Infrastructure Australia review – what we know so far
Industry associations published their submissions for the independent federal government review of Infrastructure Australia (IA) before the window closed on August 19.
Led by Nicole Lockwood and Mike Mrdak, the review will examine Infrastructure Australia’s role as an independent adviser to the federal government on infrastructure priorities of national significance, and determine what changes may be needed to the direction, priorities and, if necessary, AI legislation.
Ms Lockwood is Chair of Infrastructure Western Australia, a member of the boards of the Green Building Council of Australia, the WA Association for Mental Health and is also a non-executive director of NBN Co.
Mr. Mrdak is President and Chief Executive Officer for Australia and New Zealand of NEC. He served as Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Department of Communications and the Arts.
The review aims to play a key role in the revitalization of the VI and to help the federal government implement infrastructure policies and investment decisions.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, said: “Infrastructure Australia was set up to provide expert advice to government on infrastructure priorities across the country.
“In recent years, the organization has been left adrift with partisan board appointments and a lack of clear direction. It is clear that a review was needed and that is why the Labor Party committed to it before the election.
“In Nicole Lockwood and Mike Mrdak, we have two of Australia’s foremost infrastructure experts who will conduct a thorough, independent review of Infrastructure Australia and make recommendations to get it back on track.”
Ms King said Australia faced big challenges, whether it was coping with population growth, dealing with skills shortages, decarbonising the transport and infrastructure sector or dealing with adoption of electric vehicles.
“This review and the changes it proposes will be essential to ensuring that the federal government receives the expert, non-partisan advice it needs to build a better future,” Ms. King said.
“I thank the members of the board, some of whom have agreed to step down, for their understanding and input as the government reviews and updates Infrastructure Australia.”
Leading industry associations including Roads Australia (RA) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) submitted submissions for consideration, identifying areas for potential reform.
RA made several recommendations to improve intergovernmental planning, allowing the transport infrastructure sector to be more productive and deliver a wider range of benefits to the community.
RA CEO Michael Kilgariff said: “The delivery of the country’s huge transport project pipeline is currently facing multiple challenges, including significant supply chain constraints, rapidly rising costs materials and an extremely tight labor market with skills shortages.
“Improving the productivity of the infrastructure sector is crucial and requires a collaborative effort between governments, industry and the community. AI plays a pivotal role in championing and achieving these results – and RA’s subjection to this independent scrutiny demonstrates how this can be done.
Mr Kilgariff said improving the productivity of the infrastructure sector will be crucial and will require a collaborative effort between governments, industry and the community.
“For example, AI List of infrastructure priorities identifies currently unfunded proposals of national significance. While this information is valuable, it does not in itself constitute a work pipeline from which the industry can make informed decisions regarding contracting opportunities, skills and resources,” Mr. Kilgariff said.
“There are currently multiple pipelines of projects in all jurisdictions, including at the national level. With the current level of investment, supply chain challenges and skills shortage issues, it would be beneficial if there was a nationally coordinated pipeline of projects. Our brief recommends that this be undertaken by AI in partnership with states and territories.
“As part of this, we also recommended that AI expand its excellent work around market capacity to focus in more detail on specific sectors, which will allow governments and industry to monitor supply and labor demand for skills in high-demand transportation areas and plan accordingly. This will be increasingly important as digital technology plays an increased role in the design and maintenance of assets.”
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) said Australia is currently in the midst of a historic period of government infrastructure investment and delivery.
The BCA’s presentation highlighted the importance of a renewed IA that could provide guidance on the framework for selecting and evaluating projects that form a federal investment pipeline.
The submission also highlighted the role of IA in providing objective expert advice directly to decision-makers, independent of sponsoring agencies or ministers. He emphasized that IA’s policy development and research work should respect federal government priorities, while ensuring that its recommendations remain independent.
The BCA said AI also needs to build trust with states, so it can lead coordination across the country on project sequencing taking into account market capacity.
A draft review report is expected within three months, and a final report shortly thereafter.
Road Australia’s submission can be found here.
The brief from the Business Council of Australia is available here.
The terms of reference for the review are:
- The review will examine Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) role as an independent adviser to the Commonwealth on infrastructure priorities of national significance, and its ability to fulfill that role.
- The review will make recommendations on reforms that may be needed to ensure that the IA is able to fully discharge its responsibilities, including, but not limited to:
- Advice and products for which IA is responsible, and whether they remain fit for purpose
- How the work of AI relates to the work of state-level infrastructure agencies,
iii. How IA’s work meets Australian government priorities and requirements.
- Governance and Administration
- The optimal size, mandate, responsibilities and composition of the IA board, including member experience, skills and expertise
- Whether the IA’s administrative arrangements are appropriate to support the performance of their role and functions
iii. IA’s relationship with the responsible minister
- Any legislative changes that may be necessary
- The review will be conducted by independent reviewers and supported by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts
- The review will provide a report to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government