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Infrastructure priority list promises record investment

Infrastructure Australia has released its priority list for 2021, with a record number of new investments included across the country.

Forty-four new proposals have been added to the project pipeline, now worth $59 billion, while 10 projects have been moved off the list and into the construction phase.

Infrastructure Australia chief executive Romilly Madew said regional investment became a focus for the list this year.

“More than half of the investment opportunities on the 2021 Priority List benefit our regional communities, as we continue to draw focus on equitable service delivery and investments that will deliver affordable and quality infrastructure services for all Australians, regardless of where they live,” she said.

Among the 44 new projects to make the List were the Parkes Bypass to connect Melbourne and Brisbane, Parramatta’s outer ring road capacity, and Melbourne to Adelaide freight rail improvements.

With 180 projects on the list, chief executive officer for Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA) Ken Slattery said there’s a bottleneck between the government’s words and its capacity to act on them.

“There is a concern that the list is fine, but how such a record level of investment actually gets translated into constructed projects is unclear,” Slattery said.

Chief executive officer of the Australian Constructors Association (ACA) Jon Davies said the list plays a key role in supporting the nation up from its knees, post-COVID-19.

“With this record number of new investment opportunities, all levels of government need to work with industry to ensure that projects are delivered in a timely and efficient manner that maximises the social and economic benefits of the government’s investment,” Davies said.

“This will be vital in a post COVID-19 world with high levels of government debt but no less of a requirement to construct productivity enhancing infrastructure.”

Slattery agreed, if the industry could survive COVID, it’s exactly what the nation needs to renew itself in the coming years.

“One of the things we’ve seen is a strong and viable construction sector represents the backbone of the economy and the fact the construction industry has been able to operate throughout [COVID-19] has meant there has been a strong level of support for businesses and employees,” Slattery said.

“We’re talking something like 1.1 million people employed by the building and construction sector who stayed in work and continue to pay taxes and continue to support the economy more broadly, which is vitally important.”

Slattery said the CCAA was pleased its direct consultation with Infrastructure Australia was seen in the list’s considerations.

“We are encouraged by Infrastructure Australia recognising the role of the supply chain in all of this, which is a relatively recent development,” Slattery said.

“In the past we’ve simply seen that big projects were identified, supported and pursued without any real thought on where the materials were going to come from.

“We’re of the view that Infrastructure Australia really are paying due consideration to that. What we need is that to translate in approval processes and approval times.”

Included in the 10 items to leave the list for the construction phases were Nowra Bridge (NSW), the M1 and Bruce Highway works (Queensland), and METRONET works (WA).