Not everyone thrilled with Labor’s $9.6 billion infrastructure cash splash

The Albanese government has laid out its plans for infrastructure, pledging $9.6 billion in the October budget for road and rail projects, but not everyone is happy.

Labor’s multimillion-dollar plan aims to kickstart road and rail projects across the country.

But the scheme has already draw criticism, with Australia’s most populous state New South Wales receiving about $1 billion in funding compared with $2.57 billion to Victoria.

There will be $300 million for western Sydney roads and another $500 million for the High Speed Rail Authority.

Infrastructure Minister Catherine King admitted that was due to a contentious relationship with NSW’s Coalition government.

“We had a slightly different relationship in opposition with the Victorians as we did with NSW, so we didn’t really have a lot of projects on the table from opposition with them,” she told the ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

“But we’ll talk to the NSW government in the lead up to the May budget as to where their priorities are.”

Catherine King

Catherine King and Anthony Albanese have declared an end to ‘zombie’ projects. Photo: AAP

At least one of those potential projects would be raising the Warragamba Dam, which will cost $1.6 billion.

The Infrastructure Minister also defended Labor’s $2.2 billion to help fund the state’s Suburban Rail Loop – which has made Victoria one of the nation’s biggest funding winners.

The Coalition has vowed to ditch the project in order to prioritise funds for an ailing health system.

When asked about criticism of the business case for the rail loop, Ms King said she was confident the work from her Victorian counterparts stacked up although she confirmed Infrastructure Australia was yet to properly review the project.

“There have been some challenges around that (business case), but this (funding) is for the early works of that project,” she said.

“We haven’t made any further commitments and we’ll talk to the Victorians around that as we go forward.”

The announcement also means the end of cash for so-called “zombie projects” that had been sitting flagged but never realised in budgets under the previous Coalition government, including the East West Link in Victoria and the Perth Freight Link.

The Northern Territory will receive a $2.5 billion boost, including $332 million towards the NT Strategic Roads Package.

Freight highways in the heart of South Australia will get a $1.5 billion upgrade and maintenance package.

Brisbane and Tasmanian roads will see between $500 million to $600 million each to upgrade road corridors, while Perth will get $125 million in funding for an electric bus network.

“Good infrastructure helps strengthen the economy and build connections between communities,” Ms King said.

The $9.6 billion pledge follows a promise unveiled on Saturday by Mr Albanese to add another six weeks to the government-funded parental leave package by 2026.

It would mean Australians could access six months of parental leave, which the Prime Minister hoped would inspire the private sector to set the new limit as a “baseline”.

-with AAP

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