Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Volume 8 Number 1 Contents futurebuilding 39
The Hon Mark Birrell
using taxpayer funds to initiate productivity-enhancing new
infrastructure is good for the nation. Equally, facilitating private
involvement in the construction or management of infrastructure
is important, because public funds are scarce, and there are
many other legitimate demands placed on governments for the
use of public funds.
If we are to secure the improvements in living standards
and economic outcomes that infrastructure can provide, we
have to attract more public and private investment into good
Be it new projects, or investing in existing infrastructure
through better maintenance, Australia must invest with
confidence, funding projects that have been the subject of
respected feasibility studies and business plans. Then we
will see more of the infrastructure sought by business and
8. Infrastructure is about... teamwork
Teamwork is vital to building successful infrastructure, be it
the multidisciplinary teams drawn together to deliver a project,
or the teams that work across governments and business to
provide and operate infrastructure assets and networks.
The evidence of federal and state jurisdictions working
collaboratively has been mixed, but is light-years ahead of
where it used to be. There is greater dialogue across state
borders, and notable cooperation on some major projects that
require joint federal and state funding or approvals.
Mutually agreed project pipelines are becoming a reality,
as are shared infrastructure plans and consistent national
regulations. But there is still work to be done.
As to the public and private sectors working as a team,
progress has been good. The appetite for partnerships is strong
within governments, and the capacity of senior state public
servants is very high. I urge companies and peak organisations
to continue raising new development and procurement ideas
If business continues role-modelling what it can do – and
how it contributes to meeting the infrastructure task – we can
jointly ensure that our needs are met.
9. Infrastructure is about... technology
Whether it is using big data held by infrastructure agencies
or companies, or sensor-driven data that improves asset
performance, it is critical that we, as a sector, take full advantage
of the improvements that technological advancement offers.
Technological convergence is the final megatrend I want to
highlight, as it will impact all infrastructure types.
Automation may have the most visible impact, but improved
operating systems will work behind the scenes to modernise
everything from signalling and ticketing, through to metering
systems that empower customers.
Most important of all, technology has the real potential to
make our infrastructure more sustainable and resilient. It is
incumbent upon the infrastructure sector to remove barriers that
can impede the adoption of new technology.
10. Infrastructure is about... optimism
The vision for Australia’s infrastructure should always be
ambitious and optimistic. Of the 10 ingredients I have listed
here to answer the question ‘What is infrastructure all about?’,
optimism is the most important. It reflects our confidence as
a nation and our preparedness to address future challenges,
such as population and trade growth.
Being optimistic about the way we run infrastructure will
see us explore new and potentially better ways of delivering
and paying for infrastructure services. A crucial precondition is
having governments with courage, and a private sector that is
ready to step up and support them.
I will conclude by mentioning a project currently underway
that has all these characteristics: the Sydney Metro. It embodies
engineering ambition and construction excellence, it arose from
long-term capacity planning, and it uses innovative methods
of delivery and operation. It’s a fine example of the public and
private sectors working together to advance the public interest.
The Sydney Metro project is also what good government
is all about – planning well, leading confidently and investing
for the next generation and beyond. We need more of these
projects, and more examples of the leadership that makes great
Mark Birrell – Chairman, Infrastructure Australia
Mark Birrell was the founding Chairman of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and served in this position until 2013.
He is an experienced company director with credentials spanning the private and public sectors. Currently, his roles include being the Chairman of Infrastructure
Australia, Regis Healthcare Limited, the Port of Melbourne Corporation and PostSuper Pty Ltd.
Mr Birrell’s previous roles have included being Chairman of Evans & Peck Limited, Deputy Chairman of the Australian Postal Corporation, and national leader of
the infrastructure group at Minter Ellison Lawyers. In the 1990s, he was a Cabinet Minister and Government Leader in the Victorian Upper House, a time when
he initiated and oversaw numerous successful capital works projects.
Mr Birrell is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, holds a Bachelor of Economics and a Bachelor of Law, and has been admitted to practice
as a barrister and solicitor.
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