Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : December 2010 Contents futurebuilding 45
Turchini laments gumption defcit in Australia's infrastructure battle
One example? The 1,600km train
line between Cape Town and Pretoria --
covering often harsh and remote terrain --
is completely electrifed.
‘We’re so far from having electrifcation
from [Sydney] to Perth, no one has even
talked about it,' Turchini says.
'South Africa is a developing country,
but they can still afford something like
that. For us, it's not even on the radar.'
For the 64-year-old Turchini, who
will step down at the end of the year, this
observation underscores a serious lack of
political will and vision in Australia.
'Despite what politicians may say,
population numbers will swell, people will
get older, and the country needs to renew
its transport, hospitals and other services if
it wants to keep pace.
'You can't stall population growth in
Australia -- you can only provide for it,'
'Unless we have more people to pay
tax to support more older people, the
country is going to grind to a halt. Growth
is inevitable. The only problem that this
country has in accepting more people is
the lack of infrastructure.'
Turchini's sentiments should come
as no surprise. He refused to back away
from headline-grabbing comments during
the Federal election at IPA's Partnerships
conference, where he openly advocated
for the contribution immigrants have and
continue to make to this country.
For Turchini, though, migration is more
than a way of simply boosting numbers.
It's a way of ensuring that the country
is infused with ambition, ingenuity and
determination; something that he's seen
Turchini is an immigrant himself,
having travelled with his family from
northern Italy to Australia at the age of four.
His parents, he says, were determined to
improve their lives, and show family back
in Europe that they had made the right
'My parents were focused on writing
back to tell the rest of the family they'd
done well,' Turchini says.
'This whole boat people topic is a
non-issue. It’s scaremongering.’
His family's determination is
something Turchini has used to good
effect throughout his career.
Starting as a draughtsman at Electric
Power Transmission in 1964 while
studying to be a civil engineer, he
eventually worked his way up the ranks to
become a project manager, before moving
to Leighton Contractors in 1981.
After joining Leighton, Turchini
headed up the effort to build Sydney's
M5 Motorway – the frst modern PPP. Few
banks, he recalls, could be persuaded
to lend into what was then an untried
business model. Turchini remembers that
he even had to endure scorn heaped on
the project by some unexpected sources,
including his then boss and mentor, Keith
Bennett, who eventually stepped down as
managing director of Leighton Contractors
'I remember Keith saying to me: "As long
as my arse points to the ground, that job
will never go. You're wasting your time."
‘That was like waving a red fag to me. I
decided I wouldn't give up.'
Over 23 years at Leighton, Turchini
eventually became the company's general
manager for NSW and ACT, overseeing
projects that included the M5 South West
Motorway, the Eastern Distributor, M7
motorways, the Sydney Harbour Casino,
and Angel Place, before retiring in 2004.
Turchini was talked out of retirement to
help turn Baulderstone around in 2005. He
had to move fast to boost earnings, revamp
bidding priorities, and keep talented staff as
the country’s resources boom intensifed.
'If I had known the extent of the
challenges I would face, I may not have
accepted the job,' Turchini jokes. 'Morale
was poor, management was poor. The
outlook was bad.
'I had to ask myself, "How do I change
perception of what the company is?"'
Turchini insisted on personally signing
off on all projects, and narrowing the
company's bid range to projects that were
closer to home and more in line with its skill
set, while avoiding high-profle projects with
low proft margins. Baulderstone has also
focused on balancing its business revenues
from both building and civil engineering.
Turchini asked section chiefs to identify
their most talented staff, offering them
signifcant incentives to stay. He sketched
out overarching proft targets, but left
managers to map out how they would
The result is a company whose operating
revenue and work in hand exceeded two
billion dollars in 2009.
‘I feel very satisfed,’ Turchini says.
At the same time as Baulderstone's
image and outlook was recovering and
strengthening, the PPP model that Turchini
had used to such great effect on the M5 was
coming under pressure.
Rick Turchini, Managing Director, Baulderstone
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