CEO's newsletter June 2018

Prioritising Reform paper

As the nation’s independent infrastructure advisor, Infrastructure Australia is committed to advancing a national reform agenda that delivers inclusive and enduring benefits for all Australians.

The reform roadmap outlined in the 2016 Australian Infrastructure Plan, was designed to drive productivity, improve our standard of living and deliver world-class services in our cities and regions.

However, as we acknowledged at the time, the Plan would only be as good as the commitments and leadership that followed.

Meeting the challenges of tomorrow would require a national consensus to inspire change and a willingness from our political leaders to stay the course over the long term.

To keep up the momentum on infrastructure reform we have continued to expand the evidence base for our recommendations.

This includes through our Reform Series, which makes the case for reforms that will help meet the future needs of Australia’s growing population. This series has covered topics as diverse as value capture, public transport franchising, corridor protection, urban water, future cities planning and the case for infrastructure reform incentives.

To further make the case for reform, we have today released a new report, Prioritising Reform, which reviews the progress made against the key recommendations in the 2016 Plan.

Prioritising Reform: Progress on the 2016 Australian Infrastructure Plan assesses how far the key recommendations made in the Plan have progressed since its release in 2016 and where action is lagging.

Progress and setbacks

Our Prioritising Reform report found that clear improvements have been made across the infrastructure sector in the past two years – however there remains a great deal to be done.

We have been pleased, for example, to see progress on the integration of land use and transport planning, addressing transport pinch points, heavy vehicle road charging and corridor protection.

After working closely with states and territories, we have also seen improvements in the quality of business cases developed for major infrastructure projects. We are pleased to have contributed to this by hosting workshops across the country to bring government officials and their advisers together to improve the quality of cost-benefit analysis and business cases.

However, in other key areas, there has been little or no progress.

While the Australian Government signalled its support for the Plan’s recommendation for an inquiry into road user charging reform – with a view to transitioning to a fairer and more efficient user-pays approach – such an inquiry is yet to emerge. Efforts have been fraught in the energy market to address issues caused by the influx of new technologies, new methods of managing supply and demand and regulatory uncertainty. Progress on urban water reform has stalled and in telecommunications, the National Broadband Network (NBN) has faced hurdles in meeting rising demand for high-speed data connectivity.

While the quality of business cases for infrastructure projects has improved, we remain concerned by early stage announcements by governments and oppositions in advance of detailed analysis of these business cases and evaluation by Infrastructure Australia. Such early funding announcements can foreclose on alternative, possibly better value, options.

The way we plan for infrastructure can still be improved, although we have been seeing stronger collaboration between jurisdictions. With a growing population, the lack of a national population policy can lead to uncertainty in infrastructure decision making, as can a lack of guidance for industry on emissions policy.

Momentum for change

Many of the infrastructure reforms outlined in the Plan are politically challenging and will require leadership and commitments over the long term – but the enduring benefits they offer to all Australians calls for action.

We hope that with Prioritising Reform we will be able to build momentum for action on the key recommendations put forward in the Plan, to secure the social and economic benefits of great infrastructure for many generations to come.

Call for submission

In July we will be seeking submissions for the next update of the Infrastructure Priority List, which will be published in February 2019.

We are calling on Australian governments and non-government bodies to identify infrastructure problems and opportunities of national significance. We welcome proposals for all types of infrastructure, including programs of related works and programs for network optimisation and encourage you to discuss these submissions with us as they are prepared.

For more information please email iplsubmissions@infrastructure.gov.au

Thank you.

Philip Davies
Chief Executive, Infrastructure Australia