Busy Australian infrastructure

Following a review, the Federal Government has released plans to restore Infrastructure Australia back to 2008 roots as a rigorous, expert and independent advisory body to support the development of better infrastructure for Australia’s future. 

The mid 2022 review recommended Infrastructure Australia have a clearer purpose with a legislated mandate, and that its role as a national adviser be enhanced and that its governance structure be reformed.

The changes the Federal Government will put in place will result in a stronger, more focused Infrastructure Australia with a mandate to oversee projects from idea to completion so the significant investment by taxpayers is spent wisely and well for their benefit.

Infrastructure Australia will:

  • Produce a more refined, smaller, targeted Infrastructure Priority List
  • Develop a national planning and assessment framework to support national consistency in infrastructure assessment
  • Adopt a more active role in the post completion stage of infrastructure projects
  • Adopt a structure for Infrastructure Australia to work closely with the infrastructure bodies (i-bodies) set up by states and territories.

Infrastructure Australia will also be led by a new governance model, with the current board to be replaced by three commissioners supported by an advisory board with experts from infrastructure and related sectors and senior public service officials. 

The Federal Government will make announcements about transitional arrangements for the current board in the near future.

Some of these changes will require legislation but others will commence as soon as practicable.

These decisions will strengthen the foundations for better decisions on significant infrastructure investment with better outcomes for Australians. They add to the Government’s decisions already taken to improve the way it considers and delivers infrastructure for Australians such as revitalising proper urban policy to bring back national leadership to the sustainable development of cities.

The Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Catherine King, said it is time for renewal.

“The Government commissioned a review of Infrastructure Australia in July by Nicole Lockwood and Mike Mrdak to recommend a new way forward, and the Government thanks them for their work,” Ms King said. 

“I would also like to thank the staff of Infrastructure Australia for their patience and understanding as the review has been conducted.

“That review is complete and its recommendations and government response have been considered by Cabinet.”

Ms King said the Government has introduced the regional precincts and partnership program to provide transformative investment to regional and rural communities and support the transition to cleaner and cheaper energy. 

“With these strengthened foundations, we can build the infrastructure Australia needs to connect people and opportunity, to connect people with each other, and to leave a lasting legacy,” Ms King said.

Infrastructure Australia was established in 2008 by the now Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, to provide the Commonwealth with advice on developing the infrastructure investments Australia needs for a better future.

It was set up to be a rigorous, expert, independent body to provide advice to the Commonwealth Government about priority infrastructure investments.

Industry response

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia welcomed the new Infrastructure Australia model announced by the Australian Government.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Chief Executive, Adrian Dwyer, said, “The new commissioner-like governance structure means Infrastructure Australia will have a programme which is independent of voice, but not ambivalent to the Government’s strategic objectives.

“Both the new structure and the reinstatement of senior public servants to the Board are welcome, but the Government should ensure that the Board remains predominantly independent.

“Advisers should advise and governments should decide – these changes reassert that principle on both sides of the ledger.”

The IPA particularly welcomes the commitment to an Infrastructure Policy Statement setting out the Australian Government’s objectives and priorities – this is a crucial piece in the infrastructure jigsaw and will benefit Infrastructure Australia, states and territories and the Australian community.

“Infrastructure Australia has been, and should continue to be, an important part of the architecture that informs sound investment and policy decisions in the Australian infrastructure market,” Mr Dwyer said. 

“Infrastructure Australia has directly and indirectly influenced infrastructure decision making for the better. A good Infrastructure Australia is good for Australia, and these changes reinforce those foundations.

“It’s particularly welcome to see a recalibrated model that places Infrastructure Australia appropriately closer to decision making and enhances its capacity to provide timely and relevant advice without diminishing its independence.”

Roads Australia

Roads Australia (RA) says the recommendations contained in the independent review of Infrastructure Australia will help to address issues highlighted in its submission and especially welcomes moves to streamline the Infrastructure Priority List.

RA CEO, Michael Kilgariff said IA has a critical role to play in providing advice that helps generate important economic and social benefits for the infrastructure sector and the wider community

“For Infrastructure Australia to deliver optimal outcomes, it’s essential that the body is focused on the assessment of nationally significant projects and is working closely with infrastructure bodies established by state and territory governments, to ensure there is collaboration and coordination in the national project pipeline,” Mr Kilgariff said.

“RA welcomes the Federal Government’s support for reform of the Infrastructure Priority List and for establishing a structure that will ensure Infrastructure Australia works closely with state and territory infrastructure bodies.”

“These were two key recommendations in RA’s submission to the independent review, and will be central to providing more clarity and certainty for industry.”

“A smaller and more targeted Infrastructure Priority List will be valuable to industry in terms of making informed decisions regarding contracting opportunities, skills and resourcing.”

“RA looks forward to continuing to work closely with IA and supporting its role as an independent and authoritative voice informing investment decisions on nationally significant transport infrastructure.”

Australian Constructors Association 

The Australian Constructors Association has responded in agreement with the findings of the review.

Australian Constructors Association CEO, Jon Davies, said national leadership is needed more than ever and, with a sharpened focus, Infrastructure Australia is well positioned to lead positive change.

“In particular, we welcome the greater focus on sharing of lessons learned and best practice,” Mr Davies said.

There is an existing provision for state and territory delivery agencies to submit post completion reports to Infrastructure Australia under the National Partnership Agreement. However, the ACA said agencies have not been following the advice.

“The Future Australian Infrastructure Rating (FAIR) proposed by Australian Constructors Association would provide a mechanism for Infrastructure Australia to ensure agencies fulfilled this requirement,” Mr Davies said.

“Under the FAIR initiative, an online database of learnings and innovations from projects would be established where industry and clients alike can identify ways to improve on upcoming projects.

“The sharing of lessons learned is just one benefit of the FAIR initiative — the opportunity to implement reforms that will improve industry productivity, diversity, technology adoption and more are limitless.”

Mr Davies said improvements in productivity alone could save the economy $47 billion per year.

“Infrastructure Australia is well paced to undertake immediate actions needed for establishing and governing the FAIR initiative which would ultimately help the body regain its title as the government’s true infrastructure advisor,” Mr Davies said.

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