Joy Baluch AM Bridge funding confusion

BRIDGE: Handbrake put on Joy Baluch AM Bridge duplication.

BRIDGE: Handbrake put on Joy Baluch AM Bridge duplication.

Four leading South Australian infrastructure bodies have slammed the federal government for being misleading in its 2018-19 budget.

A federal infrastructure breakdown has shown that only $60 million has been committed to the Joy Baluch AM Bridge duplication by 2022 – a far cry from the $160m promised in the budget.

Federal government has allocated no funding towards the project over the next year, with an initial payout of $10m becoming available from July 1, 2019.

South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (SACOME), South Australian Freight Council (SAFC), Royal Automobile Association (RAA) and Civil Contractors Federation South Australia (CCF SA) have banded together to launch the attack.

SAFC Executive Officer Evan Knapp described the federal budget as “all smoke and mirrors”, delivering none of the promises from the pre-budget announcements.

SACOME CEO Rebecca Knol echoed Mr Knapp’s sentiments, stating the handbrake has been applied to the initial design and scoping work of the duplication.

“This infrastructure is a critical enabler for 15 million tonnes of freight and 9000 vehicles each year and I am surprised its economic importance to not only South Australia, but the country was not given the impetus it deserves,” she said.

The group has called on federal government to give clear detail as to “how these projects will come to fruition”.

Port Augusta is not the only place where funding has fallen short.

Of the $1.8 billion in infrastructure funding promised in the 2018-19 budget, only $162m will be spent by the 2021-22 financial year.

Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey fired back at the four infrastructure bodies, labelling the accusations as “poorly informed and unprofessional”.

“The organisations have looked at the four year budget projection of $60m and made ill-informed decisions without so much as picking up the phone to seek clarification,” he said.

“While duplication is the best solution it will take time and the budget timeline which puts the final $100m beyond the fourth year is simply based on Treasury experience with similar projects.”

While duplication is the best solution it will take time ...

Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey

Mr Ramsey said all parties must first agree on a design and receive clearances from Coastal Protection, the Environment Protection Authority and Native Title before the project goes to a tender.

While he is confident the funding for the project can be brought forward once the planning is complete, the Liberal MP ensured that both state and federal government have committed to completing the project. 

“This will be a mammoth project and I ask the residents of Port Augusta to be patient and not be spooked by poorly informed claims from groups that are compromised by vested interests. The project will be delivered and delivered as soon as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack said the remaining funding is already allocated to the project from 2022-23.

“The funding will be provided based on the achievement of project milestones,” he said. 

“Once a construction proposal is submitted to the Australian government milestones will be allocated against the project to ensure the project is delivered on time and on budget.

“The Australian government will work with the South Australian government to determine whether updated funding profiles for the project are required.”