Infrastructure Australia forecasts dystopian "Big Australia"

Bronwyn Evans says traffic congestion is often

READ MOREBudget 2019 Australian commuters hope for more spending on infrastructure

According to the audit, the annual cost of road congestion to the Australian economy is expected to grow from 18.9 billion AUD now, to 38.8 billion AUD by 2031.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has called on Morrison to significantly increase infrastructure spending to boost the struggling economy, but the government has so far been resistant to the idea.

The most visible example of the impact of poor infrastructure is the increasingly congested roads and crowded public transport in our biggest cities, the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit has found.

Public transport crowding is also on track to increase fivefold over the same period, costing more than $800m a year.

Policy inertia carries twin risks - failing to respond to the RBA's call for a short-term stimulus to economic activity via infrastructure spending, and leaving our cities exposed to congestion in the long-term.

"Changing and growing demand, and a mounting maintenance backlog is putting unprecedented pressure on the infrastructure services each and every Australian relies on".

While most people report concern about energy costs - which have risen 50% over the past decade - most of the expense is related to auto purchase and running costs.

But IA observes that Australian governments often do not incorporate sustainability or resilience into their final infrastructure projects.

Remote and regional Australians were also feeling the pinch, with two-thirds of the continent not having mobile phone coverage, compared to 99.4% of premises.

The Audit underscores the need for a change to how we approach planning to deliver our infrastructure needs in a rapidly changing environment.

But Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Alan Tudge, has downplayed the Infrastructure Australia report, labelling it "pessimistic".

Infrastructure Australia's policy and research director Peter Colacino put much of the change down to the effect of the large "millennial" generation, which will make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2025.

But Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused the coalition of ripping the "guts" out of infrastructure funding in 2014.

"After six years of cuts and inaction, the audit is another stark reminder of the real pressures in the system now".

Mr Morrison stressed the report's findings pre-date the 2019/20 budget, in which the government announced $23 billion worth of infrastructure projects, 160 of which were focused on busting congestion.

Infrastructure Australia has warned a new wave of investment is needed to ensure roads and public transport, schools, water, electricity and health services support people's quality of life and economic productivity.

On Tuesday, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) said the report serves as a "warning" and illustrates the importance of investment in green infrastructure.

"With Infrastructure Australia calling for sustained investment in infrastructure, we are maintaining our historically high investment on transport infrastructure which now averages over $10bn a year over the forward estimates, and have established a 10-year rolling pipeline to enable planning and certainty of future investment".

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