Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : December 2011 Contents 8
Volume 2 Number 2
Tyrwhitt outlines his vision for Leighton
Continued from page 6
Tyrwhitt maintains he takes his inspiration from
his company’s staff, rather than other business
leaders. He credits a curious engineering mind that’s
hungry for data and analysis for helping him get
across his wide reaching company.
‘A few years ago I realised I work for the people
of Leighton. One of the privileges of this job is that
you get to travel a lot and meet a wide variety of
‘People are comfortable giving me advice. One
of the things about engineers, in general, and why
engineers run a lot of companies, is that our desire for
information and knowledge and process information
is there – it’s not closed.’
His punishing international travel schedule has
given him first-hand experience with infrastructure
throughout the region, Tyrwhitt says.
Australia risks losing productivity unless it
reinvests in its infrastructure, he says. The trouble is
a lack of long-term planning, which he chalks up to
the challenges of governing in a democracy.
Models for good government planning are
emerging, pointing most recently to the establishment
of Infrastructure NSW. Still, the New South Wales
Government will have its work cut out for it in the
‘Sydney and New South Wales have a long way
to go to catch up. Having consistent infrastructure
is what makes states, regions and cities both livable
and efficient in the future. Companies set up their
bases of operations where it’s the most efficient,’
‘It’s a big country with a small population. It has an
incredible need to boost productivity and efficiency.
A big component of that is infrastructure.’
Tyrwhitt points to Victoria as a benchmark for
reform. That state’s ambitious reform agenda and
the massive asset sales programme commenced by
Premier Jeff Kennett and Treasurer Alan Stockdale
seeded a massive capacity for investment in
‘Look back at Victoria, when Kennett came in
during the mid-1990s and the changes he made,
and the fact that succeeding governments continued
on that plan. Victoria now has some fantastic
infrastructure in place, like its roads and transport.’
Tyrwhitt wouldn’t be drawn on the Federal
Government’s handling of the country’s infrastructure
priorities. Even so, he warned against misusing any
revenue earned from the government’s carbon tax.
‘If the carbon tax went back into renewables, or
went back into industry to make Australia relevant
for competitors, then I would have no issue.
‘What I do have an issue with, though, is if
sectors are taxed and the money does not go back
into improving the efficiency and sustainability of
the nation. My issue is not about the tax, my issue is
what is done with the taxpayer’s money.’
In coming years, Leighton will aim to win business
through its parent, Hochtief, and its parent’s new
owner, Spanish building giant ACS, which bought
the German company earlier this year, Tyrwhitt
Leighton is targeting ACS’s broad portfolio of
investments, which range from solar power to soccer
club Real Madrid.
‘We have incredible opportunities to leverage off
of our relationships,’ Tyrwhitt says, adding that the
company is ready to form joint ventures with any
company that brings intellectual property and other
benefits to the sector.
‘If we can go out and work with any company
that brings IP or innovation or delivery experience or
access funds, we’ll go out and look at companies,’
Even so, securing a steady stream of new skills to
keep pace with the boom in mining investment will
remain a focus, says Tyrwhitt, stating that he’s happy
with senior management heading up the company’s
‘I’m very happy with the team right now. Do we
need depth? Yes. It’s a challenge for Leighton as well
as other companies in the sector.
‘We continue to have people challenges but we
aren’t having problems because of shortages.’
A graduate of the University of Western Australia,
Tyrwhitt was captain of the engineering club as well
as the rugby team, in which he was a hooker. The
trouble was he had to stop playing in his final year
because he was knocked out too many times.
Tyrwhitt likens working at Leighton to playing
a team sport where projects have to strike the right
‘We are all about assembling a team together to
do a project. The similarity between this and sport is
closer than in any other industry.
‘If you have a team of just a bunch of strikers or a
bunch of goalies, you don’t win. Right now we have
the right people in the right sectors and the right
Maybe so, but Tyrwhitt admits the sport analogy
with Leighton only goes so far.
‘At Leighton I’ve never been knocked out.’
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