Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : December 2010 Contents An important feature of the recent election campaign was
the new consensus between the Australian Government and
Opposition about the role of Infrastructure Australia as the skilled,
independent adviser to government. The points of difference
were not about the existence or requirement for an independent
expert adviser to government, but instead about the degree of
independence and rigour that the organisation should employ.
We need Infrastructure Australia, and we need it better
resourced to do more.
The end of the initial funding and mandate provides the
opportunity for Infrastructure Australia to be given permanency and
be established alongside the likes of the Productivity Commission
or the National Water Commission.
A strengthened, well-resourced Infrastructure Australia would
have much greater effect in terms of considering and driving
major regulatory reforms like road pricing, or opportunities to
drive superannuation investment into infrastructure projects, or
removing the crazy inconsistencies in planning and procurement
that exist across state boundaries.
An upgraded Infrastructure Australia could play an important
role as a whole-of-government resource – giving independent,
strategic oversight to project planning by state and federal
departments that is free from short-term consideration or
I believe that the professional public service would take
comfort in this oversight, because it would test and support good
decision-making and create an ally for projects that are in the
But the challenge is that Infrastructure Australia's role must be
supported by a permanent mechanism for the Commonwealth to
bring sound projects forward.
If Canberra is going to be a long-term partner in addressing
shortfalls across the national infrastructure network, then we
need to see further funding to bring the next generation of major
projects to life.
With the Building Australia Fund depleted, and no certainty of
further surplus Budgets in the immediate future, this will require a
new funding mechanism.
The ability of Canberra to drive state collaboration and adoption
of national best practice reforms to project selection, procurement
and prioritisation is predicated on the ability to reward or sanction
states for achieving – or not achieving – well-considered national
Infrastructure Australia's major output is a prioritised pipeline
of infrastructure projects. But a pipeline of projects without any
capacity to advance those projects could start to look more like a
As the economy continues to recover, it is most likely that the
Federal Government balance sheet will enjoy revenues not currently
anticipated. These must be used responsibly to pay down debt, and
to fund new, productivity-boosting projects.
While I have necessarily pointed to many of the challenges
facing Australia's infrastructure and economy, like congestion costs
and the shortfall of infrastructure investment, there is cause for
The maturity of the public debate about infrastructure, the
awareness of policymakers of the scale and importance of
infrastructure challenges, the focus of business and government on
productivity enhancement, and the consensus between the major
parties about the need for a way forward on major infrastructure
policy issues are cause for optimism.
Australia needs to get things right on diffcult policy issues like:
• transport taxation reform;
• harnessing retirement savings for public infrastructure;
• upgrading the role and independence of Infrastructure
• a renewal of Federal funding for nationally signifcant
• resolving carbon pricing; and
• delivering freight market reform.
If Parliament can deliver on these, Australia will get a lot done.
With the right leadership and seasoned debate about the
way forward, Australia can get its infrastructure right within this
Australia will meet the challenges posed by population growth.
Australia's governments and industry have the capacity and the
confdence to bring forward projects of an unprecedented scale and
complexity -- like an $8 billion project for Brisbane's rail network.
We are looking at these projects because we have a real ambition
as a nation, industry and community, about the future. Australia will
achieve all of these outcomes, if we have the courage to examine
real changes, and if we can avoid the insanity of doing the same
things over and over again and expecting different results. n
70 futurebuilding DECEMBER 2010
Transforming Australia: An address to the National Press Club
Australia will achieve all
of these outcomes, if
we have the courage to
examine real changes, and
if we can avoid the insanity
of doing the same things
over and over again and
expecting different results.
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