Speech: Civil Contractors Federation SA State Conference
26 June 2015
Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide
It's a great pleasure to be here again talking to you this morning, talking to the people who deliver upon the money that I announce. So, thank you very much for all the work you do. Because it's all very well to make announcements about infrastructure, but ultimately what we need is it delivered for the benefit of the economy, which is what it is all about.
And that's one of the very major focuses of the Federal Government, particularly through our Budget. We are looking to grow our economy; we want Australia to have higher growth. We want small businesses and the business community to have a go, as Joe Hockey said on Budget night. And that's why in the Budget we put the focus on giving small business the opportunity to get a greater return on their business through accelerated depreciation initiative, up to $20,000 per purchase, which will run for two years. And that has already been a kick-start to the economy we believe, to get people spending money, to get people investing in their business. Particularly here in South Australia where we face very significant headwinds and challenges. We've got an unemployment rate which is unacceptably high, we are looking for ways to work with the South Australian Government to fix what is a challenging situation, and undoubtedly I'm sure for your businesses as well.
And we can do that by focusing on how we can encourage small business and so forth, but we can also do it by investment in infrastructure. The Federal Government is involved in infrastructure because it is so important to our national economy. As you would know, state and local governments run our road networks; the Federal Government doesn't own or run a road. But we invest very heavily in them, because we recognise they are vitally important to ensure our cities are unclogged, and that our regional networks can move our freight to market.
One of the great achievements, I think of the Abbott Government thus far has been the signing of three free trade agreements with Japan, Korea, and of course China, which we finalised just a week and a half ago. But to take advantage of those free trade agreements we've got to have infrastructure that allows people, allows businesses, allows our farmers to move product from the farm gate, from the business, to the port and to the market. And that's why we're investing very heavily in infrastructure, increasingly heavily in infrastructure. A decade ago, the Federal Government spent some $800 million in 2004 on infrastructure. This year we'll spend approximately $8 billion. So, the growth of the Federal Government's involvement in infrastructure grows every year, and will continue to do so.
Last month, we released Australia's first audit of Australia's infrastructure stock, completed by Infrastructure Australia, which is the beginning of the process to build the 15-year plan, which we hope to have released later this year. And that process will allow all of you—state governments, local governments, your businesses, anyone who's interested—to submit to Infrastructure Australia about what it is that is important to help grow our economy over the next decade or so, to help create that pipeline we often talk about, that we don't have the stop-start infrastructure spend that we've so often seen throughout Australia's history.
So, the 15-year plan, based on the work done in the audit, is a very important document for you all to be part of, and there are sessions will be held right across the country, here in Adelaide, by Infrastructure Australia. And I would encourage you, through Phil and the CCF, to participate in those sessions, to involve yourself in those sessions. Because we want the best, strongest plan possible to build a stronger Australia.
And here in Adelaide we are doing significant work already, as many of you would know and are involved in. The Torrens to Torrens project is about to start, we've got serious construction about ready to begin in the very near future. The Darlington project on the South Road, we'll have some news in respect of the shortlisting of the contractors for that project within the next few weeks. The Bald Hills Road second interchange, that work will start, Bardavcol will start that work on Sunday. I'll be very proudly standing there on Sunday helping to turn the first sod to get that work underway. But we know that there's more that we need to do to ensure that South Australia's got the opportunities to get out of the hole that we find ourselves in.
That's why we paid the South Australian Government to complete a plan on South Road, which was released a couple of months ago, which is to look at how we can comprehensively upgrade South Road Corridor within a decade, as the Prime Minister committed. And it tells us that it is a very expensive task and there is a lot of work still to do in addition to the two projects. And I've been working with Stephen Mullighan and the South Australian Government, and looking at ways that we can deliver this project. And hopefully in the next little while we'll have more to say. But it is fair to say that we are eager for South Australia not just to ask for more money to help deliver this project, but we want them to look at ways that we can have a system in South Australia that ensures in the future we've got more investment in infrastructure.
The reality that Australia faces is that we have more of infrastructure needs than we have the capacity to meet. The traditional funding model of funding infrastructure through local and state and federal government budgets is under significant pressure. We will not be able to meet the needs of our infrastructure upgrades, maintenance, and greenfield infrastructure through the traditional method in the future. We have to look at new ways to embrace the private sector financing—whether directly involving the private sector, or through charging mechanisms. And in that sense we've been working with the South Australian Government and encouraging them on the path to look at ways that we can have a heavy vehicle charging regime on the South Road Corridor to help pay for what is quite an expensive but necessary upgrade to that corridor. And we believe it is a necessary step, we're very supportive of the South Australian Government looking at that approach. And we're hopeful, just like the Western Australian Government has done with the Perth Freight link, with a heavy vehicle charge, a per-kilometre charge, that we'll have a similar system apply to the North-South Corridor in the future.
So, hopefully in the next few months we'll have another significant announcement about how we're going to go about the next stages of South Road, in addition to the two major projects that we've already got underway at Torrens to Torrens and the Darlington project.
In addition to that, we also recognise how important our regions are in South Australia, and particularly in our North, we're facing some very bleak economic news with the announcement in respect to Alinta just a few weeks ago. We've been working, again, with the South Australian Government on ways that we can help assist the regions in South Australia grow faster, with the opportunities of our region to grow, particularly in the rural sector. We again want to look to infrastructure to be a major part of that.
So, this morning I can announce that we've decided to spend $25 million extra, the Federal Government, on several road projects in regional South Australia. We are going to complete the second stage of the Penola Bypass, the Federal Government will commit $9 million to that project. We're spending $5 million on new overtaking lanes on the Eyre and- Eyre Highway between Port Augusta and Whyalla. We're spending nearly $1 million of work on the Todd Highway on the Eyre Peninsula, and nearly $500,000 of work on the Copper Coast Highway on the Eyre Peninsula as well. There is also a new project in Mount Gambier worth nearly $1 million also.
We are committed to regional South Australia, we want to do these projects in conjunction with the State Government, and I'll allow Minister Mullighan to talk about the State Government's commitment in that respect as well. But this is another step about trying to encourage business activity in South Australia, trying to grow our economy faster. There is no easy way out of the economic hole that we find ourselves in, but we can certainly help; we can certainly contribute to not just reducing red tape, reducing tax to small business to encourage their growth, but by building infrastructure which allows business to take advantage of the opportunities that they have. And that's what the Abbott Government is very much committed to: growing Australia faster, being more prosperous, and ensuring that we've got a stronger future; a stronger future for your businesses, a future for all Australians.
And so the commitments we've made already, that we're getting underway with, for those of you in the room who are involved in those projects, the faster you build them the better. The quicker you can get them done, the quicker we'll pay you to do it. The more we can get rolled out to deliver a stronger Australia.
So, thank you for listening to me this morning.