Coalition could be hammered with audit on major projects

A MAJOR audit of all the Coalition's biggest infrastructure projects could soon be set up in the aftermath of the government's promise to provide $3 billion to the Melbourne East West Link project without a cost-benefit analysis.

The proposed audit would include a raft of major projects the government has already committed to fund, including Sydney's WestConnex, and could extend to others not completed.

Labor's proposal followed a Australian National Audit Office report on the East West Link that found the $3 billion in federal funding was approved despite departmental advice the project had not been fully assessed.

The Victorian Labor Government abandoned the project after winning the November 2014 election.

Federal Labor's infrastructure spokesman, Anthony Albanese, wrote to the Auditor-General this week requesting the audit of major projects and the processes behind funding decisions.

He said the Coalition had "performed abysmally" on infrastructure investment, citing ABS figures showing a 20% fall in public infrastructure investment since July 2013 - a figure that includes state infrastructure spending.

The Opposition's call comes in light of a planned $18 million advertising campaign the government is considering to spruik its infrastructure program ahead of this year's election.

While Mr Albanese said those funds were a result of cuts to the overall infrastructure budget, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the money was from "unallocated funds" within the overall investment program.

Mr Truss's spokesman said the campaign was being considered because of market research commissioned in June last year by the government.

It had found "significant knowledge gaps" among voters about the government's infrastructure investments, he said.

Such research has been used in the past by governments of both persuasions to bolster the case for taxpayer-funded advertising campaigns.

Mr Albanese said he had also asked the Auditor-General to examine the rationale behind the planned advertising campaign.

Although Mr Truss's spokesman did not respond directly to Labor's call for an audit, he said no infrastructure projects had been cancelled to fund the advertising campaign.



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