Imaginary Australian infrastructure

One has to feel sorry for the Australian taxpayers; they get the worst of both worlds. On the one hand they hand over one of the highest rates of income tax in the world to their governments (Federal and State), but meanwhile they get very little in return for it.

Some recent examples include:

The National Broadband Network – the federal government (of both political hues) has pissed billions into digging up the pavements and roads to install internet cables to the 97% of the population who live in metropolitan areas, rather than letting the free market do its job. The government might have saved the vast majority of the expense by focusing on the 3% of the country living away from the cities and towns. Australians have paid double and have waited twice as long as promised to receive an outcome that is, by the government’s own targets, significantly sub-standard.

The State of Victoria’s non-existent East/West road link – the commercial genius that is Premier Dan Andrews (who’s never had a proper job in his life, completely coincidentally) cancelled the construction contract the previous government had signed, costing the Victorian taxpayers $1.1bn to not receive a much-needed new road.

But, if we think these boondoggles are excessive, wait until you hear about the latest promise to piss away other people’s money…..

If Labor (sic) win next week’s election, they will spend $1bn on a high speed train line between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Really? That seems awfully cheap for such a nation-building piece of infrastructure.

Well, if you  don’t read much further than the Sydney Morning Herald’s headline, you might think Australia is about to join the rest of the world with such convenient and efficient transport;

Labor to spend $1b on bullet train route from Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney

Great. Finally, people will have a better option than shlecking their way to the airport which, in the case of Melbourne, involves a traffic jam of Delhi-esque proportions at most hours of the day or night.

But wait, what is it you’re getting for your $1bn (or about $100 per adult)?

Labor has promised to spend $1 billion buying land between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane to build a future high-speed rail link.

Oh, right. So $1bn gets you a half a kilometre strip of farmland down the east coast and a diversion inland to Canberra. Oh what a fucking bargain.

Bill’s Opinion

Milton Friedman’s four ways to spend money is yet again proven correct. The easiest thing in the world is to spend someone else’s money on someone else; you don’t give a shit about the cost OR the quality of the outcome.

It’s shocking that, despite being populated by Union members with a barely-concealed authoritarian streak and lawyers fully-versed in the powers of the State, Labor (sic) haven’t spotted that they can simply use existing compulsory purchase legislation to grab this land once they actually have a budgeted rail development approved.

Or perhaps they already know this and simply decided that $1bn of other people’s money is a cheap price to pay for a pre-election headline stating they will build the long-awaited Australian high speed rail network.

My personal opinion is that it makes complete sense to build a high speed railway between the 4 major cities on the east coast of Australia, especially given the fact that so much of the land between these cities is undeveloped. However, experience has shown that developments of such a large scale in Australia are always utter disasters for the public purse and very rarely even deliver the promised outcome despite the tripling (if you’re lucky) of the cost.

Here’s a prediction one can confidently offer; if you’re planning on coming on holiday to Australia in the next fifty years and want to travel between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney or Brisbane, set your expectations that you’ll be flying or driving. There’s more chance of the Wallabies winning the Bledisloe Cup in that time than ground being broken on the high speed rail link.

5 Replies to “Imaginary Australian infrastructure”

    1. Good; it means there is a good chance we might minimise the incurred cost.

      On reflection, I’ve concluded they created the policy in bad faith. We paid $1bn for a “high speed rail” headline.

  1. This is from the same governing class, but the opposing idealogy, that has taken three years to build a useless tram line through Sydney. The best case is that they just spend on the headlines, rather than the actual project.

    1. Yes. I imagine the consequent bills from the sub contractors for the shit survey data and the claims from the shopkeepers who’ve been bankrupted will be a nice surprise for ratepayers.

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