Good morning everyone, thank for joining us for our first ever virtual launch event. It is wonderful to be able to share our work with people from all around the country. I would also like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister for formally launching the 2021 Infrastructure Priority List for us today. As our portfolio Minister, and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development – it is wonderful to have your support.
Acknowledgement of Country
I would like to start by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land I’m speaking on, the Turrbal and Jagera peoples. I pay my respect to their elders past, present and emerging and any Indigenous Leaders joining us today.
It is critical, at an event such as today, to consider how our work contributes to the quality of life of all Australians – and reflect on what we can do to empower our First Nations communities and advance national reconciliation.
Infrastructure Australia is on our own reconciliation journey, guided by our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan.
We are committed to advancing nationally-significant infrastructure proposals that will have real impacts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – some of which I will cover today.
We are also committed to building the relationships and trust required to pursue this goal.
The purpose of the Priority List
Today we launch the 2021 Infrastructure Priority List.
The Priority List is a comprehensive investment roadmap for Australia, outlining our national infrastructure needs for consideration by Australia’s governments. This year’s Priority List features a record 44 new infrastructure proposals for our cities, regions and remote communities. I’m pleased to share that more than half of these proposals impact regional communities.
Reflecting the enormous amount of change occurring across the infrastructure sector, this is the largest number of new proposals ever added to the Priority List.
This year, we are particularly pleased to see a further 10 projects moving off the Priority List and into the construction phase.
Today we are providing a $59 Billion pipeline of nationally-significant investment opportunities. This is a credible and evidence-based list of investment opportunities for governments of all levels to progress in the near, medium and longer term. You can have confidence in the Priority List because every proposal is supported by data which demonstrates the benefit it would offer the community.
Across transport, energy, water, waste, telecommunications and social infrastructure – the proposals outlined in the Infrastructure Priority List can improve our quality of life and help secure our nation’s ongoing prosperity.
Maintaining the Priority List is one of Infrastructure Australia’s key responsibilities as the nation’s independent infrastructure adviser.
To develop the list, we draw on our own independent research and submissions from state and territory governments, industry and the community.
This collaborative approach enables us to better understand local challenges, and ensure our advice responds to changing community needs.
Of course, the scale of change has been unprecedented over the past year, as we continue to absorb and respond to the shocks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As our recent report on the impact of COVID-19 on infrastructure illustrated, the way we use infrastructure has changed. We have seen:
- A pause on the traditional driver of infrastructure, Net Overseas Migration
- A 200% increase in net migration from capital areas to regional areas.
- A 23% increase in the use of national parks and green spaces.
- With more people working from home, household waste increased by 20%
- Online retail grew to six times its 2019 rate
- And 9 out of 10 Australian firms adopted new technology, including collaboration tools and improved cyber security.
- Infrastructure is long-term in nature, and the impacts of COVID-19 are still evolving.
However, this edition of the Priority List presents a consensus view of the investments needed in this changed environment, as we recover from the dual health and economic crises of COVID-19.
Opportunities to develop gateways to support our international competitiveness are a key theme this year, to support Australia’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
Alongside many of the existing proposals to support our growing national freight task, there are new investments identified to improve both the capacity and efficiency of ports across the country.
Also critical for our economic recovery is investment in new sources of energy. To seize on this opportunity, the Priority List recommends:
- Expanding the role for renewable energy in the National Electricity Market.
- Delivering infrastructure to enable hydrogen exports.
- Investing in dispatchable energy sources to ensure the reliability and security of our energy networks.
- And identifying a program of works to provide renewable energy to remote communities in the Northern Territory.
- Water security is also a key priority for national investment.
- We are pleased to see progress on this front across Australia, but there is still more to do.
This year's List includes proposals to:
- Support water security in Perth and Greater Sydney and
- Secure and utilise productive water via proposals for the Bowen Basin, South East Melbourne and the Barossa Valley.
We also highlight opportunities to drive economic development in regional communities and put a strong focus on service quality for regional infrastructure. This includes improving digital connectivity and internet quality in regional areas and investment to support digital health services in regional and remote Australia.
Social infrastructure (housing)
Investment in the social infrastructure sector is also critical to supporting the quality life of all Australians as we continue to face new shocks and crises. The pandemic made clear to us the critical impact secure housing, for example, has on the capacity of our communities to weather a crisis.
As much of the workforce made the shift to working from home, the link became more visible between quality housing, employment and economic opportunity. There has been a 37% increase in unmet social housing demand over the last decade. Unmet demand for Aboriginal housing alone is expected to result in an undersupply of more than 12,500 homes by 2031.
Appropriate housing underpins improved outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and is a key target for the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
In this context, I am proud to announce that the New South Wales social housing program is joining the Priority List this year – supporting the existing national initiative for Remote housing overcrowding and quality.
Now is a critical time to champion investment in quality infrastructure solutions. Alongside the pandemic, our nation continues to grapple with a diverse range of shocks and stresses including floods and bushfires, long-lasting drought, and a changing climate. We are at a crossroads, with abundant opportunities to deliver infrastructure that responds to community needs.
The Priority List, with its evidence-based proposals and clear focus on community outcomes, is a critical place to start. I want to thank you all for joining us today and for continuing to work with us to pursue the project development and investment that will support Australian communities. I look forward to hearing your questions in our interactive panel session with our CEO Romilly Madew and our Chief of Infrastructure Prioritisation, Robin Jackson.