CEO's newsletter December 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support and reflect on the productive year that it has been for Infrastructure Australia.

In February, we released the Australian Infrastructure Plan alongside a refreshed Infrastructure Priority List.

The Australian Infrastructure Plan set the nation's long-term infrastructure reform agenda, while the List provided a prioritised list of nationally-significant investments for all levels of governments to choose from.

Developed following a long engagement process, the Plan's 78 recommendations were comprehensive and long-term, and included fundamental changes to the way we plan, invest in, deliver and use our infrastructure.

Some of our recommendations were challenging, but we were pleased to see how the Plan prompted valuable debate about the future of Australia's infrastructure and our willingness as a nation to undertake much-needed reform.

The Australian Government's response to the Plan, which was delivered on November 24, supported 69 of the Plan's recommendations, and committed to progressing a number of vital reforms.

The Government's commitment to develop a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy will be particularly important in meeting our future infrastructure needs, as is the study to be led by an eminent Australian on the potential benefits and impacts of road market reform.

Another important commitment in the Government's response to the Plan is the increased investment in planning and project development work to bring forward business cases for the projects now listed on the Infrastructure Priority List.

Infrastructure Priority List

Beyond the Government's commitment to further investment in planning and project development work, 2016 was also a successful year in the development of the Infrastructure Priority List.

The Infrastructure Australia Board assessed 18 nationally significant projects for inclusion on the Infrastructure Priority List. This is the highest number of business cases assessed by Infrastructure Australia in a calendar year and totals close to $60 billion in infrastructure investment.

Some of the projects assessed this year include:

  • M4 Motorway upgrade—NSW
  • Western Sydney Airport—NSW
  • M80 Ring Road Upgrade—VIC
  • Inland Rail—National
  • M1 Pacific Motorway-Gateway Motorway Merge Upgrade (southbound lanes)—QLD
  • North-South Corridor (Darlington Upgrade Project)—SA
  • Perth —Forrestfield Airport Rail Link—WA

Through our rigorous assessment framework, we've developed a highly credible, consensus list of critical infrastructure investments that is being used by all sides of politics to guide project selection.

The important role the List now plays in guiding investment decisions was no more apparent than during this year's federal election campaign.

We were pleased to see that the vast majority of High Priority and Priority Projects from the Infrastructure Priority List—projects for which we have received and assessed a business case for—received funding commitments from both major parties in the lead up to the election.

Launching our infrastructure Reform Series

In addition to assessing business cases for major infrastructure projects, we have also been busy progressing our policy and research program.

Last week, we also released the first paper in our infrastructure Reform Series, Capturing Value: Advice on making value capture work in Australia.

Noting that detailed, long-term strategic planning is the foundation of effective value capture, this advisory paper provides guidance to governments and the private sector on how value capture can be applied in the Australian context.

We believe value capture can work in Australia and should be regularly considered for all public infrastructure projects, but it is important to be realistic about the role it can play.

A key principle for government is that value capture mechanisms must be transparent in their application, engaging industry and the community about how much is being raised, from whom, and how all parties will benefit.

The year ahead

2017 will see Infrastructure Australia continue to progress our policy and research program through our new Reform Series, while also supporting the implementation of the key investments and reforms recommended in the Plan.

With 14 business cases currently under assessment for inclusion on the Infrastructure Priority List in the coming year, we remain focused on improving outcomes for infrastructure users.

That's why in co-operation with governments, business, peak bodies and the wider community, we will also continue our efforts to improve project selection through our rigorous process for assessing business cases for major infrastructure projects.

Next year, we will continue to refine our business case assessment framework in collaboration with our federal, state and territory colleagues to ensure that it remains fit for purpose and best practice.

On behalf of everyone at Infrastructure Australia, I wish you a safe and restful Christmas break. We look forward to working with you again in 2017 to drive better outcomes for infrastructure users across the country.

Philip Davies
Chief Executive, Infrastructure Australia