Vic rail put on backburner for Qld recovery

Overall, the 2010-11 budget had very few surprises in any portfolio let alone in infrastructure, the main focus being on jobs.As part of the $36 billion of expenditure already committed to infrastructure projects under the Rudd government, $1 billion has been allocated to the duplication of the Pacific Highway.More than $130 million in funding will be brought forward for Queensland’s Moreton Bay Rail Link project, which was originally slated for 2014‑15.The decision earlier this year to shelve five projects on the Bruce Highway worth more than $285 million has been reversed.These projects include the $75 million duplication of Vantassel Street to Flinders Highway, a $40 million realign and raise from Sandy Corner to Collinsons Lagoon and an $85.7 million upgrade to the Caboolture to Caloundra section of the highway.More than $61 million over three years has been allocated to reduce congestion and improve efficiency of the transport networks in major cities.While many believed the budget was not as dark and gloomy as Swan had tipped it to be, spending on infrastructure was cut by close to $1 billion out of a total of $22 billion in cuts for the year’s budget.The Gillard government has scrapped $56 million in funding for South Australia’s O‑Bahn city access project to make funds available for rebuilding projects after the Queensland natural disasters.Two infrastructure projects in Victoria and one in New South Wales have been deferred.These include $500 million for the Victorian Regional Rail Link, $100 million for the North Sydney Freight Line and $20 million for the Princes Highway.However, an additional $1.8 billion over six years has been allocated for critical regional health infrastructure under the Health and Hospitals Fund regional priority round.Super funds have also had a win, with the removal of costly tax impediments to infrastructure projects allowing for more secure outcomes for fund investment.Training To tackle the looming skills shortage with the advent of the forthcoming mining boom, the Gillard government has allocated about $3 billion to training.Of this, $1.75 billion is to address vocational education and training, including new initiatives to boost participation and fast track trade qualifications.Another $558 million will be used over the next four years to train 130,000 skilled workers through the National Workforce Development Fund and $100 million for more flexible training models.The government has also made a commitment to boosting skilled migration.For the first time, it will allocate 16,000 skilled migration places to the regions, complemented by Regional Migration Agreements for communities with skill shortages. The Australian Constructors Association (ACA) has welcomed the federal budget’s focus on skills and training, saying it is a “positive response to the challenges facing the Australian infrastructure sector”.“Australia’s infrastructure construction activity has increased strongly over the past 10 years driven by transport and energy infrastructure,” executive director Jim Barrett said. “The resources sector will do much to drive the industry over the next 10 years but businesses are reporting worsening skill shortage bottlenecks.“Skill shortages remain a significant risk for the development of the industry’s productive capacity over the next few years.”Barrett said the allocation of 16,000 migrant places for the regions was a good start but would need to be well-targeted to be effective.He also said the focus on accelerated apprenticeships and $281 million for additional tax-free payments to encourage apprentices in critical trades to complete their qualifications would provide an important incentive as completion rates had been a significant problem across the sector.

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