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Remote regions at risk as infrastructre cuts spark backlash

David Prestipino -

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended the federal government's decision to reduce co-funding of vital infrastructure projects in the face of backlash from the states and concerns remote communities will feel the cuts most.

Mr Albanese said on Thursday the Commonwealth's $120 billion pool of funds for state infrastructure projects would not change as 50 projects across the country were earmarked for the scrap heap after a review by Infrastructure Minister Catherine King.

Ms King said the government would return to a preferred 50-50 funding arrangement on infrastructure projects with the states and territories, replacing the current 80/20 model, with the culling across the country saving federal coffers $7.3 billion.

Furious premiers have urged the government to reverse its decision but Mr Albanese said vital infrastructure projects required an available workforce, blaming the former Coalition government for approving too many projects while the country endures a skills shortage.

"You can't build projects without having workers to build them, and one of the reasons why we are investing is that this is a part of putting downward pressure, dealing with the supply chain issues, which are causing an inflationary pressure," he said.

Federal opposition spokesperson for regional development Darren Chester said the king-sized cuts would eventually cost lives across regional and remote Australia.

"In government, the Coalition recognised that good infrastructure investments could change lives and save lives," he said.

"We did this by reducing congestion and improving productivity and we invested in life-saving road projects across the nation."

Mr Chester said the option of 80-20 funding splits for regional projects had brought forward major highway upgrades in regional areas that helped reduce road trauma.

"We used the 80-20 model to bring forward massive improvements to the Bruce Highway in Queensland, Pacific Highway in New South Wales and the Princes Highway in Victoria," he said.

"None of those life-saving and nation-building projects would have proceeded if we had tried to get the respective state governments to split the bill 50-50."

His anger was echoed by WA deputy premier Rita Saffioti, who said WA had been treated unfairly as projects in her state were "smaller and far more manageable".

WA will have five projects scrapped, totalling $300m.

"I was constantly telling the federal government our projects are smaller, and far more manageable, and we could move one for six months to a year and manage the pipeline," she said.

NSW was worse hit, with 17 road, carpark and rail projects totalling $3.6b scrapped, while 12 were cut in Victoria and nine in Queensland.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk lambasted her federal counterparts over the funding slashes.

"I'm calling on the federal government to do what's right ... right now Queensland needs more infrastructure, not less," she said in Parliament.

National Indigenous Times has contacted Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney for comment.

Find out more and see the list of projects cut here.


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