It goes without saying Australia and the world continue to face unprecedented times. In the past few weeks, we as a nation have quickly moved from battling not just a health crisis, but an economic crisis as well. As the handling of health matters continues to make steady progress, some of the attention is now shifting to our plan for recovery, with many asking ‘what part will infrastructure investment play?’
While we know the challenges facing our infrastructure network and project pipelines will continue to evolve, there is no denying infrastructure will be expected to play a critical role in our recovery from the economic hibernation due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
As we navigate the changing environment, I want to assure you of Infrastructure Australia’s commitment to collaboration with government, industry and the community, to support a national, evidence-based conversation about the infrastructure we need to secure quality of life for Australians.
Our work, specifically through our maintenance of the Infrastructure Priority List will continue to play a critical role in supporting an informed national conversation about Australia’s spending priorities.
This week we welcomed the news, that current Infrastructure Australia Board member and former Productivity Commission chairman Peter Harris, has been appointed CEO of the National COVID-19 Co-ordination Commission.
Mr Harris will advise the Prime Minister and national cabinet on all non-health aspects of the crisis response including job and investment recovery. Peter will remain a Director of the Infrastructure Australia Board.
Since my last newsletter there has been some significant updates that I would also like to share with you regarding both our upcoming work and the functioning of our current role.
Working on a new directive from COAG
Following an analysis on the infrastructure market’s capacity to deliver Australia’s record pipeline of infrastructure investment to support our country’s growing population, it has been agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), that Infrastructure Australia should collaborate with jurisdictions and peak bodies to monitor the industry’s market capacity to help inform government policies and project pipeline development. First ministers have also agreed to a new National Planning and Population Framework.
We welcome this significant addition to our policy role and we look forward to collaborating with the Centre for Population to understand how Australia’s population is changing and what the implications of these changes are when it comes to planning critical infrastructure.
I would also like to acknowledge COAG’s agreement to increase measures pertaining to a national waste strategy and discussions on further responses to ongoing drought and disaster resilience. All of these agenda items fall in line with the recent call to action within our Infrastructure Priority List.
Reviewing our CBA methodology
In 2020, we have progressed our attention to preparing for the next update to the Infrastructure Australia Assessment Framework. Whilst this project is ongoing, it includes a legislative requirement of publishing a review into our cost-benefit analysis methodology every two years. This review is now available on our website.
We have established an Assessment Framework Reference Group, which includes senior representatives from all states and territories, to provide input and feedback on the framework and planned updates.
We will keep you informed on the Assessment Framework program of work and look forward to engaging with industry and government to make the Framework more accessible and strengthen guidance on what makes an infrastructure proposal nationally significant.
Delivering the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan
In August last year, Infrastructure Australia delivered the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, a collaborative document that maps out the major challenges and opportunities facing Australia’s infrastructure over the next 15 years.
Following a significant consultation period, our attention now turns to delivering the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan.
The Australian Infrastructure Plan is intended to guide the next wave of infrastructure reform and it will build on the opportunities and challenges identified in the 2019 Audit. We look forward to working collaboratively with your organisations to map out the path of reform
To support delivery of the Plan, Infrastructure Australia is establishing a dedicated project team within the Policy and Research unit. We have appointed Katharine Hole as the new Project Director for the Plan. Katharine has worked at senior executive levels in the energy and water sectors across the public and private sectors.
Katharine, has already begun assembling her team and both she and her team are looking forward to meeting with you to draw on your expertise and industry insights.
CSIRO and the nation's bushfire rebuild
As many of you would be aware, earlier this year it was announced the CSIRO, in collaboration with other agencies and partners, will work to identify practical measures to build climate and disaster resilience at local, regional and national scales.
As part of its reporting, CSIRO has established an Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) for the Climate and Disaster Resilience Report, chaired by the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel. I was honoured to be included on this panel. The report is due in June.
A final word of thanks
This month marks a full year since I became Chief Executive Officer at Infrastructure Australia. I would like to thank my colleagues in the sector for your support and collaboration.
Chief Executive Officer, Infrastructure Australia