Advice not so neutral

Infrastructure Australia began life as a disinterested adviser. Its board comprised independent experts, economists and planners alongside industry representatives and public-sector managers. But it has subtly morphed into a forum for big business interests to lobby governments from “inside the tent”. Lobbyists and privatisation advocates now dominate the board.

Its latest report tries to breathe new life into privatisation (“Bus sale a ticket to $1 billion in savings“, 26/5). Yet Victoria’s train/tram privatisation hasn’t saved taxpayers one cent. A former minister, the late Lynne Kosky, admitted as much 10 years ago. We do save money relative to Sydney by not having train guards, a decision that predates privatisation. And the report concedes improvements in train performance resulted primarily from more taxpayer investment.

Last month The Age reported on Transdev’s performance (“One in five Transdev buses late“, 25/4), the one part of Melbourne’s private bus network that operates on IA’s preferred model. Figures obtained under FoI reveal falling patronage and poor performance. Passengers also come to us citing drops in reliability and cleanliness.

— Tony Morton, president, Public Transport Users Association in The Age 29/5/2017