Nov 22, 2012

Address to the Italian Contractors Construction Association

Thank you for the warm welcome.

It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.

Returning to Italy is a lot like sampling a fine wine – you just want to keep coming back and back.

It is an honour to be invited to join you over lunch.

I am convinced that this is the most civilised way of doing business – particularly here in Rome where the food is unsurpassed.

I first met with you in 2009 and again in 2010.

That same year, I also welcomed some of your members in Sydney as part of the Italian Investment Delegation.

I am pleased that an even larger delegation will be heading to Australia next week to engage with state and federal governments, Infrastructure Australia and Australian infrastructure companies.

I was particularly pleased to say that as a result of my meetings over the last few days, more companies have signed on to be a part of the delegation.  I am told that the delegation is now up to 35 major Italian companies and growing.

These occasions were valuable because we were able to directly discuss opportunities for investment in Australian infrastructure.

I am pleased to have the chance to continue that conversation today.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN – ITALIAN RELATIONSHIP

Our countries enjoy a long and productive relationship.

This is helped by our strong cultural ties.

Latest figures show nearly a million Australians claim Italian ancestry—and I am proud to be one of them.

Our recent census, carried out in 2009, revealed that Italian is the third most popular language spoken in Australia – behind only English and Mandarin.

In fact, in South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia, Italian is second only to English.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN INFRASTRUCTURE ENVIRONMENT

Our ties extend to a strong understanding of the importance of global trade and global partnerships.

We know that no nation can prosper without paying serious attention to nation building.

Here, the Romans not only built a vast empire but left a lasting infrastructure legacy including roads and aqueducts that are still operational today.

The influence of Roman architecture continues to be seen around the world.

Australia’s infrastructure history is a little more recent.

I am Australia’s first Federal Minister for Infrastructure.

My appointment five years ago underlined the need for a national perspective in our approach to the provision of infrastructure.

The Australian Government understood the need for investing in well-planned, safe, efficient and sustainable infrastructure to support our transport, communications, water, energy, education and medical sectors.

We are a vast island nation and it is crucial that we keep our communities connected and well serviced.

We need land transport infrastructure that allows us to move produce, livestock and resources from our farms and mines to our ports and national markets safely and quickly.

This can be a real challenge in our harsh climate.

We also realised we needed a national approach to address the great challenge of urban congestion which is costing our nation dearly in lost productivity and liveability.

This includes separating freight and passenger traffic across our rail networks to keep corridors to our airports and sea ports flowing freely.

 

FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT STRATEGY

There should be no doubt that Australia is a positive place to invest.

Our economic fundamentals are strong.

We survived the global financial crisis far better than most and we have a AAA credit rating.

We have overhauled our shipping industry and we are putting in place historic regulatory reforms across the transport sectors – road, rail and maritime — to secure more productive and reliable supply chains.

We have low interest rates, low unemployment and low inflation.

We have a highly skilled and multilingual working population.

We are politically stable and we are part of the fast growing Asian region.

Since coming to office, the Labor Government has directly tacked our future productivity through a six year $36 billion nation building program.

We have done this in partnership with State and Territory governments and the private sector.

No Australian Government in our history has invested this much over such a period.

We’re also taking a much smarter approach to working out how to decide what to fund.

In 2008, we created an independent body to assess and prioritise our national infrastructure needs – Infrastructure Australia.

This body has allowed us to assess projects on their national merit, breaking the relationship that has existed in the past between the electoral cycle and the political cycle.

The Australian Government is now seeking further growth in private investment in public sector infrastructure projects to meet increased demand for infrastructure over the next decade.

Opportunities exist to invest at all stages of an asset’s life and there are very compelling reasons for tackling infrastructure investment as a matter of urgency.

Put simply, Australia’s infrastructure can no longer cope with growing levels of demand.

We are also seeking construction capability from overseas firms to help develop future major infrastructure projects.

To assist international investors like yourselves, my department — the Department of Infrastructure and Transport — and the Australian Trade Commission, Austrade, are working closely in a partnership to implement a new program – the Foreign Direct Investment Promotion and Attraction Strategy (for Major Australian Infrastructure).

Austrade, is taking the lead on this and I strongly encourage you to engage with their office in Milan, which I visited yesterday.

You have a reputation for world class construction activities particularly in rail, roads, tunnelling and bridges.

You have also shown a willingness to invest in the Australian construction industry.

Take for example the South Road ‘Superway’ project in Adelaide – the construction of a non-stop corridor along a 4.8 kilometre section of major road, comprising a 2.8 kilometre elevated viaduct structure.

It’s the biggest project in South Australia’s history and it is due to be completed I’m pleased to say, late next year.

An international conglomerate has come together to build the Superway.

And it includes the Italian company, Rizzani de Eccher, who have been involved in engineering and infrastructure for over a century.

There are many other examples around Australia but one I’d like to highlight is the Legacy Way Tunnel in the Queensland capital of Brisbane.

In September 2010, an international consortium – Transcity – comprising three companies: BMD Constructions from Australia, Ghella from Italy and Acciona from Spain were announced as the successful consortium to construct the tunnel.

They are now ahead of schedule and have now dug over one and a half kilometres of the tunnel, more than twice the distance expected at this stage of tunnelling.

The success of Ghella and Acciona partnering with Australian companies will strengthen all countries’ skill and knowledge base.  More broadly, it is proof that international companies like these are working with local companies to invest and create new jobs in Australia.

For example, more than two million hours have already been worked across the tunnel project.

I was pleased to hear that the involvement of these Italian companies was a direct result of my previous discussions with ANCE here in Rome.

 

THE NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULE

A key part of the Australian Government’s approach to nation building is developing new and innovative ways to encourage international investment in our infrastructure and transport sector.

Governments around the world are facing significant fiscal constraints which limit our ability to invest in new infrastructure.

Yet, we must continue to improve and invest in our highways, railways, schools and hospitals.

So, we’ve taken a fresh approach in Australia.

We’ve developed a new interactive Australian web site, the National Infrastructure Construction Schedule.

The NICS sets out upcoming infrastructure projects procured by national, state and local governments in Australia.

It showcases Australian infrastructure projects to the world.

From projects identified as potential priorities, to those in the planning and feasibility study stage, through to committed construction projects.

The site contains a wealth of information collating the infrastructure commitments of our three levels of government into a single pipeline of projects.

Anyone anywhere in the world is now able to see all major social and economic infrastructure projects that Australian governments are committed to delivering.

NICS provides links to the information that you will need for tender processes.

It will make your business planning and resourcing simpler.

So, if you are looking at investing in Australia, you will be able to look ahead at the forward program of works on offer.

I have no doubt that it will make NICS the go-to site for information on major infrastructure projects across Australia.

 

MOOREBANK INTERMODAL TERMINAL

I’ll finish up today by taking you through a particularly significant project located in the south-west of Sydney.

The release of one of the last available blocks of land in south-western Sydney will enable a major new open access rail container terminal to be designed, constructed and operated by the private sector from 2017.

This is an exciting, important reform to be delivered through private sector funding and innovation.

The Moorebank Intermodal Terminal will not only enhance capacity and productivity for freight movement in Sydney and NSW.

It will also provide national benefits through the inclusion of an interstate rail terminal that links to the national freight network benefitting industry Australia-wide.

This initiative is crucial as container freight in Sydney is set to more than triple by 2030.

This is critical for future prosperity.

The Moorebank Intermodal Terminal is founded on a robust business case and a transparent and competitive delivery model. It will generate $10 billion in economic benefits, address congestion.

The upcoming design, construction and operation of the terminal will be undertaken by the private sector through a competitive tender process.

This is a true partnership model, welcomed by the Australian private sector and peak business groups, including the Business Council of Australia.

A Government Business Enterprise will be established to act as landlord for the Intermodal site and to bring the project to market to find a builder and guarantor for the terminal.

The Government Business Enterprise will have a strong commercial focus with an experienced private sector board.

I would encourage you to follow the development of this major project closely.

 

CONCLUSION

In closing, I would like to thank you once again for your hospitality.

I encourage you to explore the National Infrastructure Construction Schedule and the investment opportunities presented by our upcoming infrastructure projects.

Most importantly, I look forward to hosting many of you in Parliament House in Canberra next Wednesday.

Thank you.