May 14, 2012

Levelling the Playing Field within the Infrastructure Sector

The Federal Labor Government has taken another major step towards creating a transparent, competitive and truly national infrastructure market with today’s launch of the National Infrastructure Construction Schedule (NICS).

Now, for the first time, the details on every economic and social project valued at $50 million or more being planned or delivered by governments around the country – Federal, state and local – are available at one location: www.nics.gov.au.

Developed by my Department, this new web-based tool removes a major impediment to the proper functioning of the market, namely a lack of comprehensive, complete and accessible information about the projects pending as well as those coming down the pipeline.

Right now, 56 projects worth over $50 billion are listed, from the new hospital planned for Palmerston in the Northern Territory to the Midlands Irrigation Scheme in Tasmania.

Previously, those interested in financing or building infrastructure had to rely on ‘word of mouth’ or scour countless websites and newspapers to find what was available, a process which inevitably advantaged larger investors and the big construction companies.

NICS levels the playing field.

Irrespective of where in the country or even the world they happen to be located, investors and infrastructure providers now have equal access to the same information about both the immediate and longer term opportunities which exist here in Australia.

Over time, this will open up and attract more participants into the sector, which in turn will be good for competition and the price taxpayers ultimately pay to build the modern, well-planned infrastructure Australia needs for the future.

This practical measure builds on our earlier initiatives which have helped to reform and revitalise Australia’s infrastructure sector, including:

  • Establishing Infrastructure Australia to complete the first ever audit of our existing infrastructure; put in place a Priority List to guide investment into nationally-significant projects that offer the highest economic and social returns; and begin planning for the future.

As a result of decisions taken in this week’s Budget, we have now committed funding to every ‘ready-to-proceed’ project listed on the original 2009 Priority List.

  • Nationally consistent Public Private Partnership guidelines to make it easier and cheaper for private investors to partner with governments to build new infrastructure.
  • A single, national prequalification scheme to increase competition within the construction sector and deliver better value for money.

And on any objective measure these reforms, together with our record $36 billion Nation Building Program, are making a real and substantial difference.  For example, total investment in the nation’s roads, railways, electricity generators and water storage facilities is 40 per cent higher, in real terms, than it was during the last full year (2006-07) of the former Howard government.

In four short years we have turned around declining investment in the nation’s infrastructure and begun building for the future.  We’ve replaced neglect, buck passing and short-termism with a comprehensive, long term plan inspired by Labor’s century old nation building tradition.