27 August 2020

Infrastructure boost to lead jobs push in economic revival plan

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra Hospital Expansion

The Canberra Hospital Expansion is the centrepiece of the infrastructure program with a $625 million price tag and 500 jobs. Image: ACT Government.

The ACT Government has unveiled a $4.9 billion Jobs and Recovery Plan over four years that includes spending for already announced big ticket items and a further $720 million to support businesses and households, including the waiving of a range of fees.

It says a $4 billion infrastructure plan will support local jobs and confidence in the construction sector, with a clear pipeline of work over the next four years worth $800 million.

This includes:

  • More than $1 billion in transport and active travel projects, including over $300 million extending light rail;
  • More than $900 million on health infrastructure, including $625 million for the Canberra Hospital Expansion;
  • More than $400 million to build and upgrade schools; and
  • $250 – $300 million to build the new CIT campus and public transport interchange in Woden.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr says the ACT has needed to go bigger and bolder to revive the economy after the impacts of the pandemic, encouraged by the Reserve Bank to borrow for productive infrastructure.

The hit to the ACT’s bottom line will be revealed in today’s Budget update.

The government says it will stimulate housing and construction through stamp duty concessions for new land and off-the-plan purchases until 30 June 2021, a 50 per cent cent remission on the Lease Variation Charge and streamlined and faster development application and unit titling approvals.

It recently added $61 million to its 10-year $1 billion public and social housing program.

The government will spend $24 million in 2020-21 on extending light rail and set aside $312 million over the next three years for design and construction. Stage 2A will take light rail to Civic West and terminate at Commonwealth Park. The more complex 2B, that will cross Lake Burley Griffin and go through the Parliamentary Zone to Woden, will require multiple approvals.

$130 million has been set aside for the duplication of Athllon Drive and $170 million for last portion of John Gorton Drive, including a bridge crossing the Molonglo River. There have been calls to fast track the project because of the fast-growing population in the Molonglo Valley.

It appears the price tag for the Canberra Hospital Expansion has grown by $125 million, and the government plans to increase the health workforce by 100 employees over the next 12 months. Other projects include the expansion of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.

School projects include a new East Gungahlin High School to open in 2023, a new primary school at Throsby and a P-6 and 7-10 school campus in Molonglo, as well as expanding the Amaroo School Senior Campus, modernising Campbell Primary School and expanding Franklin Early Childhood School.

Gungahlin Light Rail Photo: Region Media

The extension of light rail receives about $336 million. Photo: File.

There will also be energy efficient heating upgrades and a boost to ICT support.

More than $200 million has been allocated for social, cultural and sporting infrastructure for our community, including new and upgraded cultural, sporting and recreational facilities across Canberra, such as the Kingston Arts Precinct and planning for the new Canberra Theatre.

As well as the health workforce, the ACT Public Service will expand with an extra 85 education employees over the next 12 months, 30 new positions in the ACT Ambulance Services in 2019-20 and 2020-21, an extra 99 firefighters over the next four years, and 69 extra ACT Policing staff.

A $2 million ACT Graduate/Cadet Fund will boost public sector intake from 120 per year to 160 for 2021 and 2022.

The government has also accelerated invoice payments to local businesses to improve their cashflow.

It also plans to cut red tape for business through its ACT Better Regulation Taskforce, which will focus on expanding digital services and identifying burdensome rules, as well as reviewing legislation to simplify business engagement with government, encourage new business models and remove investment barriers.

The government will embark on a new domestic tourism marketing campaign, the City Centre Marketing and Improvement Levy has been halved, cafes and restaurants will receive a $1000 electricity bill rebate and fees have been waived for annual liquor licences and outdoor dining, as well as vehicle registration fees for tourism operators.

The government is aiming to boost employment in the ACT to 250,000, or create about 17,000 jobs by 2025.

The ACT lost 10,500 jobs when the pandemic hit in April and May, and has recovered 5600 of those. Of the over 30,000 businesses in the ACT, 11,800 are receiving JobKeeper, with the construction sector benefiting the most.

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michael quirk8:23 am 28 Aug 20

There are so many unmet needs in Canberra that a stadium is unlikely to stack up as a priority. The Barr government should undertake and release the analysis justifying its priority projects. The analysis would demonstrate the relative benefits of alternatives including social housing, education, health, light rail, bus rapid transport, a stadium , a convention centre and be the basis for future commitments. Mr Barr base your priorities on evidence, as funds are limited and should not be wasted on vanity projects

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