Infrastructure audit highlights lack of reliable and user focused information

One of the challenges highlighted in the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit is that reporting on infrastructure does not adequately reflect community experiences or consistently measure performance against outcomes that matter to users, Infrastructure Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO, told a CEDA audience in Perth.

“Infrastructure must respond to local needs and planning for the future will require different approaches for different regions,” she said.

“Across most sectors and dates there is a lack of reliable and user focused information. 

“For example, there is a lack of water quality data for water utilities with under 10,000 connections. Much third-party real-time transport data is excluded from government apps. And unreliable and outdated household expenditure data is still the basis for policy decisions. 

“This makes tracking progress against user-focused outcomes difficult.”

Ms Madew said the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit is the second audit Infrastructure Australia has undertaken, and it does a cross-sectoral view of transport, telecommunications, energy, water and social infrastructure.

“What’s unique about this audit is it has taken a community-centred approach, so we looked at cost, access and quality,” she said.

“All Australians share a common need for high quality infrastructure that is accessible and affordable but beyond these high-level outcomes these needs differ greatly between people, places and industries.”

Ms Madew said it is important to develop the nation’s capacity and capability to deliver on the nation’s project pipelines. 

“By global standards Australia’s infrastructure industry capacity and capability is relatively strong and the efficiency of the sector is high,” she said. 

“We rank higher than average for developed countries across a range of measures of infrastructure, governance, planning and delivery. 

“However, the audit has found that the infrastructure sector is characterised by a patchwork of capacity constraints and outdated regulation and policy.

“We highlight where infrastructure planning and decision-making fall short; and consistent best practice including community engagement, regulation and governance.”

Speaking to the CEDA WA audience, Ms Madew said Perth’s population is expected to increase from two million people in 2017 to 3.5 million by 2050.

“Most of this growth interestingly here will be focused on the urban fringe. With significant growth in Wanneroo and Mandurah, as well as urban infill developments and growth in the CBD and Cockburn,” she said.  

“If you consider other capital cities, they are really having urbanisation, 70 per cent of their urbanisation in their CBDs whereas Perth’s is on the fringe. 

“Demands for transport in Perth is predicted to increase roughly in line with population growth. 

“Over the next decade the number of trips on Perth’s transport network is forecast to increase by more than 30 per cent to more than seven million daily trips. 

“Trips by public transport are expected to grow by more than 40 per cent, a faster rate than by car, continuing a shift towards public transport seen in the city over the last few years. 

“This mode shift is a positive development, but as with all jurisdictions, congestion on Perth roads will be a key challenge as the city grows.” 

Ms Madew said the establishment of Infrastructure WA presents an unparallel opportunity to improve infrastructure planning and decision making across the state, “and ensure the West continues to reap the benefits of strategic and quality infrastructure”.

Infrastructure WA Chair Designate, John Langoulant AO, said the new Infrastructure WA isn’t seeking to create another bureaucracy, but instead is seeking to improve the quality of coordinated information on the infrastructure program in WA. 

“The Infrastructure WA Act specifies a wide range of functions for us. If you read through the Act there are actually 12 individual functions, including allowing the Premier to refer to us for advice on any matter relating to advice on infrastructure,” he said. 

Mr Langoulant said the first priority for Infrastructure WA is the development of a 20-year plan.

“In compiling this strategy, we are to identify and recommend significant projects and programs that will need to be undertaken in that 20-year timeframe,” he said.  

“We are to look at the need for new infrastructure, as much as we are required to look at how we can get more out of existing infrastructure and how policy and regulatory reform can help in meeting future infrastructure needs in a smarter and more efficient way.”

Mr Langoulant said the 20-year plan will cover all state agencies and any infrastructure proposal that impacts the state’s debt. 

“Phase two will see us look at major infrastructure proposals and to monitor progress with the implementation of the strategy, and the Act requires us to review the 20-year plan every five years,” he said. 

“The development of an infrastructure strategy is going to provide many benefits including for industry in providing a greater awareness of the pipeline of projects that are being planned. 

“While there are examples of good strategic planning being undertaken by agencies across our public sector, I think it is recognised there is scope for improvement in both the quality and completeness of those plans across the whole sector.”

Event presentations

Romilly Madew AO, Infrastructure Australia MP3

John Langoulant AO, Infrastructure WA MP3

Moderated discussion MP3