Billion-dollar buck ends with Koutsantonis and his costly captain’s call

Wednesday 01 June 2022

In a damning discovery on the eve of delivering its first budget, the Malinauskas Labor Government has been caught out red-handed siphoning a billion dollars from the most important infrastructure project in state history to prop up its lofty election commitments.

The smoking gun was delivered by none other than Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Tom Koutsantonis, who arrogantly tabled a document in Parliament highlighting his involvement in the shock delay of the $9.9 billion North-South Corridor project.

The document suggests the purpose of a recent Department for Infrastructure and Transport review into the project – ordered by Koutsantonis – was to validate his decision to delay the build after the fact.

The document – dated Thursday 26 May – also clearly states the review was incomplete and that a full report would be provided once finalised.

This means Koutsantonis made a “captain’s call” to delay the project a day later – on Friday 27 May – before the full findings were even provided by his Department.

The more than $1 billion which the Malinauskas Labor Government has pushed out from the North-South Corridor project coincidentally matches up to a $1.1 billion budget blackhole predicted by former Treasurer Rob Lucas before the election.

Leader of the Opposition David Speirs said Koutsantonis is the “victim of his own orchestrated political bombshell”.

“It appears the sole purpose of this review ordered by Tom Koutsantonis was to hunt down any reason to delay the project so cash could be diverted elsewhere,” Mr Speirs said.

“Tom Koutsantonis made a $10 billion-dollar decision based on a two-page briefing note to help Peter Malinauskas pay for his lofty election promises in the budget.

“This is a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul but in this case, Tom Koutsantonis is robbing Paul to pay Peter – Peter Malinauskas.”

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Vincent Tarzia, said two independent reports assessed the North-South Corridor build as a project that stacked up and was ready to go.

“This project was on schedule until Koutsantonis got his hands on it, pushing out the timeline in a move which will be devastating for the economy,” Mr Tarzia said.

“Stalling this crucial project to prop up Peter Malinauskas’ election promises is just a classic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

“SA Labor need to rule out any further delays to this crucial project and come clean on whether any design changes will result in more people losing their homes and businesses.”

In 16 years, Labor failed to even initiate a business case for Torrens to Darlington.

In four years, the former Liberal Government completed an extensive business case, funded planning and early works to the tune of $232 million and secured the Federal Government’s commitment to a 50:50 share of the construction cost.