CEO's newsletter May 2017

With infrastructure a focus of the 2017–18 Federal Budget, we have seen continued public commentary on the important role infrastructure investment can play in improving living standards and boosting Australia’s economic productivity.

It was particularly pleasing to see the Federal Budget commitment to fund a number of strategic transport projects that had been identified and positively assessed by Infrastructure Australia.

Infrastructure competes for Commonwealth funds with other important programs and needs. So, as a nation, we must maintain a laser like focus on extracting every gram of value from every dollar we spend on infrastructure.

That means directing investment towards projects with proven benefits for the community—the regularly updated Infrastructure Priority List serves as the natural guide to meritorious major projects.

Australia has led the world in many aspects of infrastructure planning, procurement and delivery, but we must continue to extend and evolve our approaches.

With very significant long-term investments such as Inland Rail and Western Sydney Airport a clear part of the Federal Budget agenda, we now have a great opportunity to develop that capability further.

It’s about building on our capacity to deliver world-class infrastructure that meets the needs of our growing population and helps maintain our enviable quality of life.

As well as funding new projects, Australia also needs to pursue infrastructure reforms that improve our productivity.

In the Australian Infrastructure Plan, we identified a number of ways in which infrastructure investment and reform can help achieve this. This includes:

  1. Making better use of existing infrastructure through the use of data, analytics and technology—particularly to get our urban road and rail networks operating as effectively and efficiently as they could.
  2. Investing in integrated long term planning and business case development to prioritise the most productive infrastructure investments for the short, medium and long term.
  3. Increasing contestability and efficiency in the delivery of infrastructure services. This also means learning from Australian and overseas experiences, particularly in world leading energy, telecommunications, water and transport services.
  4. Diversifying the sources of funding available to invest in the infrastructure we need. This is critical to support our growing and ageing population.

Positive response to the latest Infrastructure Priority List

Infrastructure Australia continues to do our part to shape Australia’s cities and regions through our evidence-based process for determining Australia’s national infrastructure priorities.

Our Priority List now records the nation’s top 100 infrastructure priorities; it includes seven High Priority and 11 Priority Projects, each underpinned by a robust business case that has been approved by Infrastructure Australia’s independent board.

This is the largest-ever number of projects with full business cases to be published on the List, and reflects the record number of business cases our organisation has assessed over the past 12 months.

The fully revised Priority List also includes 82 Initiatives: infrastructure proposals that the Board believes have the potential to address a nationally-significant problem, but which require further development to ensure they are the most appropriate solution. 

We continue to receive excellent feedback from all levels of government, industry and the community on the revised Priority List. Importantly too, the release of the latest List sparked important discussions in the states and territories about the investments needed to meet future changes in infrastructure demand.

It is vital that project proponents, including the states and territories, continue to invest in developing robust business cases for new infrastructure initiatives to meet Australia’s future infrastructure challenges, including initiatives identified in the Priority List.

We look forward to receiving more business cases in coming months to help maintain a pipeline of future infrastructure investments and deliver better infrastructure outcomes across Australia.

Better business case development

Working with proponents to promote and support high quality business case development and decision making has been a key focus for our organisation in recent months.

We recently partnered with Consult Australia to host a series of Building Better Business Cases workshops across the country.

Designed to bring project proponents, government officials and their advisers together to improve the quality of cost-benefit analysis and business cases, the workshops provided a forum to discuss the process and Infrastructure Australia’s guidelines.

We had a very constructive response from those that attended the workshops and will continue the engagement process to further develop the national approach to business case development and appraisal.

Support for our mandate

The 2017–18 Federal Budget confirmed that Infrastructure Australia’s annual operational Budget has been maintained over the forward estimates.

This positive decision reflects Infrastructure Australia’s strong track record of delivering against its mandate—which is to provide independent advice on the reforms and investments Australia need to meet the challenges of the future. 

Reform papers

In the past year we’ve been busy progressing the recommendations in the Australian Infrastructure Plan through our infrastructure Reform Series, a series of advisory papers that take a more detailed look at how we address some of the issues identified in the Plan.

We remain focused on developing pathways for reform to ensure our infrastructure services are delivered through well-regulated, well-structured markets in the best interests of users.

This will help maintain our global competitiveness and drive improvements in service delivery for infrastructure users. 

We look forward to sharing new papers in our Reform Series with you in coming months.

Philip Davies
Chief Executive, Infrastructure Australia