Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Volume 8 Number 1 Contents futurebuilding
The Hon Mark Birrell
and connectivity, infrastructure services and reliability standards
need to improve markedly in our largest urban centres.
We should aim to spread growth more evenly across the
whole country, particularly to capital cities, such as Adelaide,
Hobart and Darwin. Governments can pull policy levers to
influence the population trajectory. Concentrating on spreading
the growth will also help to strengthen the infrastructure
agenda in cities like Newcastle, Geelong, Wollongong and
other regional cities.
4. Infrastructure is about... globalisation
Trade growth will be the other major driver of growth (although less
discussed than population growth), and it reflects the megatrend
that will keep shaping Australia: globalisation. So, a clear focus
on our major trade gateways and how resources, products and
services are moved to international markets, is essential.
It is Australia’s good fortune to be in the fastest-growing
region for international trade, the Asia-Pacific. We need
continued improvement of airports and seaports in order to
facilitate the record-breaking expected levels of exports and
imports that globalisation will bring.
This requires careful planning to ensure that we improve
freight links and ease choke points in our supply chains. All
three levels of government will be required to work together.
I look forward to the recommendations from the Federal
Government’s national supply chain strategy, which must foster
enhanced business performance and new employment. If we
get this right, the result will be more effective logistics and the
strengthening of world-class assets like the nation’s largest port,
Melbourne, our largest airport, Sydney, and our great resource
hubs in the Pilbara and Gladstone regions.
5. Infrastructure is about... transformational projects
Transformational projects are the fifth notable ingredient of
infrastructure planning that deserves highlighting.
Great role models today include Sydney’s new Metro project
and the Melbourne Metro Tunnel. Ring-roads, like the M80
in Victoria, rank highly, and Sydney’s Barangaroo is another
example, as it is transforming disused land into a world-scale
commercial asset with integrated transport.
In Queensland, the Gold Coast Light Rail is a fine example
of what can be achieved when all levels of government work
together. The Light Rail improves the city by reducing congestion,
connecting the expanded university and new hospital, and
supporting tourism. It is also a real example of value capture.
In Western Australia, Perth’s City Link project is another
transformational project; it removed a barrier through the central
business district and enhanced public transport. We need to
keep focusing on such projects – be they small or large.
Similarly, corridor protection is vital to shaping Australia’s
future infrastructure. New South Wales deserves credit for
preserving a corridor that will provide for a new Outer Sydney
Orbital, and Victoria is protecting the planned new outer ring-
road in Melbourne. Corridor protection safeguards the options
for nation-building initiatives.
6. Infrastructure is about... reform
Australia has implemented a range of structural reforms over
the last 30 years at both federal and state levels, which has
improved our economic performance and the operation of
the public sector, and has strengthened regulatory settings to
create national markets.
If we are to address the cause of infrastructure problems,
not just the symptoms, policy reform should be the centrepiece
of any infrastructure debate.
Reforms in areas such as telecommunications and energy
have created better infrastructure in those sectors – and have
directly advanced service delivery for consumers – but there
now needs to be policy change over the coming decade to the
We need to investigate options for a land-transport
market and road-pricing reform. Australia has tackled the
engineering and construction challenges of major transport
projects, but reform is now needed so there are incentives to
provide better services to transport customers.
The current system does not fund all of our road and rail
needs, and is unfair, inefficient and unsustainable. With reform,
Australia could move away from existing vehicle taxes and fuel
excises. The concept of a national transport market with road
pricing needs to be publicly investigated and debated.
7. Infrastructure is about... funding
Both public and private funding of infrastructure must increase
if Australia is to keep pace with population and trade growth.
State and federal grants must increase, coupled with strict
The Reserve Bank and other experts have stated that
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