China: a dangerous dependency

Chinese demand for Australian exports, especially raw materials has been cited as a dominant reason as to why Australia didn’t fall into recession after the 2008 financial crisis: last year 70% of the exports from Port Hedland were bound for China, up from 45% in 2005 with all of Australia enjoying a similar climb.

Many headlines have stated: “China’s almost insatiable demand…”.

That’s good news in many ways. China is rapidly becoming Australia’s largest customer for just about everything and it is estimated that as China’s economy grows ever bigger that more and more industries will be “sucked into its orbit”. However one can detect a certain amount of discomfort in dealing with China, perhaps historically with the anti-Chinese laws of the late 1870s and 1880s, and the White Australia Policy of 1901. These were certainly declarations that the Chinese people were considered a threat to white Australia. This attitude of fear of difference again being reinforced by the Communist threat of the 20th Century.

“Australia’s economy is becoming frightfully dependent on the function of Chinese policymaking”, states Western Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. “We’re setting ourselves up for vulnerability.”

According to the 2010 Lowy Institute foreign policy poll 46% of Australians believe that China will become a military threat to Australia within 20 years, prompting record support for the US alliance. And again in a survey conducted this year by the Lowy Institute 57% of respondents said the Australian government allows too much investment from China in the country, and 65% thought China’s aim was to dominate Asia. One commentator concluded: Which basically means that China controls our economy, and therefore, that they control us.

Today’s Age newspaper provides a lead story:

TONY Abbott has signalled that talks for a landmark free trade agreement with China – launched more than five years ago by John Howard – will be put on the backburner if the Coalition wins the next election.

The Opposition Leader has indicated that Japan would be a higher priority than China, because Japan is a pluralist democracy and a ”vastly more” market-based economy than its near neighbour.

One cannot help but wonder that rather than being based on sound economic principles that Tony Abbott’s real concern is one of, as Peter Costello recently expressed it: populism.

91 comments on “China: a dangerous dependency

  1. Great Post Min

    Tony will always be a populist, he needs to be.
    My fear is if he manages to ever become PM what will he do to become suddenly unpopular, as he is bound to do…

    But Tony is probably right on this one, it is usually better to back the country with the economy that is in the toilet, rather than the nation with the booming economy….hmmm, do you detect any sarcasm in that?

  2. Great post Min,
    why would we fear being attacked by China when they have progressed their economy and the lives of millions of their citizens
    through trade.
    Just a thought, Australia’s economy would have been further progressed if the MRRT hadn’t been attacked by the activism of the Mining Council with their $22M advertising campaign.

  3. From Twitter

    mrumens Marian Rumens

    Wonder whether Tony Abbott consulted with Julie Bishop before he downgraded trade with China

  4. Thank you Pip..I wrote this post with a good deal of trepidation given that my knowledge of things pertaining to economics could be written on the back of a postage stamp.

  5. Tony Abbott populist… nah never. He’s a pragmatist so wouldn’t drop trade with the world’s soon to be largest economy in favour of another that was the largest but is declining. After all Abbott is way too much of a pragmatist to upset the Chinese by dropping trade negotiations set up by his mentor. He is not that populist as to be stupid.

    TONY Abbott has signalled that talks for a landmark free trade agreement with China – launched more than five years ago by John Howard – will be put on the backburner if the Coalition wins the next election.

    Oh shit!

  6. “One cannot help but wonder that rather than being based on sound economic principles that Tony Abbott’s real concern is one of, as Peter Costello recently expressed it: populism.”

    Please explain.

    Are you saying that by bashing China a politician thinks he may win some votes???

  7. Now would that be the Japan, that had a nuclear accident. The Japan that has found “High Concentrations of Radioactive Cesium in Plankton Near Fukushima Raising Fears of Food Chain Contamination”

    Yes Tony much easier to get a free trade agreement with a country that will need to offload a whole lot of produce.

  8. Picture something like this:


    slow degradation as the obsession to possess the one that rules them all takes over.

  9. This is all very well but in order to have a rat’s chance of affording his numerous promises Abbott must surely be banking on a “business as usual” relationship with China. The amoral creep needs the dosh. Insofar as anything about Abbott can be predicted, I think he’s hoping for a return to Howard’s style of slyly raking in the tax & making a great show of handing it back out.

  10. “The amoral creep needs the dosh.”

    You must be talking about Swan. He is looking everywhere for extra revenue to pay for his reckless spending.

    The amazing thing is that during the biggest mining boom in our history and with record terms of trade Swan has just posted a $47B deficit. People should look at how much higher are commodity prices under Gillard compared to Howard

    The graph shows the mining boom began in 2004 but commodity prices have exploded since Labor was elected.

  11. Neil, people like Ken Henry, Glenn Stevens, folks from the IMF & that Nobel laureate whose name unfortunately escapes me have explained the need for Swan’s expenditure. It’s not hard to figure but thanks for mentioning the Deficit, which Abbott, Hockey & Robb have pledged they’ll rein in an awful lot quicker whilst still giving tax cuts for all. The amoral creep does need the dosh.

  12. “The amoral creep does need the dosh.”

    Certainly does. Swan spends most of his time looking around for people to tax to pay for his spendathon.

    When Howard was in power, Swan said the Libs wasted the mining boom. Well Costello saved $50B from 2004-2007.

    How much of the mining boom has Swan saved???

  13. So nil, I’ll ask again, since you brought it up, you seem to think that Swan taxes more than Costello did. Do you agree with that, cos you keep implying it.

  14. Well i said looking around for people to tax. In particular I was thinking about the miners. he wants even more revenue from the mining boom than he is getting.

    He has tried to tax the miners more but has so far been unsuccessful.

    If he just stopped his reckless and wasteful spending he would not need any extra tax revenue.

  15. Neil, believe me the next attempt to tax the miners will be successful. Why else would Twiggy and Gina be screaming so loudly OMG OMG, I’m going to have pay…tax…!!!!

  16. Hasn’t the Future Fund, with the great Costello on the bridge, run into exposure problems with the European debt thingy? I think I heard something about that.
    We’ll be dealing with China one way or another whether we bloody well want to or not. Might as well make the best of it. Abbott’s purported vision for this country involves a great deal of central planning anyway, can’t see what he’s worked up over.

  17. Got your wings clipped on the facts over at the Gutter Neil? – got to bring your dishonesty on the budget receipts over here now? 😉

    Basic facts:

    Howard/Costello last budget receipts as %GDP = 25.0
    Gillard /Swan last budget receipts as %GDP = 21.9

    In terms of expenditure, perhaps a study of some of Prof. Bill Mitchell’s work may be of some assistance? You might like him – he thinks Swan is clueless (lust like Costello before him). Deficit spending 101 – Part 1 might be a good place to start…

  18. When the IPA says they don’t understand what Abbott is on about in regards to the China FTA, then you know Abbott has had yet another in a long line of brain farts. According to ABC Breakfast Julie Bishop has backed Abbott, that had the IPA spokesman bemused.

    He was as diplomatic as he could be but he might as well have come out and openly said Abbott is a f’wit as that’s what he was alluding to.

    There was also more bemusement when they showed a headline where Andrew Robb had conducted a scathing attack against private enterprise. The opposition is becoming unhinged and untrue to the tenet of their founding and core beliefs in their strategy of being negative against everything and anything to put the government down.

    Also there was a study that showed Abbott’s plan to repeal the Carbon Price and bring in his very flawed expensive scheme would add 20% to electricity bills.

  19. Many you people are petty. Costello was appointed in December 2009 to the FF.

    “When the fund last reported its official results in June, it held $75 billion in assets, so the exposure to the most troubled nations accounts for less than 1 per cent of its total portfolio.”

    That you bring something so trivial up shows more about you people than anything else.

    At least we still have some money in a fund that Swan has not got his greedy paws on to waste due to his reckless spending.

    Swan spends most of his time dreaming up ways to waste money.

    He turns a $20B surplus into a $50B deficit. That is a $70B turnaround. You can throw in the GFC, floods in Queensland and anything else you lot want but only ALP incompetence can explain a $50B deficit.

  20. “luna, I find it hard to believe Abbott studied economics…. i wonder whether he finished the course ??”

    Pip, knowing something of the offerings in a standard economics course, I’d say that Abbott might very well have been an excellent student.

    But that’s the problem: the empirical underpinnings of astrology and homeopathy have much more solid foundations.

    But none of that gives our Neil pause: you are our window, Neil, into the madhouse that is neo-liberal economics. Dumb as dogshit.

    You seem to think that Costello’s savings were somehow a good thing. Never mind they were sunk into the Future Fund and pissed up against a wall. And never mind that the Future Fund was never more than a fig leaf to cover Howard’s embarrassing leftover surfeit of Telstra shares. And never mind that the flip-side of the surplus was the biggest blow-out of household debt in Australia’s history (still unwinding)

    The unwinding of that debt, by the way, would’ve made a huge hole in aggregate demand (read: jobs) had it not been for the Labor government timely and targetted intervention.

    It is economic stupidity of the first order to run a surplus when you have a current account deficit. And for all your waffling about “terms of trade”, Australia still runs CADs. The last time we ran a surplus on the current account was, wait for it, 1973 (and we all know who was PM then !)

    On the subject of China, Abbott will (as the grubby opportunist he is) be ever alert for the xenophobic itch in need of a some inflammatory scratching.

    Keating suggested that we seek security within Asia, not from it. That was a period of enlightenment. China policy under Abbott would take us back to darker times.

  21. The Future Fund set up by the Howard/Costello govt.

    The Future Fund, February 28, 2007, the Federal Government deposited 2.1 billion Telstra shares worth $A8.96 billion into the Future Fund,Telstra share price was $4.26.

    “How did the Government ever get away with persuading us to buy shares in something we all already owned? And then to look us in the eyes as that wealth plunged in value! ”

    The Future Fund, that wasn’t allowed to dump the shares for 2 years as stipulated by Howard/Costello

    Yep the Future Fund, as good as Costello changing the superannuation rules, which led to investors getting out of housing and investing in the superannuation before 1 July2007
    Remember this big new change
    “From 1 July 2007, all lump sum benefits paid from a taxed source to an individual aged 60 or over will be tax free.”
    shame about the stock market that started going down, down, the markets going down, then came September 2007. Yes the “worlds greatest treasurer” didn’t see that either.

  22. I just read the link to the F/Fund article Sue provided and from which Neil approvingly quoted.

    First observation is that 2.8 billion in a fund of 75 billion is only less than 1% on Planet Neil.

    Then in the body of the article we learn that the fund has substantial investments in tobacco and nuclear weapons.

    I guess some of that money in the F/F came from me, and I object strongly to the F/F making unethical investments in my name.

    But what is especially irritating is that the fund is a totally unnecessary drain on current infrastructure spending (health, education, transport etc) for a future purpose that the government can always meet because it is the monopoly issuer of the bloody money !

  23. “Costello was appointed in December 2009 to the FF”
    yes nil another appointment by rudd for retiring MPs but at the time the msm stories were all about costello looking overseas for an appointment, but alas that didn’t happen. So here he is on the board of an organisation of his own design, as MJ says investing in companies that are supported by Liberals .

  24. “The chief investment officer of Future Fund, David Neal, said of the $2.8 billion worth European shares, $315 million was held in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain.”


    Europe is not a basket case. Greece, Ireland et al are the problems. The FF have $315M held in these countries. That is less than 1%.

    I think germany is doing O.K.

  25. That you bring something so trivial up shows more about you people than anything else.

    Of course, if it was less than 3 percent, it would indicate a very large portion of the fund, and the fund could very much be reflected on a whole from that percentage.

  26. Reb, exactly. Maybe the international corporations will just have to cough up that little bit extra. My estimation is that the ‘true blue Aussie bloke’ Twiggy will become the new face of the Mining Tax.

  27. And the Mining Tax will not be going into the Howard/Costello Future Fund.
    The FF set up by Costello so that

    “it can’t be touched until it meets its target or 2020, that is what the legislation is. Now the only way that you could raid that fund would be to get into Government and to pass legislation which enables you to get your grubby hands on it”

    Costello get your “grubby hands ” out of Australia’s money, it was never yours.

  28. Much better according to nil that the the Future Fund gave money to Greece, Ireland rather than invest in infrastrucutre like ports, rail in Australia . Oh that is right if anyone in the Howard/Costello government had looked to the Future or read the minutes of the Reserve bank they may have envisaged a need for such infrastructure.
    As usual Labor left to sought out the mess of a 2 speed economy.

  29. “All the more reason why we need the Mining Tax.”

    I cannot believe you people. If you give more money to Swan he is just going to waste it.

    Only the brain dead would give this idiot any more money.

  30. It is also not true that Howard/Costello did not invest in infrastructure.

    One problem with incoming Coalition govts is that they are always left with a mess to clean up.

    Poor old Kennett in Victoria got handed the highest debt in State govt history and Howard got handed the highest Federal govt debt in Australian history.

    The next Queensland govt will also have high debt because Labor is now in power.

  31. It is also not true that Howard/Costello did not invest in infrastructure.

    Lack of investment I think you will find the problem is

  32. Neil..spoken like a true Liberal. Hand all of the money over to the international companies, do sweet BA by the way of nation building and then whinge when Labor has to scrape you up out of the gutter.

  33. Min

    The only reason this mining tax has come up is that Swan needs the money to balance the budget.

    If you give him any more money he is going to waste it. I wish I could give Swan your savings to spend and see how you like it.

  34. Sue at 9.16
    Here’s a joke. This was a cartoon in the Oz before it went AWOL, about the first tranche of Telstra shares.
    The Finance Minister (Fahey) is talking to a yobbo & tells him “We’re selling shares in Telstra & you can participate if you want.”
    The yobbo says “But I haven’t got any money, can I still participate?”
    The Finance Minister says “Of course you can, it’s your share we’re selling.”

  35. “The only reason this mining tax has come up is that Swan needs the money to balance the budget.”

    It’s got nothing to do with the deficit Neil. It’s earmarked for cuts to the corporate tax rate, tax relief for small businesses, and infrastructure spending.

    Again, you’re just making shit up.

    On the subject of arithmetic, you can parse that article how you like but I prefer the headline:

    “Future Fund has $2.8b exposure to troubled euro zone”

    Germany might be doing OK as you say, but investment markets worldwide are nervous. Why do you think that would be ?

    Keep up this standard of commentary and I don’t think it’ll be long before you’re offered a seat on the board of the F/F. You’re obviously well qualified.

  36. Can’t work out you lot are making jokes about the privitisation of Telstra when Labor started all this will the selling of Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank. CSL as well.

    “shame about the stock market that started going down, down, the markets going down, then came September 2007. Yes the “worlds greatest treasurer” didn’t see that either.”

    Sue- what happened in September 2007????

  37. ““Future Fund has $2.8b exposure to troubled euro zone”

    You may be correct but only $300M is with the PIGS. All investors make mistakes. If the rest is with germany, France, Britain there should be no problems

  38. If the rest is with germany, France, Britain there should be no problems

    Let’s just hope they don’t invest in thems dodgy carbon credits 😉

  39. “If the rest is with germany, France, Britain there should be no problems”

    Not just a seat on the board. Neil, you are Chairman material !

    I’m fairly sure the Chief Investment Officer would’ve pulled the plug on anything associated with Europe by now if he could’ve done so without crystalising a loss.

    Greece et al are certainly in a bit of strife, but it’s the German and French banks that are having sleepless nights. It’s called “con-tai-gion”.

    Britain is in heaps of trouble too but for other reasons, the main one being that they have a Conservative government determined to drive their economy over the cliff to make some ideological point.

  40. O.K. The FF has $2.8B exposed in Europe. You are just playing politics. Most investment funds has some funds at risk . So they have 4% at risk if we can trust the newspapers.

    Swan lost that much on pink batts.

  41. Pink Batts!!!!
    Hardly the Small Business Sector’s finest hour was it? No criticism of the operators of these shonky companies whatsoever as we can be pretty certain they’re Liberal voters & they’ll come in handy when it’s time to reintroduce Workchoices.

  42. “2008 the right year and the right government to be in charge.”

    Strange. Your previous comment was this

    “then came September 2007. Yes the “worlds greatest treasurer” didn’t see that either.”

    You were trying to make out that Costello did not see the GFC coming. It was Swan that was in power who did not see the GFC coming. In fact he was trying to stamp out the inflation dragon until the GFC hit him in the rear end.

    Dumbest treasurer we have had.

  43. And regarding Pink Batts…a fine Australian company. All made in a factory in Nunawading. At least they were when I was Marketing Manager for Australian Gypsum.

  44. Neil of Sydney @ 11.26am.

    It is also not true that Howard/Costello did not invest in infrastructure.

    I’m guessing you haven’t got a link for us to read !


    “AusLink was an Australian Government land transport funding program, established in June 2004 and administered by the Department of Transport and Regional Services. In 2009 it was replaced with the Nation Building Program under the Nation Building Program (National Land Transport) Act 2009[6………………
    AusLink was first proposed in a Green Paper (see Green Paper), issued in November 2002. In response 550 submissions were lodged by State and Local Governments, Industry, Environment Groups, Tertiary Education and Research Groups, Bicycle Groups and interested members of the public. In May 2004 the Australian Government issued a White Paper (see White Paper), setting out the policy to be adopted by the Government in response.

    The White Paper states that AusLink is based on better long-term planning, encouragement of the best ideas and solutions and targeting investment to achieve the best outcomes for people, the national economy, regions and communities and that it has the following core components:

    a defined National Network (superseding the former National Highway system) of important road and rail infrastructure links and their intermodal connections;
    the National Land Transport Plan which outlines the Government’s approach to improving and integrating the National Network and the investments it will make;
    a single funding regime, under a new AusLink programme, for the National Network
    separately earmarked funding for local and regional transport improvements;
    new legislative, intergovernmental and institutional mechanisms.

  46. “Europe is not a basket case. ”

    Neil you are correct, Europe may not be a basket case.

    Surprisingly, Greece, Spain and Greece are in Europe.

    Surprisingly the massive debt for these countries are held by Germany and France. Greece cannot fail without other countries falling too.

    Neil no country is an Island. We all rely on one another.

    Neil you claimed that Mr. Swan is at fault for not reaping the benefits of the mining boom.

    Neil could the problem be that the mining industry is not pulling it’s weight.

    Could it be that the mining industry is bludging on us.

    Maybe it is time for the industry to pay back the taxpayer for assistance given in the past.

    Did I hear correctly that some big nobs in treasury might resign if order to carried out Mr. Abbott;s Threats.

  47. Neil, I’m still waiting for you to explain why Pink Batts isn’t a fine Australian company with a factory in Nunawading..

  48. “Greece cannot fail without other countries falling too.”

    Crap. Greece has 10 million people. Germany has 80 million. Europe can cope with greece. Now Italy could be a problem. Spain to.

    “Could it be that the mining industry is bludging on us. ”

    Even more crap. They are making record profits and the govt is getting record amounts of revenue. Revenue from elsewhere has dropped due to the GFC.

  49. Neil, I am proud of what previous leaders have done in this country since 1940. I an proud of how they got us through a WWW.

    I am glad they had the foresight to build the Snowy Scheme.We all benefit from the migration scheme that helped the refugees in Europe, We gain the labour to build this county to one of the best in the world.

    I am proud of the changes they made to the country in the 1970’s I am proud of the changes to health, education and many other areas.

    I am extremely proud of the economic reforms that occurred under Hawke and Keating in the eighties and nineties.Reforms that have enabled us to cope with the GFC.

    I am proud of the rebuilding and improvements that have been made schools since 2007. I am proud of many other achievement since then.

    I am delighted to support the so called left, which have a history of building, not demolishing.

  50. “Neil, that doesn’t tell me what the Howard government actually built.”

    And what did Hawke and Keating build????

    Why pick on Howard??

    My understanding is that roads and rail have mainly been the responsibility of the States.

    At this link down the bottom you will find the Auslink Annual Reports for 05-06, 06-07, 07-08. You will find what they invested in the reports

    Just saw the link provided by Bacchus. Would not trust anything Bernard Keene said

  51. Min, you are wrong about Mr. Howard. He did extend the rail fro Alice springs to Darwin It does not matter that no one thought it was worthwhile and still has to make a profit.

    He did sit down while having a meal, creating a plan for the Murray River Basin on the back of a serviette. It is not his fault it was found wanting. It did sound good and there was election coming up.

    Mr. Howard did spend ten years putting forward plans for broadband. Problem is that he forgot to separate the arms of Telstra so they could work.

    Maybe Neil can name more nation building projects.

  52. Neil, take a drive along that national disgrace, the national highway between Sydney and Melbourne. Then tell me what you see.

    You’ll tell me that it’s a slow trip because of all the roadworks. You’ll tell me that the works are fairly recent inititiatives. You’ll tell they’re only recent because it wasn’t until there was a Labor Government in Canberra that funds were injected into these long overdue roadworks.

    How many people died on those neglected roads? Now I’ll lower myself to sound like you: Liberal voters caused those deaths. Therefore Liberal voters are murderers.

    Sound familiar? Of course it does. It’s how you used to rave on that Labor voters are responsible for boat people deaths.

    But I digress. Why was this important infrastructure ignored by Howard? He had the money. Oh that’s right, he preferred to spend it on middle class welfare. In other words, votes.

  53. Neil, Hawke built a good economy and IR system for starters.

    What did Mr Howard build? He did not even keep up the maintenance of what we already have.

  54. “Even more crap. They are making record profits and the govt is getting record amounts of revenue. ”

    Ripping something out of the ground that belongs to us all.

    They can and should be paying more.

  55. Migs, I suspect that Germany will be fine..after all they lost the war and all countries who lost the war seem to be doing very nicely. Which just goes to show, if you’re going to be involved in a major war against another country..make certain that you lose.

    All this talk of Greece reminded me of this one from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin..

  56. Neil, you are the one that is talking about roads.

    National highways are the responsibility of the Federal Government.

    Main roads, between towns and cities, the responsibility of the states

    Local roads the responsibility of local councils.

  57. Neil, you do not trust any expert that does not agree with what you believe.

    That is OK, as others might like to hear what they have to say.

  58. “Neil, take a drive along that national disgrace, the national highway between Sydney and Melbourne. ”

    Why didn’t Hawke/Keating fix it???????????

    Howard spent billions on Infrastructure. I hate Bernard Keene but even he said this

    “Auslink dwarfed Regional Partnerships. Established in the lead-up to the 2004 election, it brought together existing road and rail funding programs and established a “National Network” of nationally-important transport corridors. The first iteration involved funding of $11.8b over five years from 2004-5;”

  59. Cu, the Alice to darwin rail was an interesting exercise.

    Stop The Nuclear Industry

    Join the nuclear industry dots…
    by Dr. Alison Broinowski
    (Published with permision from the Author for not-for-profit public awareness purposes)
    “In late June and early July, just as the Howard Government was dispatching the army to Aboriginal communities to deal with sexual abuse, the U.S. military was involved for two weeks in northern Australia in the biggest ever joint exercise, Talisman Sabre.
    Most Australians saw no connection.
    Military training areas, uranium mines, sites for future nuclear waste dumps and now Aboriginal land seized by the Commonwealth are dots across the Australian map.
    Several of them are connected by the Adelaide-Darwin railway. Having been many times promised, the $1.3 billion link from Alice Springs to Darwin was surprisingly found viable in 1999. By January, 2004, the train was running. The only tenderer, according to research at University of Technology Sydney, was the FreightLink consortium led by Halliburton (then headed by US vice-president Dick Cheney), with state, territory and federal contributions.

    {FreightLink has recently been sold to Genesee and Wyoming Inc. after going into administration.}

  60. Neil, Howard spent sweet BA on infrastructure.

    Here’s a challenge for you HMAS Tobruk. You will have your credibility rating back again when you answer that one.

  61. Why didn’t Hawke/Keating fix it???????????

    But but but . . . you keep telling us they had no money. You also keep telling us Howard had plenty.

    When Hawke came into power in the early 80s it was probably a good road with far less traffic. He would have been condemned for spending money on something that didn’t need to be upgraded.

    Let’s flip the coin over. Howard didn’t spend money on something that was in urgent need of an upgrade.

    But if you want to be silly, why the hell didn’t Barton initiate the Snowy Mountains Scheme? And why didn’t Hughes think of the NBN? And why did Reid let America beat us to the moon?


  62. “I am extremely proud of the economic reforms that occurred under Hawke and Keating in the eighties and nineties.”

    If these reforms were so great how come they didn’t work??? 18% home loan interest rates, 30 months of double digit unemployment, largest debt in Australian history, deregulation of the banking industry leading to collapses.

    And right now if it wasn’t for China and the mining boom we would be cactus.

    And what did Hawke/Keating build????

    Miglo- you have to stop reading my posts. It will give you heart trouble.

  63. The first iteration involved funding of $11.8b over five years from 2004-5

    The ANAO looked at the first five years of Auslink… a number of Auslink projects had blown out wildly in cost because of lack of consultation between the Commonwealth and the State Governments, who were actually in charge of building them, about what the final cost would be….

    This was in spite of the fact that the ANAO had specifically warned the Department of Transport back in 2001, when it completed an audit of a roads program, about the high probability of cost overruns on road projects and of the need to prevent them as much as possible….

    For other projects, “strategic infrastructure planning” was dumped for the convenience of the Government. In late 2005, the Howard Government, at the nadir of its fiscal discipline, realised it was heading for a massive Budget surplus, due not merely to the mining boom but its own inability to get money out the door quickly enough. Ministers were asked to hastily come up with new spending proposals that could be implemented before the end of the financial year.

    Transport officials suggested a $800m duplication project on the Hume Highway in NSW, based on what were by their own admission “necessarily fairly rough” calculations about the costs and benefits, and a $268m upgrade of the Bruce Highway. John Howard liked their suggestions and promptly gave the money to Warren Truss, who had succeeded Anderson in the portfolio.

    $1 billion: easy come, easy go.

    Transport officials then checked for more projects and produced a list. Truss and Howard asked for details of the projects, including which electorates they were in (all Coalition except one in the Northern Territory), and another $650m was handed over without any detailed assessment either of the costs and benefits of the projects or their worth as strategic infrastructure.

    But that’s okay because no one was bothering to check whether any of the Auslink projects yielded the benefits projected for them. Despite John Anderson’s assurance that Auslink would usher in a new era of evaluation and strategic planning, the ANAO found that no evaluations had been done of any of the Auslink-funded projects that had been completed and carrying traffic for at least twelve months.

    And Neil(s) have the audacity to accuse this government of wasting money 🙄

  64. Bacchus- all govts waste money. Especially when new projects get up and running.

    “(all Coalition except one in the Northern Territory),”

    It should be stated that after the 2004 election, 70% of the Australian landmass was in Coalition hands so a road going from Sydney to Brisbane is going to mainly go through Coalition seats.

    Your link may be correct about the waste. However I do not trust Bernard Keane. I think he is a liar. I know he is lying about the Regional Partnership Scheme since I downloaded the report. With this scheme the Coalition got 70% of the money since they had 70% of the seats in the regional areas of Australia.

    But Keane may be right about Auslink waste. But I did not hear much about it in the media

  65. If I recall correctly Migs, Mr Abbott nearly got himself and others killed on a stretch of the road with an election stunt.

  66. And another Liealot triumph! Sinking the slipper into our major trading partner. Does this man’s genius know no bounds? It should also be making a very positive impression on the mining industry.

    Well done, Liealot. A diplomatic tour de force!

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