ONE reason federal Labor set up Infrastructure Australia in 2008 was to provide politicians with supposedly objective advice as to where taxpayers' money would be best spent when it came to increasing the nation's productive capacity.
Of course, nothing is ever simple in politics, and a look back at the organisation's 12 years of existence shows it caught in its fair share of political bunfights.
Just this week, it was dragged into the spotlight with claims it recently rejected a proposed rail line upgrade at the site of the fatal Victorian XPT derailment.
On the other hand, there is often little such a statutory body can do if the politicians ignore its recommendations, as the recent sports rorts affair has revealed.
Such concerns aside, an accumulating library of work by Infrastructure Australia has given decision-makers and, importantly, the public, a simple way to track the progress of long-term spending programs - some of which seem to fade into uncertainty once the hoopla of an initial funding announcement fades away.
So we see with today's 2020 Infrastructure Priority List.
One of the Hunter Region's high-profile road projects - a second crossing of the Hunter River at Hexham to complete a missing section of M1 to Raymond Terrace - is still, apparently, without a business case, and regarded by Infrastructure Australia as an "initiative", rather than as a more highly formed "project".
These are also yet to reach "project" stage, with a likely "medium term" time frame of another five to 10 years despite being nominated to Infrastructure Australia by the NSW government four years ago in 2016.
Similarly, the John Hunter Hospital's $1.6 billion update has been given a longer time frame than earlier announcements by the NSW government would seem to indicate, with Infrastructure Australia putting it in the longest of its three time categories, some 10 to 15 years away.
On the plus side, the Port of Newcastle can now say Infrastructure Australia agrees with its argument that the east coast lacks a deep water port for a new era of "ultra large" container ships set to dominate global container trade.
Expect this to become another weapon in the port's battle with Botany.
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