06/02/2018 - 11:57

First step on Infrastructure WA plan

06/02/2018 - 11:57

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A new state government advisory body to improve analysis and transparency of major projects, Infrastructure WA, will begin work next year, according to Premier Mark McGowan, who launched a draft plan for its establishment today.

Mark McGowan is proceeding with an election commitment to Infrastructure WA.

A new state government advisory body to improve analysis and transparency of major projects, Infrastructure WA, will begin work next year, according to Premier Mark McGowan, who launched a draft plan for its establishment today.

Mr McGowan said Infrastructure WA would be tasked with developing a 20-year plan for major projects investment, applying more rigour to business case analysis, and providing funding advice.

Better capital allocation, lower waste and more bipartisanship in infrastructure strategy would be the positive consequences, he said at a breakfast hosted by the Property Council of Australia this morning.

There had been many cases of state government projects blowing out in cost, Mr McGowan said, although he did not name any.

One of the best known would be Perth Arena, which cost about $550 million, more than three times its proposed price tag in 2005.

Mr McGowan said a further issue was that the previous state government had not submitted many infrastructure projects to Infrastructure Australia for funding.

Western Australia submitted nine projects to Infrastructure Australia during the past six years, according to Infrastructure Australia’s website.

That compares with seven for South Australia, two for Tasmania and the Northern Territory and one for the ACT, while Queensland, NSW and Victoria submitted more than 40 between them.

The establishment of Infrastructure WA is still a long way off, with a six-week consultation program beginning today and a need for legislation to be written and passed through parliament.

Most states had a similar body in place, and the proposed WA model most most closely reflected that of Infrastructure NSW, Mr McGowan said.

The body will be targeted at projects with more than $100 million of value, riskier projects or others at the discretion of the Premier.

The board will include five private sector and five public sector representatives, with the chair to be from the private sector.

Representatives from government authorities would include the under-Treasurer, director of the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage and the director of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The other two public sector roles would be rotated, with the directors of the Department of Transport and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development the first to hold spots.

Industry calls

Numerous industry organisations have called for the establishment of an overarching infrastructure body, including Consult Australia, which represents consulting firms.

“This is a real watershed moment for infrastructure planning and governance in WA,” Consult Australia state manager WA Steve Coghlan told Business News.

But Mr Coghlan said one flaw in the plan was that the body would report to the premier and or a sub-committee of cabinet, not parliament.

That would go against the premise of the authority being independent, he said, and meant it was less likely that recommendations had bipartisan support.

A better model would be that of Infrastructure Victoria, which Mr Coghlan said reported directly to parliament.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA chief executive Chris Rodwell said businesses cases for new infrastructure projects had not always been publicly available or independently assessed.

“Improving the number and quality of business cases that are submitted to Infrastructure Australia is critical for the successful development and implementation of this 20-year state infrastructure strategy, as it will increase the likelihood of WA projects featuring on the Infrastructure Australia priority list and access to Federal Government infrastructure funding," he said. 

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