.

The AdeLINK tram network project is currently being assessed by a $4 million state-commissioned study, due to be completed this year.

The Federal Government has urged the State Government to seek funding for the trams project through a $10 billion rail fund announced on Tuesday.

The business case for funding the next section of the South Road upgrade- between the Superway and Pym Street – appears self-evident.

This section of South Road is flanked to the north by the upgraded “Superway” section of South Australia, and to the south by the so-called Torrens-to-Torrens upgrade, which is in the midst of construction.

The Torrens-to-Torrens project ends at Pym Street, meaning traffic will be funneled from widened, upgraded sections to the north and south into an unimproved part of the road corridor.

The RAA said yesterday that without funding for this section, the Abbott Government’s commitment to a complete upgrade of South Road within 10 years would not be honoured.

 

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