Philip Davies, CEO of Infrastructure Australia, says the Australian Infrastructure Plan emphasises the need to pursue infrastructure reform that would see more services delivered through well-regulated markets.
With Australian governments at all levels pursuing better infrastructure decision-making and delivery, there has never been a more critical time for engineers to engage with opportunities for infrastructure reform.
In the past 12 months, Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria have released state infrastructure plans outlining their investment and reform priorities over the coming years.
Nationally, the Federal Government delivered its response to Infrastructure Australia’s 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan, which contained 78 recommendations to support the delivery of effective and affordable energy, telecommunications, water and transport services.
Through consultation with more than 500 stakeholders in every state and territory, including more than 100 formal submissions from governments, peak bodies and the private sector, we developed a plan that strongly advocates for better long-term infrastructure planning and improved governance frameworks around project selection and delivery to ensure the best outcomes for infrastructure users.
In addition to improvements around infrastructure planning and delivery, the plan emphasises the need to pursue reforms that would see more infrastructure services delivered through well-structured, well-regulated markets.
It is significant then that the Australian government has committed to progressing a series of vital reforms and investments that will ultimately deliver better services for infrastructure users around the country. We need to ensure existing infrastructure is used more efficiently, with a focus on maintenance and the use of new technology, to secure service improvements.
Recognising that investment in project development work results in better project selection, the Government has already provided $50 million in the 2016-17 Budget to accelerate planning and development works on major transformational projects.
Using government incentive payments to drive infrastructure reform at the state and territory level is another important recommendation that received support at a national level. The renewed focus on metropolitan rail in our capital cities will see the Federal Government work with state governments to develop urban rail plans for Australia’s five major cities.
Another important element of the Government’s infrastructure agenda is its commitment to develop a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy and commission an eminent Australian to lead a study on the potential benefits and impacts of road market reform.
It was also pleasing to see the government’s support for our recommendation to make federal funding contingent on post-completion reviews of major infrastructure projects. These are vital to assess the project delivery against initial expectations, and provide important lessons regarding what worked and what did not.
Critically, these processes should be transparent to the public. Making project data and analysis publicly available, including the publication of a project business case, exposes government processes to scrutiny, allowing assumptions to be tested and lessons to be identified and shared.
If we can work together to progress the reform agenda outlined in the Australian Infrastructure Plan, we will secure the social and economic benefits that come from great infrastructure.
Australia’s Infrastructure Reform Agenda
- Improving Project Development: Increased investment in planning and project development work.
- Corridor Protection: Working to protect transport corridors and precincts for the future.
- Post-Completion Reviews: In principle support to make Australian government funding contingent on agreeing to post-completion reviews.
- Metropolitan Rail Planning: Working with state governments to develop urban rail plans for Australia’s five major cities.
- National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy: Identifying the network constraints and gaps, and the investments needed to overcome these challenges.
- Road Market Reform: A study, led by an eminent Australian, on the potential benefits and impacts of road market reform.
- Incentives for Infrastructure Reform: In principle support for using Federal Government incentive payments to drive infrastructure reform at the state and territory level.
- Streamlining Public Funding: Examining opportunities to streamline the public funding streams for infrastructure to deliver greater efficiency and reduce overlap.