Australia

Infrastructure task in Australia is 'daunting': Albanese

HIGHLIGHTING over a decade of underinvestment in infrastructure by the former Howard Government in Australia, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has said that the infrastructure task facing Australia is "daunting."

In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia last week, Mr Albanese said that infrastructure is becoming more expensive, with the Australian Government unable to meet this challenge alone as it increasingly directs funding towards health and aged care.

He said that ongoing reforms are needed to improve economic growth in Australia along with the involvement of local, state, territory and Commonwealth governments and the private sector.

"The Gillard Government knows that if Australia is to improve our quality of life and if we are to remain internationally competitive, then economic reform and nation building are essential," Mr Albanese said, adding that the government had "reengaged" with cities in Australia.

According to Mr Albanese, total infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP has increased from 5.5 per cent in 1999-2000 to 7.3 per cent in 2009-10.

In his speech, Mr Albanese outlined a 'second wave of reform' to ensure economic competitiveness, including a new national prequalification scheme in the construction sector, the National Ports Strategy and a draft National Freight Strategy.

Mr Albanese highlighted the upcoming National Urban Policy, to be released later this year, as evidence of the government's reengagement with cities, stating that the Policy will help to "better connect infrastructure with work and opportunity in our cities to make them more productive, sustainable and liveable."

Citing issues such as population growth, development pressure on agricultural land, traffic congestion costs, rising car use and a growing energy emissions challenge, Mr Albanese said that with "proper planning… we can truly create productive, sustainable and liveable cities."

Mr Albanese said that while overcoming such challenges will require "determined hard work, goodwill and intelligent foresight of all of us, not just government… the rewards will be enormous."

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