2019 Infrastructure Priority List—Focus on Queensland

26 February 2019

Good morning everyone. Thank you Terry for that warm welcome, and to Steve and the team at IAQ for hosting today’s breakfast.

It is a pleasure to be here this morning to talk about Infrastructure Australia’s newest release – the 2019 Infrastructure Priority List.

The Infrastructure Priority List provides a credible pipeline of nationally significant infrastructure proposals for governments at all levels to choose from.

It is central to the work Infrastructure Australia does in providing independent, evidence-based advice to governments, and a ‘big picture’ view of Australia’s infrastructure needs – across sectors and jurisdictions.

I’m pleased to share that the 2019 Priority List is also the largest, most comprehensive and most diverse list of investments we have identified in our decade-long history.

This is because the Priority List is maturing and moving into a new phase, and this has enabled us to look at opportunities, across a range of different sectors, to improve infrastructure for all Australians.

This year, we have identified 121 nationally significant proposals across transport, energy, water, communications, housing and education, and a record $58 billion pipeline of projects that have already received the Infrastructure Australia tick of approval.

Beyond highlighting the breadth of our future infrastructure challenges, the Priority List aims to ensure that public funds are directed towards projects that will deliver the best outcomes for Australia’s growing communities.

It’s about making sure that our infrastructure funds are spent where they are needed most.

Here in Queensland, that means a continued focus on strategic, well-considered investments that will support growth in our cities and regional centres.  

That’s why the 2019 Priority List highlights the need for additional investment to ease congestion on our transport networks, particularly in growth centres such as Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Improving safety on our busiest roads is another key challenge for Queensland that has been highlighted in the 2019 Priority List, as is the need to prioritise forward-looking investments that make the most of technological change.

My remarks this morning will focus on these key themes, with a particular emphasis on the need to act strategically and seize the opportunities in front of us.  

This will be key to delivering world class infrastructure for Queensland, and maintaining our enviable quality of life.

Managing congestion in growing South East Queensland

Like much of the rest of Australia, a key challenge for Queensland over coming years will be ensuring that infrastructure delivery keeps pace with sustained population growth.

The state’s population will reach 7.3 million by 2036. Most of this growth will be concentrated around Southeast Queensland, with an additional two million people expected to call the region home by 2041.  

Investment to increase capacity on our infrastructure networks is necessary to support this growth, and this investment must be coordinated and integrated – particularly as we seek to address the challenges of congestion in the state’s Southeast.

Congestion has a very real economic cost for Queensland. The 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit found that without action, road congestion across Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast could cost Queensland’s economy more than $9 billion in 2031.

Long-term planning is therefore critical to ensure that our growth centres and employment hubs – such as Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Ipswich and Toowoomba – remain liveable as they grow.

Of course, the Southeast Queensland City Deal proposed by the Queensland Government and the SEQ Council of Mayors aims to achieve just that, and it’s crucial that we see all levels of government working together.

The focus on integrated planning and coordination between different levels of government is particularly welcome, and we look forward to hearing more detail from the Federal Government on the proposed City Deal in due course.

When it comes to successfully planning for growth in Southeast Queensland, and indeed any of the fast-growing cities around the country, alignment of plans across the different levels of government will be crucial.

That means that governments at all levels, as well as industry, should be working in close collaboration to develop local plans, with clear funding mechanisms, that translate metropolitan strategies into better infrastructure services for our growing communities.  

Brisbane to Gold Coast transport upgrades

For our part, Infrastructure Australia has acknowledged the significance of the growth challenges facing Queensland, particularly in the Southeast, and the 2019 Priority List identifies multiple Queensland projects and initiatives as high priorities for the nation.

This includes Brisbane Metro, which remains on the Priority List as a High Priority Project, as well as a new proposal to improve public transport connections between Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads.

Upgrades to the Brisbane to Gold Coast transport corridor upgrades have also been given particular precedence this year, with improvements to the capacity and efficiency of the M1 Pacific Motorway identified as a High Priority initiative.

The M1 Motorway is one of the busiest roads in Australia, carrying in excess of 150,000 vehicles per day on some sections, including over 12,000 heavy vehicles. It is a vital component of the National Land Transport Network and the primary road corridor connecting Brisbane to the Gold Coast and New South Wales.

Over the medium- to long-term, population growth is expected to remain strong in the Gold Coast area, while employment growth is expected to be strongest in Brisbane. Upgrading the M1 between Eight Mile Plains and Tugun will therefore be particularly critical in connecting people living in residential areas in the south to job opportunities in Brisbane.

Many of you in the room here today would know that the Priority List previously included two separate Priority Initiatives for different sections of the M1: Between Eight Mile Plains and Daisy Hill and Between Varsity Lakes and Tugun. I’m pleased to say they we have now received business cases for these sections and they are currently under evaluation.

In addition, we have identified two further sections of the corridor, between Daisy Hill and Loganholme and between Loganholme and Nerang as national priorities.

Together, these proposals form part of an integrated corridor between Eight Miles Plains and Tugun, with high volumes of traffic and congestion occurring on each section.

As we result, we have decided to list them together as one High Priority Initiative on the 2019 Priority List, which we hope will promote integrated and strategic planning along the corridor as the business cases are progressed.

Another new addition to the 2019 Priority List which highlights some of the challenges of growth in Queensland is an initiative to increase capacity on the Centenary Motorway.

A growing number of people are commuting from Ipswich, Springfield and the Ripley Valley areas to Brisbane’s CBD for work, resulting in road congestion, poor trip reliability and safety issues on the motorway.  

There were 192 crashes recorded on the Centenary Motorway between 2010 and 2016, and our analysis suggests that increasing congestion will contribute to further safety issues.

Here, the next step is for the Queensland Government to consider potential options to improve capacity along the motorway, by for instance adding an improving the intersection and on-ramp and off-ramps, implementing smart freeway technology or widening the road.

Improving safety on Queensland’s roads

Improving road safety is also the focus for another new Queensland addition to the 2019 Priority List – upgrading the eastern corridor of the Warrego Highway.

The Dinmore to Helidon Spa section of the Warrego Highway falls below modern safety standards, with a high average fatal crash rate of between three and 10 times that of a contemporary motorway standard.

In addition, there is low flood immunity along this section of the highway, which significantly affects freight productivity. This is a key concern as this is Queensland’s principal east–west freight route, providing a gateway to western Queensland and connecting Darwin and Melbourne to the Port of Brisbane.

Another opportunity for investment in Queensland, which Infrastructure Australia has also highlighted at a national level this year, 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 on regional roads was more than four times greater than for major cities.

We recognise that safety on Australia’s regional roads 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 regional road safety is a nationally-significant problem that must be urgently addressed in a coordinated way.  

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. 

While some people may be sceptical about the pace of change, Infrastructure Australia sees the mainstream uptake of EVs as an inevitable shift

Large manufacturers are shifting investment away from internal combustion engine vehicles and focusing instead on EVs.

We are seeing companies like Mercedes Benz, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover, pledging to end the production of internal combustion engine vehicles within four years, while Volkswagen and BMW have committed $75 billion to develop their EV offering. Toyota will roll out 10 new EVs in the early 2020s, including an electric Hilux.

Crucially, this shift isn’t solely in commercial investment, but is being replicated as a shift in public policy. Overseas, governments are legislating to reduce their reliance on combustion vehicles. For example, Norway and the Netherlands have banned combustion engine sales from 2025, Germany from 2030, England from 2040 and France by 2045.

As major car manufacturers and countries transition to electric vehicles and hybrids, and Australia will have little choice but to follow suit.

Our analysis suggests that 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.

Of course, Queensland has already emerged as a leader in this space, with the world's longest electric super highway in a single state – enabling EV drivers to travel all the way from Cairns to Coolangatta. This is the kind of investment we’d like to see replicated in other states.

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 also 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 upcoming Australian Infrastructure Audit

Before I conclude today, I went to speak briefly about Infrastructure Australia’s forthcoming release – the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit.

This updated Audit fits into the broader agenda of Infrastructure Australia to strengthen the evidence base for future infrastructure decision making.

The Australian Infrastructure Audit is an independent, comprehensive review of Australia’s infrastructure and our future needs.

It will strategically assess the drivers of future infrastructure demand, particularly population and economic growth, and identifies challenges and opportunities for our infrastructure networks.

This update to the Australian Infrastructure Audit will be followed by the Australian Infrastructure Plan, which will set out a 15-year rolling infrastructure plan and reform priorities to meet these challenges and opportunities.

The 2019 Audit focuses on outcomes for users in terms of access, quality and affordability.  Our analysis will also consider of the differences in infrastructure provision and challenges based on geography, including fast growing cities, small cities and regional towns, rural and remote and regions in transition – including Northern Australia.

And importantly too, the findings of the 2019 Audit will inform our work in developing the Infrastructure Priority List, and our analysis of the nationally significant investments Australia needs to meet its infrastructure challenges.

I look forward to sharing the findings of the 2019 Audit with you all later this year, and continuing in the spirit of collaboration to progress the nationally significant investments needed to deliver better infrastructure services for all Australians.

Thank you.