The CPFs national advocacy work with the Commonwealth focuses on changes that need to be made to encourage commitment and policies to invest in cycling. Positive provision as part of major transport projects based on economic analysis that includes wider benefits attributable to cycling is one example. Some of the heavy lifting is done at state and local government level, where the specific infrastructure and educational or behaviour programs are delivered.
There are however investment programs and major initiatives that can and do fund cycling. For example, for the Community Infrastructure stimulus packages funded by the Rudd Government in response to the global financial crisis (GFC), several hundred million dollars were provided directly to local governments for projects.
Pleasingly, our review of the actual projects delivered showed that there was a 2.5 fold return on the federal investment in infrastructure and even greater in employment outcomes.
So where is the money for cycling in Scott Morrison’s 2017 Budget?
Building Better Regions Fund (existing program with an additional $200m allocated for 2017-18)
The Government is providing $200m to the BBRF under two streams; an Infrastructure Projects Stream and a Community Investments Stream. Successful projects in rural and remote Australia are required to deliver economic and social benefits—so cycling paths and programs may fit neatly here if regional governments apply to fund them.
Stronger Communities Program (now Round 3, over 2 years from 2017-18)
Under the program, $150,000 is available to each electorate for small capital projects from $5,000 to $20,000 that will improve community participation and contribute to a vibrant and viable community. This is a continuation of a program with $27.7m available to each MP for projects in their electorate.
From 2013-14 to 2019-20 Black Spot Projects will receive $624.5m to ‘help make roads safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians’. Each state and territory receives an allocation based on population and crash data.
The City Deals being developed by Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation, Angus Taylor, tie a major investment by the Commonwealth to a range of additional initiatives designed to realise significantly broader economic, social and other wider benefits than if the Commonwealth had simply funded a single major project.
The Prime Minister’s description of this approach is to say that rather than simply acting as an ‘ATM’ (automatic teller machine) for the States, the Commonwealth will actively invest to achieve broader outcomes and benefits. This is being achieved through detailed negotiations between the local and state authorities with the Commonwealth to lock in the broader benefits.
The two initial City Deals contained in the 2017-18 Budget, Townsville and Launceston, do not include specific cycling elements. The next deal off the blocks, the Western Sydney City Deal, will include a focus on active travel. Assistant Minister Taylor made this point to members of the Cities Reference Group in their first meeting. The CPF’s Stephen Hodge was appointed to this national reference group in March 2017.
Three activities were included in the Budget and follow the Prime Minister’s January 2017 Press Club announcement of a focus on preventative health.
The Healthy Heart Initiative will invest $15m over 4 years from 2017-18 for cardio-vascular programs delivered through partnerships with the Heart Foundation and General Practitioners. It might be time to finally get ‘health scripts’ prescribing cycling to patients not getting enough incidental physical activity!
This program is made up of $10m which will be invested over 4 years for the PM’s Walk for Life Challenge in partnership with the Heart Foundation and $5m will be used to develop education and training material in partnership with the College of GPs to enhance the knowledge and skills of GPs to better manage overweight and obese patients.
The established Sporting Schools Program continues with an additional $59.6m to take it through to the end of 2018. Some cycling programs have been rolled out in schools as part of this.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has mentioned a National Sports Plan in his Budget media release and the Heart Foundation is reporting that it will be aimed at boosting participation from the community level through to elite and that it will be funded by a national lottery.