Infrastructure industry must innovate and secure foreign investment

The infrastructure industry must innovate and look overseas for investment and planning ideas, a CEDA audience in Brisbane has heard.

SMART Infrastructure Facility Chief Executive Officer, Garry Bowditch said internationally, Australia has lost its edge in infrastructure policy.

"The reality is that Australia has lost an edge in terms of reform and best practice," he said.

"Other jurisdictions are moving ahead of us and we need to be humble and go and learn from them."

Mr Bowditch said foreign investors have a deep knowledge base from their global activity and are in Australia to innovate.

"I don't think these foreign entities will hang around for the long term because they're looking to add value through innovation," he said.

"They've got a lot to add but governments have to be prepared to let them do that."

Using Singapore as an example, Mr Bowditch said it has a proper, integrated transport land use planning model but it was created in a different political context.

Also speaking at the CEDA event, Transfield Services, Chief Executive Infrastructure - Australia and New Zealand, Sandra Dodds said when infrastructure financing in Singapore opened to foreign companies, it changed their contracting model.

"Ultimately it drove down prices but it also raised some interesting questions around safety and environmental issues and quality," she said.

There needs to be a ripening and maturation of the infrastructure market in Singapore to ensure a balance is achieved in the long term, she said.

On the topic of balance between government and private investors, KDR Gold Coast  Chief Executive Officer, Vivienne King said we need new knowledge but also we need to learn how to expand ideas in Australia.

"It's about getting the known knowledge here but also bringing people to then challenge that knowledge and bring new ideas," she said.

"Let people come in, lets learn from them, lets teach them something as well and then be able to expand from there."

Department of Transport and Main Roads Director General, Neil Scales said Australia can also learn from the United Kingdom in regards to planning infrastructure development.

It is important for governments to work out if there is a problem to fix, if there should be a focus on public transport, congestion or trying to get people to travel less, he said.

Queensland and the rest of Australia can learn a lot from the United Kingdom in terms of encouraging people to travel less and develop active transport methods, he said.