The Carr Government has failed
to meet Sydney’s complex infrastructure needs as Australia’s largest
city grows. It can’t even maintain the current system of the nation’s
commercial powerhouse. That’s bad.

Carr’s own party is sounding
pretty unreconstructed. Minister for economic reform, Michael Costa,
faces flak in caucus today, with left-winger Milton Orkopolis due to
move a motion calling on Costa to abide by party policy and to consult
backbenchers. Orkopolis originally proposed a motion demanding Costa be
stripped of his portfolio responsibilities. That isn’t a recipe for
free and flexible thinking to meet the transport needs of Sydneysiders
– or make sure they have a water supply. No wonder the New South Wales
government is on the nose.
Still, is the infrastructure program flagged by opposition
leader John Brogden worth anything? Will it ever be implemented? Graham
Young of the Brisbane virtual think-tank, Online Opinion, has had some thoughts in the wake of Crikey’s report yesterday:

Is this yet another example of Liberal
Oppositions inappropriately applying the lessons of Campbell Newman’s
Brisbane City Council win where part of his campaign was to build five
new tunnels to solve Brisbane’s traffic problem. I’ve said it before,
but I’ll say it again – Newman won despite his tunnels, not because of
them.

At this time in this country oppositions will not win
government by promising large infrastructure projects. Not only won’t
electors believe that they will be delivered, but the promise to build
them lowers the opposition’s credibility, increasing the propensity for
electors to believe that they will never be built.

Newman won in
Brisbane because he ran against the perceived indolence of the Labor
incumbent, and because he promised to fix the little things. Newman
dramatised his ‘Can do’ moniker by rushing around the suburbs filling
potholes, not building four lane ones! Brogden should be running on a
platform of fixing the infrastructure that’s there, not building more
of it.

Our research in WA showed that the Canal proposal was no
help to Barnett, but more pertinently, our research in the last NSW
election showed that the Liberals’ promise to build a cross-harbour
tunnel to Manly was a significant negative for them.

Young
says infrastructure projects can be vote winners, and points to the
Feds Roads to Recovery program – with one important qualification:
“There is an important distinction between John Howard and John
Brogden. Howard is in government and in a position to start laying tar
before an election – Brogden can only promise for the future, a place
that electors are notoriously reluctant to put much of a deposit on.”

That’s a powerful argument. There’s more detail here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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