National benefits trump electoral sweeteners in latest infrastructure policy statement

By Melissa Coade

November 15, 2023

Catherine King
Minister for infrastructure, transport, regional development and local government Catherine King. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The federal government has released a new policy statement to guide how targeted infrastructure projects can help unlock economic, social and environmental objectives.

Crucially, the statement outlines that the government is committed to delivering “nationally significant infrastructure”.

Infrastructure minister Catherine King published the statement on Tuesday, citing that it was time for a change in the way commonwealth infrastructure spending decisions were made.

“The policy statement commits the government to delivering nationally significant infrastructure,” King said.

“For too long under the Coalition, Commonwealth infrastructure spending focused on electoral rather than national benefit and in doing this it expanded the Infrastructure Investment Program from roughly 150 projects in 2012-13 to nearly 800 in 2022.”

Under the new guidelines, national infrastructure projects will be funded with a preference for 50:50 funding with the states and territories.

King said the rationale of this approach to funding future investments ensured both levels of government carried an equal share of both the benefits and the risks.

The minister added that financial accountability between federal, state and territory jurisdictions would maximise the commonwealth’s infrastructure spend which is being maintained at $120 billion.

“We are committed to working in partnership with the states and territories who are our primary infrastructure delivery partners,” King said.

“The government may consider funding a greater share of projects in jurisdictions with less capacity to raise revenue on a case-by-case basis.”

Three investment priorities – productivity, liveability, and sustainability — have been identified as guiding principles for national infrastructure. It means at least two of the following criteria must apply to nationally funded projects:

  • Australian government contribution of at least $250 million; and/or
  • alignment with government priorities as articulated in the infrastructure policy statement; and/or
  • situated on or connected to the National Land Transport Network and/or other key freight routes; and/or
  • supporting other emerging or broader national priorities — such as housing or critical minerals.

King said the new policy statement encouraged investment in projects designed to shape cities, regions and wider Australia.

“We also want to share the benefits of construction. We will seek to encourage local employment and procurement, as well as increase the participation of women, First Nations communities and other marginalised groups in the delivery of these projects,” King said.

“Together with the states and territories — and with clear priorities and proper planning — we will build a better future for all Australians.”


Secretary outlines how to best build the nation, says new infrastructure policy statement coming

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