Total Australian government investment in infrastructure has been declining for more than two decades. At just 1.8% of GDP last year, we’re down around the bottom of the OECD rankings, according to a federal treasury study published today.

See, it’s not just in education and research and development that we’ve become slack.

But according to Treasury officials Greg Coombs and Chris Roberts, it’s really not quite so bad because the private sector will take care of it. They reckon it’s early days in the whole process of Australian infrastructure privatisation.

Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what Macquarie Bank can make you pay for.

The AFR had the jump today on this intriguing study but buried it on page 25. Adrian Rollins quotes this conclusion:

There does not appear to be strong evidence to support the need for Australia to increase total investment in public infrastructure. There may well, however, be specific areas where new investment is required, for example, in some commodity export ports.

It would of course have been a much bigger story if a Treasury study found Australian governments of all persuasions had let the country down by not investing in it. A cynical soul might think a study like that wouldn’t become public anyway.

It all leaves one to wonder just why we have so many governments relieving us taxpayers of ever greater amounts of income if it’s not their responsibility to provide the infrastructure backbone on which the nation depends.

It would be more efficient for us to let private equity hoover the cash straight out of our pockets and cut out the middlemen.

Peter Fray

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