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Bernard Keane

Infrastructure Australia’s new era of… staff cuts

So much for the revitalisation of Infrastructure Australia, which the government has promised after the once-independent infrastructure advisory body was turned into a National Party outpost by the Coalition, terrified of its boondoggles and regional rorts being judged negatively.

Infrastructure Minister Catherine King rightly dumped Coalition appointees from the board and promised to restore it with a better board and a renewed purpose.

But in yesterday’s overhyped economic statement budget, IA funding for the current financial year was cut by 1% compared with last year — just like the Coalition planned to cut it back in March. The result is IA will lose three of its 32 staff.

Admittedly, IA’s funding profile is slightly better under Labor than the Coalition: in 2023-24, it will receive $13.1 million compared with the $12.8 million in the April budget; and $13.26 million the following year, rather than $12.9 million. But that’s way below inflation. In fact, across the forward estimates, IA will have a $1.3 million cut in real terms, based on the budget inflation forecast.

King has said she wants to have a highly skilled board for IA. Let’s hope it doesn’t ask too much in directors’ fees.

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