Mar 10, 2016

Labor to ensure smart, sustainable infrastructure

A Labor Government will toughen assessment of proposed major infrastructure projects by requiring the incorporation of smart infrastructure technology and sustainability measures before projects qualify for Commonwealth funding.

Under current arrangements, the independent Infrastructure Australia advises the Commonwealth on major projects in terms of cost-benefits analysis and whether they fit in with existing infrastructure.

But a Labor Government will broaden Infrastructure Australia’s role, adding new assessment criteria of smart infrastructure and sustainability to increase value for public money and take genuine action to improve liveability of major cities.

Smart infrastructure is technology used to increase the efficiency of infrastructure.

On roads, for example, modern signalling and traffic monitoring allows for traffic flows to be adjusted according to the time of day, with more lanes accessible during peak time.

Use of this technology increases efficiency of new roads. But in some cases, smart technology can make existing roads so efficient there is no need to build new roads.

Under a Labor Government, road project proponents will need to demonstrate they have incorporated smart infrastructure and at least considered the alternative option of using technology to improve existing roads.

The bottom line here is we need to squeeze every drop of efficiency out of existing infrastructure and ensure that new projects meet world-best practice.

Labor’s new sustainability check is aimed at ensuring that when governments design new roads and railway lines, they incorporate measures that add to sustainability.

For example, if we are building a new road in a city, we should consider whether it would make sense to build an adjacent bike track or walking track at the same time to take more cars off the roads by increasing travel options.

In the same way, it makes sense that when we build new railway lines, stations include safe storage areas for bicycles to make it easier for people to leave their cars at home.

The sustainability mandate represents genuine action on tackling traffic congestion in urban Australia, which will cost the nation $53 billion a year by 2031 without corrective action.

Under Labor, Infrastructure Australia will help the Government choose the right projects, subject them to proper cost-benefit analysis and maximise outcomes – both in terms of project budgets but also sustainability.

Today’s announcement comes in addition to existing plans for Infrastructure Australia to administer a $10 billion infrastructure financing facility, which will be used to attract more private investment into public projects.