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The government’s new vision for Infrastructure Australia

A reform of the Infrastructure Priority List, more consistency in infrastructure assessment and a more active role in the post completion stage of projects are part of a new vision set for Infrastructure Australia, following an independent review of the advisory body. 

In July, the federal government commissioned a review of Infrastructure Australia, which was conducted by Nicole Lockwood and Mike Mrdak to recommend a new way forward for the research and advisory body.

The Review was commissioned to consider Infrastructure Australia’s role as an independent adviser to the Commonwealth on nationally significant infrastructure priorities and advise on what changes may be needed to Infrastructure Australia’s focus, priorities and, if necessary, legislation.

The review recommended Infrastructure Australia (IA) to have a clearer purpose with a legislated mandate, and that its role as a national adviser be enhanced and that its governance structure be reformed.

Catherine King, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has responded to the review and indicated the federal government will support a refined Infrastructure Priority List, develop a national planning and assessment framework for projects and adopt a structure for IA that ensures closer collaboration with states and territories.

“The changes the government will put in place will result in a stronger, more focused Infrastructure Australia with a mandate to oversee projects from idea to completion so the significant investment by taxpayers is spent wisely and well for their benefit,” Minister King said.

Under the revised vision, Infrastructure Australia will:

  • produce a more refined, smaller, targeted Infrastructure Priority List;
  • develop a national planning and assessment framework to support national consistency in infrastructure assessment;
  • adopt a more active role in the post completion stage of infrastructure projects;
  • adopt a structure for Infrastructure Australia to work closely with the infrastructure bodies (i-bodies) set up by states and territories.

Infrastructure Australia will also be led by a new governance model, with the current board to be replaced by three commissioners supported by an advisory board with experts from Infrastructure and related sectors and senior public service officials.

Roads Australia’s feedback

In a response to the announcement, Roads Australia chief executive Michael Kilgariff said the IA review recommendations will promote collaboration and productivity.

“IA has a critical role to play in providing advice that helps generate important economic and social benefits for the infrastructure sector and the wider community,” said Kilgariff.

“For IA to deliver optimal outcomes, it’s essential that the body is focused on the assessment of nationally significant projects and is working closely with infrastructure bodies established by state and territory governments, to ensure there is collaboration and coordination in the national project pipeline.”

Roads Australia welcomed the federal government’s support for reform of the Infrastructure Priority List and for establishing a structure that will ensure IA works closely with state and territory infrastructure bodies.

“These were two key recommendations in RA’s submission to the independent review, and will be central to providing more clarity and certainty for industry,” Kilgariff said.

“A smaller and more targeted Infrastructure Priority List will be valuable to industry in terms of making informed decisions regarding contracting opportunities, skills and resourcing,” he added.

Feedback from Contractors Federation National

Chris Melham, Chief Executive Officer of Contractors Federation National (CCF), also welcomed the government’s steps to reform Infrastructure Australia.

“The Independent Review of Infrastructure Australia contains a number of important proposals to strengthen the role IA plays to identify and encourage much needed infrastructure investments and reforms,” Melham said.

“We need IA leading the infrastructure debate and providing targeted and practical advice on how to improve the way infrastructure is planned, procured, delivered and managed in Australia.”

CCF’s submission advocated for greater transparency and accountability in the reform delivery process. As such, CCF welcomed the recommendation for the Australian Government to formally, and publicly, respond to Infrastructure Australia’s advice, findings and recommendations in a timely manner.

“Developing collaborative mechanisms between industry and government to deliver on these reforms is the critical next step to ensuring these IA’s reform proposals are translated into concrete actions,” Melham added.

Some of the changes recommended for IA will require legislation, but others will commence as soon as practicable.

The federal government will be making announcements about transitional arrangements for the current board in the near future.

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