2019 Infrastructure Priority List

Good afternoon everyone and welcome again to the launch of the 2019 Infrastructure Priority List.

Welcome too, to the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population and the Assistant Minister for Roads and Transport. We are delighted that you are both able to join us here today.

I also acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples who are the traditional custodians of the Canberra area and pay respect to the elders, past and present, of all Australia’s Indigenous peoples.

Anna Chau mentioned in her introduction that the 2019 Priority List is a particularly momentous occasion for Infrastructure Australia, and that is true in more ways than one.

Certainly, this year’s Priority List is the largest, most comprehensive and most diverse list of investments Infrastructure Australia has identified in our decade-long history.

With today’s launch of the 2019 Priority List, we are presenting 121 nationally significant proposals and a $58 billion project pipeline.

Spanning across sectors, including transport, energy, water, communications, housing and education – the 2019 Priority List will guide the next 15 years of Australian infrastructure investment.

However, this year’s Priority List is also significant because it comes at a particularly pivotal time for infrastructure decision-making in Australia.

Australia’s changing infrastructure needs

Our infrastructure needs are changing rapidly.

  • Population growth is putting additional pressure on our infrastructure networks
  • New technology is transforming our transport and energy markets, and
  • The structure of our economy is changing.

Crucially, preparing for these changes requires more than just keeping pace with demand.

To deliver high-quality, world-class infrastructure for all Australians, we need to be smarter in our decision-making.

We need to engage in forward-thinking and planning, and we need to prioritise strategic investments that seize the opportunities in front of us.

Infrastructure Australia has a critical role to play in providing a credible pipeline of investments for governments at all levels to choose from.

It’s our job to champion the ‘big picture’ view of Australia’s infrastructure needs – across sectors and across jurisdictions.

We want leaders to look beyond elections and budgetary cycles, and embrace the opportunities in the short, medium and long term to deliver better infrastructure services for all Australians.

Fundamentally, our work aims to ensure that public funds are directed towards projects that will deliver the best outcomes for Australia’s communities.

It’s about ensuring that our public infrastructure funds are spent where they are needed most.

Areas where we need to focus investment

The importance of delivering world-class public transport services in our largest cities remains a key focus of the 2019 Priority List, reflecting the challenges of a growing population.

Congestion in our cities and faster-growing regional centres not only has significant consequences for the Australian economy, but has direct impacts on communities.

It impacts people’s access to education, health services, employment and other opportunities – not to mention the world-renowned liveability of our cities and regions.

Importantly, the 2019 Priority List has this year also included a proposal to address overcrowding and poor quality housing in remote areas.

It is estimated that, in 2018, there was overcrowding in more than one-third of remote housing in Australia.

Good-quality housing underpins all targets in health, education and employment, as well as community safety, and is a critical issue for Australian communities.

We recognise that overcrowding in remote areas has been an issue for some time.

However, by including it on the Priority List now, we are sending a clear signal to governments that overcrowding in remote communities is a nationally-significant problem that must be urgently addressed in a coordinated way.  

Another opportunity for investment which many Australians would consider to be long overdue is improving safety on our regional roads.

Between 2008 and 2016, more than half of Australia’s road fatalities occurred in our regions.

This means that relative to population size, the fatality rate was more than four times greater than for major cities.

I think we can all agree that this is simply not good enough.

We have been impressed with the number of high-quality proposals submitted to us for assessment over the past year.

This reflects the Priority List’s continuing value as a pipeline of nationally significant projects and source of informed analysis of investment options for government.

Addressing future infrastructure challenges

In addition to addressing infrastructure gaps, the Priority List is also about ensuring we stay one step ahead of emerging challenges.

Many of this year’s new additions to the Priority List reflect the need for forward-thinking, ambitious solutions to support Australia’s future prosperity – such as the delivery of a national electric vehicle fast-charging network.

This has been identified for the first time as High Priority Initiative, recognising that the increase in EV take-up has both environmental and productivity benefits for Australia, but only if supported by strategic infrastructure investment. 

To give you a sense of the scale of this challenge – by 2040, EVs will account for 70% of new vehicle sales and 30% of the vehicle fleet in Australia. We currently have less than 800 charging stations, just 70 of which are fast-charging. This compares to over 6,000 petrol stations.

Transformative links are being forged between the energy and transport network. For this reason, we also want to see investment in network infrastructure to ensure that the electricity generation and distribution network can provide reliable electricity supply for additional electric vehicle chargers.

Responding to this and the broader challenges of energy security, we have highlighted the need for investment in the connectivity and reliability of our National Electricity Market in the medium to long term, and optimisation in the near term.

As with all the initiatives identified in the Priority List, our focus at this stage is on defining the problem, with the next step being for proponents to develop a range of solutions to address it.

The challenge for Australia’s governments

As we plan for the future, the challenge for Australia’s governments will be to extract the greatest value from our existing assets, and prioritise the projects that have proven benefits for our cities and regions.

Decision-makers at all levels will best serve our growing communities by continuing to consult the Priority List as a source of informed analysis on the projects that represent the best use of our infrastructure funding.

Communities rightly expect decisions on public infrastructure projects to be robust, transparent and accountable, and that projects are only committed to once planning and assessment has been done.

Our work in developing and maintaining the Priority List supports this. 

We are extremely proud of the work we have done over the past four years to establish a consistent, transparent process around how projects are assessed and how Australia’s key infrastructure priorities are determined.

We are pleased to say the quality of business cases coming to us has improved, and we are proud to have contributed to this through the assessment process we use for inclusion on the Priority List, and through our collaboration with governments and industry on specific business cases.

In the past 12 months, we have hosted Business Case Improvement workshops across the country, attended by close to 300 project proponents, government officials and their advisors.

And I’m pleased to say that more workshops will be taking place in coming months, with our first stop being Adelaide.

The Priority List is living document

Finally, I want to emphasise that the Priority List is a dynamic, living document – with projects continually moving through our assessment process and into the delivery phase.

Although we are publishing the 2019 edition here today, the Priority List is continually updated as we receive and assesses new proposals.

It is also available as an interactive map on our website, which sets out a detailed view of the infrastructure issues and opportunities identified around the country.

This provides an up-to-date view of the nationally significant investments Australia needs to meet its infrastructure challenges, and is continually updated alongside the Priority List.

Concluding remarks

I would like to sincerely thank the many contributors who have helped us to develop the 2019 Priority List – many of whom are here today –and supported our continued efforts to improve the quality of infrastructure decision-making in Australia.

We rely on the collaboration and input of people across the country, across all levels of government, across industry sectors, and within the community, to develop this list and build consensus on the infrastructure solutions our nation needs.

I would also like to acknowledge the work of Anna Chau as Acting Chief Executive and the Project Advisory team, for their tireless work in developing this year’s Priority List.

We will continue in this spirit of collaboration to progress and prioritise these nationally significant infrastructure solutions to deliver better infrastructure services for all Australians.

To formally launch the 2019 Infrastructure Priority List, I would now like to introduce the Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Michael McCormack.

Please join me in welcoming the Deputy Prime Minister.