17/02/2016 - 12:53

Plan for infrastructure reform

17/02/2016 - 12:53

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The controversial Perth Freight Link has been put on Infrastructure Australia’s list of high priority projects that would improve living standards and productivity, as part of a 15-year national plan released today.

IA identified a list of priority projects and initiatives to address urban congestion and national connectivity, with the Perth Freight Link labelled a high priority.

The controversial Perth Freight Link has been put on Infrastructure Australia’s list of high-priority projects that would improve living standards and productivity, as part of a 15-year national plan released today.

The Australian Infrastructure Plan has recommended fundamental changes to the way the nation plans, funds, delivers and uses its infrastructure, which IA says could save the average household up to $3,000 per annum by 2040.

IA chairman Mark Birrell said if Australia acted now to introduce nation-shaping reforms, it could get the infrastructure it needed and improve living standards and productivity.

“Our plan sets out 78 recommendations for reform and provides a vision and roadmap to address today’s infrastructure gaps and set us up to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” he said.

“In developing the plan, we have prioritised the user – the commuter waiting for a train, the family paying their electricity bill and the business looking to capitalise on overseas markets.”

IA has also identified a list of 93 priority projects and initiatives to address urban congestion and national connectivity, with the Perth Freight Link labelled a high priority.

“The priority list is ultimately a platform for better infrastructure decisions – it provides rigorous, independent advice to governments and the public on infrastructure investments Australia needs,” Mr Birrell said.

He said if the plan was delivered, Australians can expect more affordable, innovative and competitive energy, telecommunications, and water and transport services.

The plan also recommends reforming the funding and operation of transport infrastructure, completing the national electricity market, improving the quality and competitiveness of the water sector and delivering a telecommunications market that responds to user demand.

“By completing the major reforms to infrastructure markets the average Australian household will be almost $3,000 better off every year,” Mr Birrell said.

Other priority local initiatives flagged by IA include transport links from the Perth CBD to the northern suburbs, with the state government currently evaluating three options - light rail, a heavy rail tunnel and an upgraded bus service.

The report also lists the Forrestfield Airport Rail Link, upgraded roads in Perth's major east-west and southern corridors, a third runway for Perth Airport and an upgrade to Perth's container terminal capacity.

Garry Bowditch from the University of Sydney John Grill Centre for Project Leadership was critical of IA’s plan, however.

“Until we have a clear dataset of the successes and failures of previous infrastructure initiatives, and a robust evidence-base for green-lighting major projects, IA’s priority list of projects may yet be doomed to repeat the inefficiencies of the past,” said Mr Bowditch, who is head of the centre’s Better Infrastructure Initiative.

Labor spokeswoman Rita Saffioti said WA was in desperate need of a state infrastructure strategy to guarantee taxpayers’ money was being spent wisely on priority projects.

“WA Labor is committed to establishing an independent advisory body to assist in developing a 20 year plan for the State,” she said.

“Improving public transport links in the growing suburbs is crucial, but after nearly eight years in office the Liberals still don’t have a plan.

“Labor’s Metronet plan will expand our rail network to better connect suburbs and improve the efficiency of our existing rail lines, like the Midland and Armadale lines, by removing dangerous level crossings and upgrading train stations.”

Green Building Council of Australia chief executive Romilly Madew said she was pleased to see investment in active and public transport options being considered in cities, which would reduce congestion, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve health and wellbeing.

“As the plan points out, sustainability and resilience must be integrated into all infrastructure debates and decisions as good economic practice,” she said.

“Infrastructure that is sustainable and resilient can support growth and a higher standard of living.

“Transparency and long-term planning are critical if we are to get it right in our cities. Decisions on major projects must be made objectively with the best cost-benefit analysis possible to avoid uncertainty when governments change.

“It’s essential that the public and private sectors work together to find innovative mechanisms to finance the infrastructure we need.”

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