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Op-Ed: On the Right Track - but Labor backflips hamper confidence in new investment

The Turnbull government is delivering record levels of investment in roads, rail and airports, transforming our cities and regions. We are on track to meet our commitment that by 2020 we will have invested $50 billion since taking office.

But we are not stopping there: this year’s budget committed $75bn for infrastructure in the next decade, including $8.4bn on inland rail and $5.3bn on Western Sydney Airport.

This investment is happening around the country — from the Midland Highway in Tasmania to the Bruce Highway in Queensland; from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Freeway in Melbourne to Metronet in Perth.

It is creating tens of thousands of jobs and delivering untold opportunities to Australians.

Unfortunately, these efforts are being undermined by reckless Labor policies at state and federal level, wasting money and hitting investor confidence in Australia.

A recently published survey of global and domestic investors shows how much investor confidence has been damaged by state Labor governments cancelling contracts for major projects. An example is the Andrews government’s decision in Victoria to scrap the East West Link project on coming to power, despite contracts having been signed and work being under way. Victorian Labor paid $1.1bn to cancel the project, destroying 7000 jobs in the process.

Another troubling development was federal Labor at the election last year backtracking on its support for the WestConnex project in Sydney. Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese had claimed credit for WestConnex on several occasions, stating on May 12, 2014, that Labor had provided $1.8bn for WestConnex. But last year Albanese, under pressure from the Greens in his inner-city electorate, reversed his position, telling a local meeting: “The fact is if I am the transport minister there will be not one dollar from the federal Labor government for this WestConnex project.”

Such reckless cancellations of big projects waste taxpayer funds, cost jobs and rob Australians of vital infrastructure. But as the report shows, they also damage Australia’s global reputation, deterring future investment.

The report by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and Perpetual reflects the views of 26 investors responsible for more than $220bn of infrastructure assets worldwide. It found Australia is attractive to investors, with 70 per cent “highly likely” to invest in infrastructure here. But it reveals 65 per cent of investors agree recent contract cancellations on state government projects make Australian infrastructure less attractive. Australians are paying the price for these backflips.

In Western Australia, where the McGowan Labor government tore up contracts for the Perth freight link on winning office this year, investor interest has plummeted from 30 per cent last year to just 12 per cent.

In South Australia, appetite to invest has dropped to 4 per cent.

The report also draws a sharp contrast between states that have recycled assets to fund infrastructure investment, such as NSW, and those that have refused. NSW has funded ambitious infrastructure projects that are transforming the state. Is it any surprise NSW is the state to which investors are most attracted, with 50 per cent saying they were keen to invest?

With its record levels of infrastructure spending, the Turnbull government is delivering the infrastructure Australia needs. It is a shame Labor takes such a cavalier attitude to providing a secure investment framework, which makes it harder to attract the
investment we need.