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EDITORIAL: Infrastructure focus is welcome

THE federal government’s announcement this week that it would proceed with the establishment of a special body to study and plan Australia’s infrastructure needs was a welcome recognition of the importance of our ports, roads, rail links, airports and other economic infrastructure. Let’s hope the study turns into some decisive and constructive decisions. In October 2005, the state government announced plans to develop a 20-year state infrastructure strategy, to tackle the very issues that Canberra has highlighted. The state strategy was meant to be released last year but is now due for release in mid 2008, around the time of the next state budget. To its credit, the state government has proceeded to make policy decisions on some of the key infrastructure issues facing Western Australia in the absence of the overarching strategy. That begs questions about how much the strategy document will achieve. Infrastructure Australia will have three objectives. It will conduct audits on all aspects of nationally significant infrastructure, in particular water, transport, communications and energy. That is the easy part of its job. The body will also be charged with drawing up an infrastructure priority list. That would involve an advisory body stepping into one of the core areas of responsibility for any government. It will also provide advice on regulatory reforms that could speed up projects. There has been no end of advice to governments, state and federal, about how to achieve this goal. The challenge has been getting effective implementation.

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