Infrastructure Australia agenda mapped out

Federal infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese has mapped out the agenda of his ‘baby’, Infrastructure Australia.

Throughout this year, Infrastructure Australia will conduct its national audit and in March 2009 it will deliver to COAG its first infrastructure priority list.

"The absence of a pipeline of projects is an impediment to infrastructure investment and to infrastructure delivery," the minister said.

"Situations have developed whereby you have at the one hand the cross city tunnel, the M7 Westlink and other projects going ahead in Sydney. When they finish there’s then no work to do. At the other hand, when there is no work to do, there are costs associated, costs associated with the breakdown that occurs then.

"National coordination means greater long-term certainty for constructors, owners, investors and of course users, and it will lead to more competitive markets with benefits for both the economy and consumers.

"I want to talk about one particular set of guidelines in need of an urgent overhaul and national consistency and those are that underpin the assessment of public/private partnerships."

The minister announced that best practice nationally consistent guidelines for PPPs will be finalised this year.

"It’s an ambitious timetable," he said. "But it further underscores our commitment to economic reform. This measure will assist in unlocking funds for additional infrastructure investment.

"Nationally consistent, best practice PPP guidelines will make it simpler and less expensive for local and, indeed, international financiers to invest in local infrastructure.

"A critical challenge of Infrastructure Australia will be the issue of urban congestion. The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics estimates the urban congestion will cost families and business nearly $20 billion by 2020 unless action is taken. With the freight task set to double by 2020, the greatest impact will be in urban areas, particularly around ports intermodal terminals and distribution centres.

"Freight must be able to move seamlessly from the farm gate to the kitchen table, from the mines to the ports. Of course, a policy for moving goods will not work without a policy for moving people. It is motorists in their cars, much more than truckies in their cabs that are clogging our cities. When it comes to transport, we must look at the whole picture. We cannot address climate change and unclog our cities without addressing the sustainability of our urban transport networks.

"AusLink has had some significant benefits, but it hasn’t gone far enough. Up until now, its focus is on stand-alone projects rather than looking at transport as an integrated system. To achieve this perspective we must consider a mix of policy objectives, funding and economic and regulatory reforms.

"With this in mind, I’ve commissioned the National Transport Commission to develop a national policy framework. This work will dovetail with the work of Infrastructure Australia. It will look at roads, rail, shipping and aviation in an integrated way. Infrastructure Australia will consider the sustainability of our cities and the critical importance of infrastructure for regional development."

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