Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, touting his visionary and nation-building credentials, told the faithful at the Liberals' campaign launch in Brisbane: "We'll build the roads of the 21st century because I hope to be an infrastructure prime minister who puts bulldozers on the ground and cranes into our skies."
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, with similar aspirations, promised action at last on the long and fraught plans to link the eastern state capitals with very fast trains carrying 83 million passengers a year at 350km/h by 2050.
Committing funds to finalise the trains' route and to set aside the land needed, Rudd said of the total A$114 billion ($130 billion) bill: "It would cost less than Mr Abbott's unaffordable, unfair paid parental leave scheme over the same period of time ... what is more necessary for the nation's future?"
The Greens have gone further, proposing a A$664 million plan to fast-track high-speed rail with a further A$570 million for an environmental impact study.
It used to be promises of more dams that heralded a federal election campaign. Now the buzzword is infrastructure. Both sides hope to convince voters they can best clear up urban congestion, fix decaying roads and bridges, bring communications into the 21st century and build more ports.
The headaches of getting between home and work in the nation's big cities are painful enough. But the complete list of Australia's pressing infrastructure needs is staggering.
Engineers Australia estimates there is a backlog of engineering construction projects of more than half a trillion dollars.
Huge spending is needed on roads, ports and rail, water supply systems are struggling, and much regional infrastructure is neglected.
Congestion in cities has become a serious political issue, especially in areas such as western Sydney. In Brisbane the cost of congestion will reach an estimated A$9 billion a year by 2015, eclipsing even Sydney and Melbourne.
Beyond the cities, local councils want more than A$1 billion a year in federal funding to help maintain their ailing 650,000km network of minor roads and bridges. The main parties understand the powerful links between votes and inadequate and decaying infrastructure. They are battling over competing plans for high-speed broadband: Labor pushing its A$37 billion fibre optic network, the Coalition its plan for a far cheaper network using existing copper wire technology.
Rudd and Abbott have also been hitting projects identified as voters' top priorities in marginal seats.
In Victoria, they have promised to match their rival's spending on the Calder Highway, running through the state to the outback borders with New South Wales and Queensland.
In Melbourne, Labor pledged A$3 billion towards the Metro commuter rail link, while Abbott promised A$1.5 billion for a new east-west toll road.