Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Issue 1 Contents But it is a little lopsided. Regions driven by the resource industry
are where the action is. The Gorgon Gas project alone, in WA, is
worth around $43 billion. We are again starting to see images
in the media of hundreds of huge ships at anchor off Australian
ports waiting to take on cargo, forced to wait as a result of local
Resources industry-driven infrastructure is perhaps the easiest
to tackle (if indeed "easiest" is a word that is at all appropriate in
this context). The demand is certainly manifest. Although hardly
simple or small, such infrastructure initiatives are often away from,
or separate from major urban centres, they are often single purpose
Business cases are clear and the funding is generally easier to raise
compared to major urban infrastructure projects. Not that these
resources-driven projects are small and simple projects -- the
challenges are substantial, and the numbers are big -- in terms
of production, cost, and value. Just one of QR's freight haulage
contracts for yet another WA iron ore company, Gindalbie Metals,
is estimated to run for 10 years at over 11 million tonnes per year,
making it worth some $1.2 billion over the life of the contract. And
that of course is just one of many projects.
transport projects like a second airport for Sydney and fast passenger
and freight rail have been on the "to do" list for some time.
There are also major national projects with national security
implications -- communications, transport, ports, defence -- before
we get to the notoriously complicated battleground of major urban
centres, and all the challenges of a growing population. Inadequate
public transport, congestion, pollution, water, power, public safety
Funding is one challenge, and availability of labour is another,
especially in the resources industry-driven states. Chamber
of Commerce and Industry Western Australia (CCIWA) chief
economist John Nicolaou told a conference in Perth recently that
the biggest issue for business would be labour shortages.
"The early signs are that labour scarcity will become a major
issue for WA businesses," he said, adding that three quarters of
WA businesses already cited labour shortages as a concern, and
that WA would need an additional 400,000 workers by 2017 to
support huge projects such as Gorgon and Pluto, as well as the
ongoing growth of the iron ore industry.
About two-thirds of the growth was expected to come from
overseas migration, but even so the state expects to be short about
150,000 workers. In February, federal Minister for Immigration
and Citizenship, Chris Evans, announced that state- and territory-
to the skilled migration program.
The CCIWA also wants government to prioritise the delivery
of infrastructure projects so the public and private sectors are not
competing for labour, or what it calls the "crowding out" effect.
Timing public projects for when private activity eases would
stabilise the economy and ensure that investment was maintained
in the cases of activity in the private sector dropping off.
There is much about Australian infrastructure and our standards
of living that makes us very fortunate indeed to live in Australia.
But the challenges we face are substantial.
Having survived the GFC, long-term challenges remain.
Better infrastructure will help us better meet those challenges.
Infrastructure is and will remain a key marker of our civilisation.
Creating it will both test the nation, and enhance it immeasurably.
...nation building after the GFC
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