The independent infrastructure bodies of Australian state jurisdictions (Infrastructure Australia, Building Queensland, Infrastructure NSW, Infrastructure SA, Infrastructure Victoria, Infrastructure WA and Infrastructure Tasmania) along with input from the NT and the ACT, recognise COVID-19 will deliver lasting impacts on Australian society.
The response of governments and the infrastructure sector will be critical to supporting the recovery of the community from COVID-19, and to the long-term transformation of the economy to the ‘new normal’. The response should progress government policy priorities by enabling the long-term sustainability of the sector, build community resilience and the transformation of the Australian economy.
The Australian Infrastructure Plan and the State Infrastructure Strategies provide a template for this reform.
The following principles provide a framework to the response of governments and industry to ensure infrastructure can play its role in the recovery:
Support the timeliness of the existing pipeline, address constraints across the sector and prepare for future disruption by accelerating infrastructure planning and approvals, finance and procurement, delivery, maintenance and renewal.
Projects and reform initiatives should offer more than short term stimulus by enhancing productivity, improving sustainability, building resilience or encouraging innovation.
With the response commensurate to the location and scale of impact on the sector, as well as the appropriate time-scale of interventions.
- Phase 1: Short-term impact (0-6 months) – projects with a high involvement of labour and trade skills, high geographic dispersal. Principal focus on small-scale maintenance programs, benefiting from low planning approval requirements and established workforce.
- Phase 2: Medium term (6-12 months) – low barrier to implementation, medium-term benefit. Principal focus on the extension of existing work programs and bringing forward of expenditure. Less timely due to planning, procurement and access to materials, however able to benefit from established workforce and supply chains.
- Phase 3: Long-term (12 months plus) – nationally significant and transformative impact, supporting the transition to post-COVID economic conditions. Longer-term deployment, however more substantive impact supporting long-term national priorities and allowing flexibility for state and territory, and private sector-led proposals.
For the regions and industry sectors experiencing the greatest impacts, and with the greatest capacity to benefit from a response, such as building, tourism and retail.
The industry is interconnected and the capacity of the market finite, an infrastructure response must be equally coordinated across all three levels of government, regional development frameworks and responses to climate and other disasters.
Maintain rigour while facilitating timely decision-making, planning approval and funding decisions. Align decision-making frameworks and fast-track approvals within agreed programs or project pipelines.
Through leadership development, building skills and capability, supporting innovation and exchanging experience across the public and private sectors.
Engage industry early and openly on scope, budget and timing, in return for transparent contracting, supporting industry sustainability, facilitate reasonable commercial outcomes and provide a foundation for lasting reform.
Public funding and reform should unlock private investment or innovation, multiplying the dollar for dollar impact.
Infrastructure supports supply chain efficiency, while benefiting from its effectiveness. Regulation and pricing should be reviewed to ensure it is flexible and outcome focused.