CANBERRA, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- Australia must spend hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure to cope with population growth over the next 15 years, a government report warned.
An audit released by Infrastructure Australia on Tuesday said that the government must invest 600 billion Australian dollars (405.3 billion U.S. dollars) in major projects over 15 years to prevent living standards from going backwards.
The 700-page report, the first compiled by the government agency since 2015, criticized the government for inadequate spending and policy inconsistency.
It found that the 100 billion AUD (67.5 billion USD) infrastructure spend promised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and record levels of state funding would not be enough to keep up with rapid population growth.
Australia's population is expected to grow to 31.4 million by 2034 - a 23.7-percent increase.
A vast majority of that growth is expected to occur in the nation's four biggest cities - Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
"Population growth offers enormous economic opportunities but the risk is that our infrastructure fails to keep pace with demand, and this impacts productivity, quality of life and the liveability of our cities and regional centers," Infrastructure Australia chief executive Romilly Madew said.
"It is clear that changing and growing demand and a maintenance backlog is putting unprecedented pressure on infrastructure services."
According to the audit, the annual cost of road congestion to the Australian economy is expected to grow from 18.9 billion AUD currently to 38.8 billion AUD by 2031.
While 96 percent of Australians living in the inner city were within walking distance of public transport, only 34 percent of those in the suburbs could do so.
The Reserve Bank of Australia has called on Morrison to significantly increase infrastructure spending to boost the struggling economy but the government has so far been resistant to the idea.