Federal Government responds to Australian Infrastructure Plan

THE Federal Government last week released its response to the Australian Infrastructure Plan, which accepts 69 of Infrastructure Australia's 78 recommendations and commits to the development of urban rail plans with 'willing' state governments for the nation's five biggest cities.

The 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan was released by Infrastructure Australia in February this year and details the infrastructure challenges and opportunities Australia faces over the next 15 years, with 78 recommendations for reform.

Southern Cross Station
Above: Southern Cross Station, Melbourne / by michaelgreenhill.

The government's response was welcomed by Infrastructure Australia, with Chief Executive Philip Davies describing it as an important first step on the journey towards infrastructure reform.

"Taking the 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit as its evidence base, the Australian Infrastructure Plan provided 78 recommendations to address today's infrastructure gaps and meet the global challenges of tomorrow," Mr Davies said.

Key recommendations from the Plan that are supported in the government's response include:

  • A greater focus on metropolitan rail in our capital cities by working with state governments to develop urban rail plans for Australia's five major cities;
  • Increased investment in planning and project development work to bring forward business cases for the projects now listed on the Infrastructure Priority List;
  • Using incentive payments to drive infrastructure reform at the state and territory level;
  • Examining opportunities to streamline infrastructure funding streams to deliver greater efficiency and reduce overlap; and
  • Working to protect transport corridors and precincts for the future.

"We are particularly pleased to see the Government commit to progressing the important issue of road market reform and developing a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy," Mr Davies said.

"As we outlined in the Plan, it is clear that the current funding model to build and maintain Australian roads is broken—it is inefficient, unsustainable and unfair.

"We advocated for fuel excise and registration fees to be abolished, and road users to only be charged for what they use. We are therefore pleased to see the Government commit to an independently led process on the potential reform options and models for road market reform.

"We will certainly be making further contributions on the benefits of moving to a fairer, user-pays approach for roads.

"We recognise that changing how we pay and invest in roads will not be easy and this is a long term process, however a better system could deliver secure, sustainable funding for our roads—and better services for users.

"The Australian Infrastructure Plan also highlighted the need for a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy to define nationally significant freight corridors and precincts, identify the network constraints and gaps, and outline a reform and investment pipeline to address these challenges. We are pleased to see the Government commit to deliver a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

"The Government has also provided a $50 million planning fund for project development work to accelerate planning on major projects to bring forward business cases listed on the Infrastructure Priority List.

"This is consistent with recommendation 9.6 of the Plan about allocating increased funding for project development work for initiatives identified on the Infrastructure Priority List.

"Our work on business case assessment and adding projects to the Infrastructure Priority List is only just beginning. We have assessed 14 business cases this year and have another 18 already under assessment for next year—with yet more to come.

"I'm extremely proud of the work we've done in getting the List to this level and the engagement from state territory governments on business case development.

"We will also be continuing to refine our business case assessment framework in collaboration with our state and territory colleagues to ensure that it is fit for purpose, best practice and aligned to national and international guidelines," Mr Davies said.

The Federal Government's response to the Australian Infrastructure Plan is available from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website at <>.

The Australian Infrastructure Plan is available from the Infrastructure Australia website at <>.

Photo: Southern Cross Station / michaelgreenhill / Licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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