Federal Election 2019: A primer on infrastructure policy

Federal Election 2019: A primer on infrastructure policy

Infrastructure is a big-ticket item in the 2019 Election Campaign. Following recent cuts over the last four years, the Liberals proposed record levels of infrastructure funding in the 2019 budget.[1] In response, both Labor and the Greens have doubled-down on proposed plans, with major funding reserved for public transport improvements.


The Coalition have announced a 10-year infrastructure plan which will increase from $75 billion to $100 billion to “reduce congestion, keep our roads safe, connect people to jobs and get our produce to market”.[2] This will include:

  • $4 billion towards the Urban Congestion Fund which aims to improve traffic safety and flow. This will include $500 million to car parks around railway stations.
  • $2.2 billion dedicated to improving road safety. This can be broken down into the following initiatives:
    •  $1.1 billion for the Roads to Recovery Program
    • $550 million towards the Black Spot Program which targets roads with a history of serious crashes, and
    • $275 million to the Bridges Renewal Program.
  • $4.5 billion towards the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative to fund upgrades of major regional corridors to connect agricultural and mining regions to ports and airports
  • $2 billion towards the Melbourne to Geelong fast rail project

These policies have drawn criticism due to the breakdown of funding across 10-years which is largely back-ended, with only $42 billion to be spent in the next four years.[3] Further state-level analyses reveal that Victoria will receive only 17.7% of the national funds, despite having 26% of the population.[4] The government has also been accused of ‘double-counting’ funding with budgetary inclusions for projects that have already been abandoned, including the East-West Link in Melbourne.[5] Promoting infrastructure has been a major objective for the Coalition, which has allocated $1.75 million per week in department advertising for the six weeks leading up to the Federal election.[6]


Bill Shorten used the Budget Reply Speech to deliver infrastructure policy commitments, including a public transport overhaul. This will comprise funding to Cross River Rail in Brisbane as well as the Western Sydney Metro.[7]

In Victoria, Labor proposes to commit:

  • $300 million for the Suburban Rail loop in Melbourne to contribute to the construction of new stations, including Clayton and Melbourne Airport, and to provide greater connection between suburbs[8]
  • $850 million to upgrade roads in Melbourne’s South-East[9]
  • To completing the Frankston to Baxter Rail upgrade
  • $42 million extension of the Number 11 Tram to increase public transport connections for the northern suburbs

Labor also announced bipartisan support for future Infrastructure Australia board appointments as well other nation-wide policies, including:

  • Ensuring one in every 10 people hired for a infrastructure project is an Australian apprentice.
  • $260 million bike paths strategy[10]
  • $175 million towards National Broadband Network funding[11].
    • This will comprise of $125 million towards in-home wiring problems for 750,000 people as well as $60 million towards high-speed fibre connections

With a large focus on Queensland as a key battleground for the Federal Election, $1.5 billion in upgrades to Brisbane’s Gateway Motorway and the next stage of the Bruce Highway has been announced. Similarly, $1.5 billion towards the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to fund the construction of gas pipelines across Queensland and the Northern Territory.[12] The Coalition claims that extensive spending will impede Labor from achieving a balanced budget.[13]


The Greens are focused on providing infrastructure that will address housing demand and expanding public transport networks. To create sufficient housing options, the Greens propose:

  • $6.67 billion in 2019-20 to establish a Federal Housing Trust[14]
    • This body will oversee the construction of 500,000 public and community homes across cities, towns and remote areas.
  • Implementing a national standard for renters’ rights
  • Increased funding for tenancy advice and fund crisis housing services, and
  • $500 million annually towards crisis housing services and transitional housing to end homelessness.[15]

Addressing public transport, The Greens emphasise the need to deliver “fast, frequent… affordable and safe public transport”.[16] This will include:

  • $25 billion towards rail and bus services[17]
  • Redirecting $5.95 billion away from existing plans for toll roads and into public transport projects. This is comprised of:
    • $4.45 billion still budgeted for the forgone East West Link
    • $1.5 billion for North East Link as well as the Perth Freight Link
  • Establishing the Australia High Speed Rail Authority to build the east coast high speed rail network
    • The Greens propose $1.6 billion to cover the first four years to start the High Speed Rail which would connect Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne to provide an alternative to flights
  • $250 million annually towards infrastructure that will make cycling and walking more safe and accessible

[1] Chan, G. (2019), ‘Roads, rail and car parks get $100bn infrastructure spend in Australian budget – but over a decade’, retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/apr/02/australia-federal-budget-2019-infrastructure-frydenberg-treasurer-budget

[2] Liberal Party of Australia. (2019), ‘Keeping Australian’s safe on our roads’, retrieved from: https://www.liberal.org.au/our-plan-keeping-australians-safe-our-roads                                                                                                                        

[3] Chan, G. (2019), ‘Roads, rail and car parks get $100bn infrastructure spend in Australian budget – but over a decade’, retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/apr/02/australia-federal-budget-2019-infrastructure-frydenberg-treasurer-budget

[4] Reynolds, E. (2019), ‘Maps reveal Government’s record $100b plan’, retrieved from: https://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/federal-budget/maps-reveal-governments-record-100bn-plan/news-story/4d27573315a3fbc2a688e5e38aa51eda

[5] Albanese, A. (2019), ‘Media Release – Labor Leads from Opposition on Infrastructure – Wednesday, 3 April, 2019’, retrieved from: https://anthonyalbanese.com.au/media-release-labor-leads-from-opposition-on-infrastructure-wednesday-3-april-2019

[6] Karp, P. (2019), ‘Infrastructure department has $250,000 a day for ads before election’, retrieved from:https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/30/infrastructure-department-has-250000-a-day-for-ads-before-election

[7]Shorten, B. (2019), ‘2019 budget-in-reply address’, retrieved from: https://www.billshorten.com.au/2019_budget_in_reply_address_canberra_thursday_4_april_2019

[8] Victoria’s Big Build, (2019), ‘Suburban rail loop’, retrieved from: https://bigbuild.vic.gov.au/projects/suburban-rail-loop

[9] Bagshaw, E. (2019), ‘No more pork-barrelling: Labor promises infrastructure shake-up’, retrieved from:  https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/no-more-pork-barrelling-labor-promises-infrastructure-shake-up-20190405-p51b6r.html

[10] Labor, (2019), ‘National bike paths strategy’, retrieved from: https://www.alp.org.au/policies/national-bike-paths-strategy

[11] Hunter, F. and Duke, J. (2019), ‘’Make the best of what we have’: Labor rules out sweeping NBN overhaul in new policy’, retrieved from:https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/make-the-best-of-what-we-have-labor-rules-out-sweeping-nbn-overhaul-in-new-policy-20190408-p51bzj.html

[12] Wright, S. (2019), ‘Abbott fund scrapped under labor plan to develop northern Australia’, retrieved from: https://www.smh.com.au/federal-election-2019/abbott-fund-scrapped-under-labor-plan-to-develop-northern-australia-20190422-p51g7u.html

[13] Remeikis, A. (2019), ‘Scott Morrison again links Labor with recession after previously ruling it out’, retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/05/scott-morrison-revives-claims-of-recession-under-labor-government

[14] Greens. (2019), ‘Policy initiative – a home for all,’ retrieved from: https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2019-02/Greens%202019%20Policy%20-%20A%20Home%20For%20All_0.pdf

[15] Ibid.

[16] Greens. (2019), ‘Planning and transport’, retrieved from: https://greens.org.au/policies/planning-and-transport

[17] Greens. (2019). ‘World class public transport,’ retrieved from: https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2019-03/Greens%202019%20Policy%20Platform%20-%20Public%20Transport%20%28Mar%202019%29.pdf