May 11, 2012

Infrastructure List Puts Us On Road To Future – Opinion – The Australian

Benjamin Franklin once said that an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. It’s a timely quote for governments around the world as they are forced to do more with less. Take a look at the list of giant spends that governments face each budget round and sitting towards the top you will see infrastructure where a million dollars or ten won’t take you very far at all.

Yet for a country such as ours with often vast distances between our major cities, high quality infrastructure – the road and rail links, for example – are absolutely essential for future economic productivity.

One way of making taxpayers dollars go further is by partnering with the private sector. There are many reasons why this has not been fully explored but things are changing. The Federal Government is launching the first ever list of every project across the country valued above $50 million. They come from every level of government and from every state and territory.

This national list is a response to industry’s call for greater transparency and fulfils a commitment made in our last budget. Industry and investors will from today have access to one  ‘pipeline’ of infrastructure projects. Until now, they have had to deal with a multitude of separate often out-of-date lists across the various levels of government.

Listed on the web-site and attached to each project will be all associated information such as the feasibility studies and planning stages. Also on the site will be Infrastructure Australia’s priority list.

The schedule will not be limited to transport. It will include the full range of infrastructure construction such as schools, hospitals and utility projects. Right now, there is in excess of $8 billion in 50 projects on the schedule. Many more will join them as State budgets are handed down across the country.

It is hard to over-state the value of this new schedule. Finally investors, both local and international, will have the knowledge and clarity they need to invest in Australian infrastructure. They will be able to see precisely what projects governments are funding, with a detailed forward program of works presented in a clear timeline. We know that Australian companies are not shy about investing in infrastructure but too often it is in US utilities or Chinese toll-roads. This will make local investing that bit easier.

It will also be of enormous help to governments who will be able to structure their projects to even out peaks and troughs in the procurement timeline. All up, we can expect more efficient procurement, increased investment and greater market place competition. It will also be an invaluable tool for Austrade in its efforts to entice overseas companies to invest here.

In Tuesday’s Budget, the Treasurer announced increased funding for nation building infrastructure and important measures to encourage private sector financing of the Moorebank Intermodal, the F3 to M2 link, and the M5 East. These are valuable investments for the Australian economy. Consider the findings of the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics that for every dollar invested in the 128 projects of the Nation Building Program, around $2.70 has been returned to the economy.

There is still an enormous infrastructure task ahead of us. It is not something governments can achieve alone. The new construction schedule will help facilitate investment in infrastructure, so necessary for future productivity growth.