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Small projects get $1.5B federal funding boost

The South Australian Government has released details of its record $12.9 billion infrastructure funding package that is expected to create around 80,000 construction jobs.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced $1.5 billion in funding will be allocated to smaller, ready-to-go, priority projects.

In a speech at the national press club, the Prime Minister said the funding would go to projects that were shovel ready.

Specific project to be funded are expected to be announced soon, with $500 million of the initial funds reserved specifically for road safety works.

Morrison said this is an important opportunity to make Australian roads safer right across the country, not just in rural and regional areas where it is critically important.

He also said in the speech that the Federal Government is determined to speed up and improve the approvals process for infrastructure projects.

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“One area in which the Commonwealth has a direct regulatory role for relevant projects is through approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. According to departmental estimates, delays associated with these approvals alone cost industry over $300 million just in 2019. That’s not good enough,” Morrison said.

He said the Federal Government has already moved towards reducing approval times under the EPBC Act, with projects approvals now only taking 40 days compared with 90 at the end of 2019.

It was then announced that a list of 15 major projects had been fast-tracked for approval under a bilateral model between the Federal Government, states and territories.

“Joint assessment teams will work on accelerating these projects worth more than $72 billion in public and private investment. Projects that will support over 66,000 direct and indirect jobs,” Morrison said.

This priority list includes:

  • Inland Rail from Melbourne to Brisbane
  • Marinus Link between Tasmania and Victoria
  • Olympic Dam extension in South Australia
  • Emergency town water projects in New South Wales
  • Road, rail and iron ore projects in Western Australia

Morrison said jobs on these projects would be brought to market earlier by targeting a 50 per cent reduction in federal assessment and approval times for major projects. This would be from an average of 3.5 years to 21 months.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has welcomed the announcement, but called for more funding to be provided.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Chief Executive Adrian Dwyer said the Federal Government has made a smart move to accelerate approval for projects that have clear strategic merit, alongside the $1.5 billion investment in smaller capital projects and road safety programs.

“The Federal Government can and should redeploy the $60 billion saving from its recalculated JobKeeper program into a bold new infrastructure agenda,” Dwyer said.

“Infrastructure investment supported the national economy before COVID-19 and it’s the right policy tool to support our way out of this crisis.”

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Catherine King, acknowledged the Prime Minister has made big infrastructure promises, but highlighted the importance of delivery to get the economy back on track.

“The Prime Minister today told us he’d have more to say regarding specific projects over the coming days, it is essential that these projects drive recovery across the country and aren’t simply targeted at Coalition seats,” she said in a press release.

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