Candidates’ transport visions sell voters short

Associate Professor Robert Bianchi says the publication of cost-benefit-analyses on proposed infrastructure projects is crucial in the lead-up to an election.
Associate Professor Robert Bianchi says the publication of cost-benefit-analyses on proposed infrastructure projects is crucial in the lead-up to an election.

Brisbane voters are being deprived of the opportunity to make an informed decision on the ambitious transport infrastructure plans of the two leading mayoral candidates ahead of the March elections.

Griffith Business School’s Associate Professor Robert Bianchi has told 612 ABC that the absence of a cost-benefit-analysis for either project makes it difficult for voters assessing their mayoral options.

Mayor Graham Quirk has proposed a rubber-wheeled, high-frequency subway system linking Woolloongabba and Herston, while ALP candidate Rod Harding has announced plans for a light rail system from Newstead to University of Queensland.

“Both of these proposals are in the planning phase,” Dr Bianchi said. “They’re both visions, both at an early stage, and it’s impossible to actually make an informed decision because they both lack a cost-benefit-analysis.

Dr Bianchi was speaking with Spencer Howson on the 612 ABC Breakfast program.

“We’re living in a world these days where infrastructure projects are proposed, but where cost-benefit-analyses are carried out but not made available to the public.

“The classic example is the BaT tunnel proposed by the previous Newman government. Apparently a cost-benefit-analysis was conducted but the Queensland government never actually published it. So members of the public have never seen that report.”

Dr Bianchi, who is Director of the Griffith Centre for Personal Finance and Superannuation, encouraged each of the mayoral candidates to make two commitments around their infrastructure plans.

“The first would be to promise to commission an independent cost-benefit analysis report for their project should they win the election. And secondly, in the interest of public sector governance and accountability, I would ask them to promise to release that report in full to the general public for review.”

He explained that a cost-benefit-analysis, even post-election, could save the taxpayer up $1.5 billion if the project proved unviable.

“In fact, the actual construction timeline on both of these plans is beyond the next election.

“Construction of the Rod Harding plan wouldn’t start until 2020. Under the Graham Quirk plan it would take another six years before they begin the high frequency Metro service.”