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States, local councils, and regional areas will benefit from major infrastructure spending in this year's Federal Budget with a significant boost to roads, bridges, rail, and community works.
The Government will give councils an extra $1 billion to immediately upgrade bike paths, streetlights, footpaths, walking tracks, community halls, and barbecue facilities as part of the Coalition's Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program announced in May.
There is also a big focus on road safety, including $2 billion nationwide for small-scale spends such as installing wire rope safety barriers.
But Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg warned the new money came with conditions.
"Funding for these shovel-ready projects will be provided on a use it or lose it basis," he said.
"If a state drags its feet, another state will get the money. We need works to start, not stall."
The Government has added an extra $14 billion to its 10-year infrastructure program for "new and accelerated" projects across each state, which it claims will create 40,000 new jobs.
Transport infrastructure funding includes:
Big picture important for infrastructureWhile fast-tracked and new infrastructure investments in road and rail will be welcomed, rural leaders have previously warned it was only worthwhile if it generated local jobs and came with better digital connectivity.
Tamworth's Singleton Bypass on the New England Highway will receive $560 million in funds.(ABC News: Clarissa Thorpe)Peter Bailey from the Foundation for Regional Development in Armidale, New South Wales, told the ABC that "believing in infrastructure is not the whole picture, it's a long-term approach [that's needed]".
He said that "hard infrastructure" projects often lead to a "short-term sugar hit" where contractors employ fly-in, fly-out staff from other areas such as cities.
"They don't stick around," Mr Bailey said, "and when they leave we lose that cash value. It's the same with wind farms and solar farms."
Businesses have struggled in the CBDs of regional centres.(ABC News: Emilia Terzon)In addition, many rural and regional areas are already at capacity when it comes to so-called shovel-ready projects, so local government planners and engineers may be hard to come by.
The Regional Australia Institute is pushing for regional businesses to be preferenced when it comes to procurement for capital works.
Its chief economist Dr Kim Houghton said a preference system would "amplify" the economic benefits for regions and enable small businesses to compete on even terms with large national firms.
"A small business procurement panel, as recommended by Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell, would go a long way to increasing the share of government contracts awarded to SMEs — currently just 26 per cent," he said.
Decentralisation agenda still strongThere are signs the Government is trying to look beyond simply building new road and rail networks in pushing ahead with its decentralisation agenda.
Tuesday's 2020-21 Budget included a further focus on manufacturing following last week's $1.5 billion announcement to boost local production and supply chains.
In his speech, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spoke of how COVID-19 reinforced the importance local manufacturing.
"Almost overnight, resourceful Australian business adapted," he said.
"A reconfigured supply chain tripled masks production at a factory in Shepparton.
"Production lines for sleep apnoea devices were converted to make ventilators in western Sydney.
"Gin distilleries became manufacturers of hand sanitiser across Tasmania.
"Tonight, we build on these strengths with a plan to ensure Australian manufacturing plays an even greater role in our economic recovery."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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