The long-term impacts of COVID-19 are yet to be seen
The evolving impacts of COVID-19 remain front of mind at Infrastructure Australia, as we look to progress investments and reforms that enable the long-term sustainability of the infrastructure sector, build community resilience and support the transformation of the Australian economy.
This is a unique period of uncertainty for the sector. We are facing border delays, supply chain vulnerability, reduced private sector expenditure, reduced site access and face-to-face activities, reduced access to overseas manufactured goods and limited staff availability due to illness or quarantine.
At the same time, COVID-19 has accelerated changes in the way we use infrastructure, impacting work practices, settlement patterns, activity in our CBDs, public transport use and demand for active transport infrastructure, as we shift even further towards digitisation and remote service delivery.
The depth and longevity of these impacts on the infrastructure sector are still largely unknown. What we do know is that maintaining a pipeline of nationally-significant infrastructure investments is a crucial first step in managing, and recovering from, the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
New additions to the Infrastructure Priority List
The Infrastructure Priority List provides a robust and comprehensive infrastructure pipeline to guide our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure Australia is ready for future challenges.
Today I am pleased to confirm the addition of two new Priority Projects to the Infrastructure Priority List: Parkes Bypass on the New South Wales Newell Highway and the upgrade of Canberra’s Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.
The NSW Government’s proposed $175 million (P50) Parkes Bypass project involves construction of a 10.5 kilometre bypass along the Newell Highway, including bridges over existing railway lines, connections to the Parkes Special Activation Precinct and upgrades to local roads.
The existing highway runs directly through the Parkes town centre, which contributes to congestion and safety risks in the town and limits the ability of high-performance freight vehicles to use the corridor.
With a stated benefit-cost ratio of 1.2, Parkes Bypass will help move these vehicles out of the town centre and importantly, as we officially enter a recession, ensure local goods get to market as quickly and safely as possible.
Proposed by the Australian Government, the $127.4 million (P80) upgrade to Commonwealth Avenue Bridge will deliver critical safety improvements to an iconic and critical part of Canberra’s transport infrastructure.
Upgrading the bridge will extend its design life by 50 years, and offer improved travel times and safety benefits for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. With a stated benefit-cost ratio of 2.65, it represents a sound strategic investment with benefits for the broader Australian economy.
With the addition of these two new Priority Projects, the Infrastructure Priority List now showcases more than $65 billion worth of nationally significant investment opportunities for governments at all levels to choose from.
Supporting the infrastructure-led recovery
Since the beginning of the dual health and economic crises, we have been working closely with the Australian Government, infrastructure bodies in the states and territories, and industry to develop policy advice that can guide the COVID-19 response.
We are advocating for a staged infrastructure recovery response, which starts with protecting and maintaining the existing pipeline of projects. After this, we propose a second phase to mobilise new projects both small and large, and consideration of industry reform to shape Australia’s long-term recovery response.
To support this staged approach and ensure infrastructure can drive recovery, we have been working closely with our colleagues at Building Queensland, Infrastructure NSW, Infrastructure SA, Infrastructure Victoria, Infrastructure WA and Infrastructure Tasmania, as well as our counterparts in NT and the ACT.
Together we have established a set of 10 Principles to underpin Australia’s infrastructure-led recovery from COVID-19. These Principles are informing the development of the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, which aims to guide Australia’s long-term recovery response and provide a blueprint for lasting reform.
Working collaboratively with our stakeholders
Work on the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan is well underway. Led by Peter Colacino and Katharine Hole, the Plan project team has begun engaging with stakeholders across government, industry and the community, having identified over 350 stakeholders so far. We are grateful for the support of these stakeholders, who are sharing their expertise and regional knowledge to help us learn lessons from COVID-19 impacts and the reforms that should be prioritised to provide the best outcomes for all Australians.
The Australian Infrastructure Plan will champion pragmatic reforms that can drive productivity, sustainability and quality of life for all Australians. It will include cross-sectoral recommendations on place, resilience and sustainability, and industry productivity and innovation, as well as sector-specific analysis of reform opportunities across transport, energy, water, telco and digital, social infrastructure and waste.
If you would like to find out more about the development of the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Improving our evaluation process
Behind the scenes, we have also been working to improve our Assessment Framework and business case assessment process. A review of our Assessment Framework and planning for updates is currently underway, supported by the input and feedback of a dedicated Reference Group that includes senior representatives from all states and territories.
In recent weeks, we have:
- published a library of published business cases as a resource for future project proponents
- piloted our first interactive clarifications process to streamline the evaluation process
- introduced feedback sessions to share our findings and identify improvements for future proposals.
We have also made significant progress in transitioning our Business Case Improvement workshops to an online and interactive format and look forward to sharing that with you later this year.
Whether it be in progressing reform or investment opportunities, we will continue in the spirit of collaboration as we navigate the uncertain times ahead.