The Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, championed infrastructure investments across both the emerging markets and developed nations as a key part of maintaining a global economic recovery.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion at the G20 Business Summit in Seoul, South Korea, Gillard highlighted how her native country has committed itself to upgrading its own infrastructure.
The need is pressing in both developing and developed nations, she said, as more and more countries increasingly urbanize their societies. The more difficult question is how to finance these projects, given their very high price tags and the fact that many governments around the globe are already cash-strapped.
Gillard offered that there is “no one good solution” to the financing dilemma, but a partnership/collaboration between private business and government is probably the answer.
Infrastructure of cyberspace was also on Gillard’s agenda, citing that the Canberra government is committed to upgrading the nation’s broadband network so that all Aussies can enjoy having internet service.
The administration plans to invest up to $43 billion in a high-speed National Broadband Network that will deliver broadband to 90 per cent of homes, schools and workplaces. The government will be the majority shareholder of the project, although significant private sector investment is expected.
According to Australia’s 2009-2010 budget, the country plans substantial new investments in railways, roads and ports, including $4.6-billion expenditure for an urban rail project to better connect larger cities.
The government also seeks to build new (or upgrade existing) hospitals and universities, including a $3.2-billion set aside for hospital infrastructure, cancer care and translational research.
However, PM Gillard has come under fire in her home country for the government’s ambitious infrastructure plans.
In a recent television broadcast on Australian Broadcasting Corp., Barnaby Joyce, the Shadow Water Minister for the Liberal National Party complained that Gillard has already got the country $164 billion in gross debt.
“She's the personification, and the Labor Party [is] the personification of economic irresponsibility and it continues on, getting worse and worse by the day,” Joyce fumed.
With regard to Gillard’s plans for upgrading broadband, Joyce said “I believe that we can get an outcome… without expending so much. And we can get fiber optics to the schools and to the hospitals, to the vital infrastructure, but what [Labor is] proposing is fiber optic to every house and they're proposing the development of a new monopoly and they're proposing a massive cost to do it and I don't think you're proposing how we're gonna pay for it.”