Australia’s major cities are on track to become paralysed with congestion, according to a new audit of infrastructure spending. The Infrastructure Australia report released today finds that congestion cost the economy $19bn in 2016 – a figure that is set to more than double within 12 years. The agency estimates $600bn in new infrastructure spending is needed to keep pace with population growth. Infrastructure Australia chair Julieanne Alroe said: “The dominance of infill development in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will require investment in high capacity public transport, enhancements to existing energy and water infrastructure, improved shared spaces and a renewal of inner city health and education services.” The most congested road by 2031 in Sydney would be the Harbour Tunnel link between North Sydney and the city centre via the Harbour Tunnel, with the agency estimating 84 per cent of the trip would be spent sitting still.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled $500 million in aid to help Pacific nations invest in renewable energy and “climate and disaster resilience”. Money will be redirected from existing aid programs. Morrison said the funding “highlights our commitment to not just meeting our emissions reduction obligations at home but supporting our neighbours and friends”. He will join a meeting of Pacific leaders in Tuvalu on Wednesday, where Australia is already attracting criticism for its rising carbon emissions. At a preliminary event, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama asked Australia to transition away from coal as it poses an “existential threat” to Pacific islanders. The event comes as Freedom of Information documents reveal Queensland’s Moranbah North coal mine has nearly doubled its greenhouse gas emissions in two years without penalty through a mechanism in the Coalition’s “direct action” climate policy.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham will today release a list with 236 product names the European Union wants protected in return for a free trade agreement. Under the agreement Australian producers of feta and gruyere cheese, the delicatessen staple prosciutto di Parma and the wine grape liquor grappa would have to change the names of their products as part of a $100 billion trade deal, but wine varieties such as Prosecco are safe. Scotch beef is also on the list, but that claim against relies on Britain staying in the EU. In one case, negotiators are open to adopting the name “Australian Feta”, but draw the line at an EU suggestion that Australian producers call their products “Feta-like”.
Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani has been awarded the 2019 National Biography Award for his memoir No Friend But the Mountains. Mr Boochani was unable to accept the award in person as he remains detained on Manus Island, where he has been for the past six years. The autobiographical account covers Boochani’s journey from Iran to Manus Island, detailing acts of cruelty and constant surveillance he and other detainees have been subjected to. He accepted the $25,000 award via Whatsapp, thanking Australia's literary community for being “part of our resistance in front of this system”.