The federal Coalition has unveiled plans to attract massive private sector investment in major infrastructure projects as an alternative to government funding.
A Coalition government would leverage “tens of billions of dollars” by issuing infrastructure bonds that required little support from taxpayers.
“It does demonstrate that there is an alternative to borrowing $100 million a day,” Coalition finance spokesman Andrew Robb told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
Infrastructure Australia would be charged with the responsibility of overseeing a 15-year rolling plan – reviewed every five years – for nationally important projects.
Earlier, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced how a Coalition government would encourage the long-term unemployed to find and retain a job. Job commitment bonus payments will be available to those aged under 30 who take a job and stay off welfare for at least a year.
A bonus of $2500 would be paid at the end of the first year and a further $4000 at the end of the second year of employment. Employers also will receive a $2500 subsidy for taking on eligible job seekers.
A relocation payment of up to $6000 will be available for people who move to an area of low unemployment or regional area to take up a job. If they leave the job within six months of taking the payment, they won’t be eligible for welfare benefits for another six months.
“It is a very important part from moving from a welfare state to an opportune society,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra, adding the inspiration for the policy came from indigenous leader Noel Pearson.
Treasurer Wayne Swan dismissed the plan, saying the coalition was not in a position to offer any more spending promises.
“Their budget numbers don’t add up,” he said, taking another swipe at the coalition’s refusal to submit its spending commitments for scrutiny by the departments of treasury and finance.
The Coalition will release comprehensive costings of its election commitments within 36 hours, opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey confirmed on Tuesday. In the meantime, officials from both sides are still negotiating the details of a leaders’ debate about the economy.
The Coalition wants a 30-minute debate on ABC Television on Tuesday night. Labor is insisting on a one-hour debate in Brisbane on Wednesday night, followed by a 60-minute forum during which both leaders take questions from about 200 undecided voters.
Ms Gillard accused the opposition leader of being “a bit too clever by half”.
“He’s still running from a fair-dinkum debate on the economy,” she told reporters in Townsville.
Ms Gillard retreated herself when quizzed about Labor’s national broadband network, twice failing to say how many homes would be connected during the next three years.
Instead she referred reporters to the NBN Co website. Nor could she say how much it would cost the average family to hook up to the network.
“It depends what you want,” she said, adding different service providers would offer a range of services at competitive prices.
The prime minister was more forthcoming on the possibility of an Australian republic, even if it does mean waiting for the Queen to die.
Ms Gillard said she believed Queen Elizabeth II should be Australia’s final monarch, despite the nation’s “deep affection” for her.
After that was an “appropriate time” for the nation to move towards a republic.
“Obviously I’m hoping … that she lives a long and happy life, and having watched her mother I think there’s every chance that she will,” she said.