As I near three months in the role of Chief Executive at Infrastructure Australia, I would like to take this opportunity to update you all on some of the key milestones we have achieved this month and what you can expect from our next major releases, the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit and 2020 Infrastructure Priority List.
I have been travelling a great deal and meeting with a wide variety of stakeholders across the country to hear your feedback on Infrastructure Australia’s focus and agenda, and the challenges ahead for the sector more broadly.
One thing that is clear, is that in a challenging economic climate, the independent advice Infrastructure Australia provides on opportunities for infrastructure investment and reform is more important than ever.
A key focus of mine is to drive better infrastructure outcomes for each and every Australian, by improving collaboration and coordination with stakeholders across government, industry and the community.
My aim is that Infrastructure Australia will continue to be valued as a collaborative partner – ensuring that infrastructure decision-makers are planning for the future, and our investment and reform agenda is evolving to meet the challenges ahead.
The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit is on its way
On Friday 28 June, I was proud to provide the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 to our Ministers, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Michael McCormack MP and the Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, the Hon. Alan Tudge MP. Due to be published next month, this significant document is the culmination of 12 months’ work by our Policy and Research team, and will act as an evidence base to focus investment and reform on the key issues facing Australia’s infrastructure over the next 15 years and beyond.
The 2019 Audit puts the community at the centre of infrastructure decision-making, measuring service delivery against the key outcomes of access, quality and cost. It covers the infrastructure sectors of transport, energy, water, telecommunications and – for the first time – social infrastructure. We have taken a wide view of social infrastructure, and considered the challenges and opportunities facing schools and tertiary education, hospitals and aged care, social housing, justice and emergency services, arts and culture, and green, blue and recreational infrastructure.
After the public release of the document next month, we will be calling for submissions from governments, industry and the wider community to address the 180 challenges and opportunities we have identified. This could be in the form of an infrastructure investment or a policy or regulatory solution, which will inform the development of the next Australian Infrastructure Plan.
Submissions for the 2020 Infrastructure Priority List
Submissions for the 2020 Infrastructure Priority List have now opened, and we encourage governments at all levels and industry bodies to help us identify infrastructure problems and opportunities of national significance. We welcome investment proposals from across all infrastructure sectors, including programs of related works and investments to make better use of existing infrastructure.
The Priority List provides governments at all levels with a prioritised list of nationally-significant investment opportunities for the near, medium and longer term. To be considered for the 2020 publication, proposals must be received before 31 August 2019 and comply with our Assessment Framework. This includes meeting our definition of national significance, and outlining a strong strategic case supported by evidence.
Business case evaluations
We have published a number of new business case evaluations in recent weeks. More than $2 billion worth of planned upgrades to Queensland’s Bruce Highway and M1 Pacific Motorway were given the green light, after three business cases were positively assessed by the Infrastructure Australia Board. The Priority List now includes three new Priority Projects for Queensland: Bruce Highway – Cairns Southern Access Corridor – Stage 3: Edmonton to Gordonvale, M1 Pacific Motorway (Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill) and M1 Pacific Motorway (Varsity Lakes to Tugun).
The University of Tasmania’s $300 million proposal to build new state-of-the-art campuses in Burnie and Launceston was also added to the Priority List as a Priority Project. The Northern Transformation Program involves relocating existing campuses in Launceston and Burnie to new inner-city locations with modern, world-class teaching and research facilities, and delivering new degrees and courses that better meet the needs of students and industry.
We also concluded our evaluation of the Tasmanian Government’s Derwent River Crossing proposal following a rigorous assessment process. It has not been added to the Priority List at this time, as the business case did not demonstrate that the benefits of the project would outweigh its costs. However, we recognise the strategic importance of crossing capacity over the River Derwent, which is why it retains its current status as a Priority Initiative on the Priority List.
Business Case Improvement Workshops
I was recently in Townsville attending my first Business Case Improvement Workshop hosted by Infrastructure Australia. Our Project Advisory team developed these workshops in response to stakeholder feedback for more detailed guidance on applying our Assessment Framework in the preparation of business cases. It covers common issues encountered by proponents, discussion of best practice in developing business cases, guidance on conducting cost-benefit analysis and demand forecasting. We have been hosting these workshops around the country since 2018, attended by more than 300 stakeholders, with the next session scheduled for Hobart in coming months.
Finally, I want to thank all our stakeholders from across government, industry and the community for the warm welcome I have received since I commenced at Infrastructure Australia in late April. It is certainly a busy time ahead for our organisation, but I am very pleased to have the support of so many passionate, learned and forward-thinking individuals from across the infrastructure sector as we look to drive better infrastructure outcomes for all Australians.
Romilly Madew AO