More capital than opportunity: private sector infrastructure investment

There is more capital than opportunity, IFM Investors Chief Executive, Brett Himbury has told a CEDA audience at the launch of Australia’s economic future: an agenda for growth.

Focussing on infrastructure funding, Mr Himbury said while some progress has been made, overall the situation is frustrating.

“As a nation, we need growth…but we’ve got limited options as to where and how that growth is going to come,” he said.

“Governments are clearly going to be restrained in their ability to support and fund that growth.

“The private sector…has been loud and clear in that we have a desire, a capacity and capital to invest more in the growth of this nation. Our challenge is there have been limited opportunities for us to do that.

“I think everyone understands the economic rational in the private sector…investing in infrastructure to drive growth at a time when things like the resources booms continue to moderate but we also recognise the need to get the communities and political hearts and minds behind this.

“We’re trying to do our bit by providing case studies to show where communities have benefited, not just investors…but there is an enormous amount that has to be and can be done.”


Productivity Commission Chairman, Peter Harris AO said the lack of structured process prevented   infrastructure funding progress.
“No fundamental agreement exists between the Commonwealth and the states on infrastructure investments,” he said.

“What we have is inconsistent behaviour between the Commonwealth and the states.

“That structured understanding about how we will go about assessing projects, an insistence upon transparency, economic analysis first, business case to follow, preparedness to entertain alternative solutions…all those things, we know them now.

“But the decision makers seem unable to reach across the table to each other and say we should structure a process by which we are prepared to consider major infrastructure investment collectively.”

CEDA National Chairman Paul McClintock AO also discussed the roles of the States and Federation.

“In this area there is real confusion and I think if you are going to start to make this system better, it will be a subset of having another go at a redefinition of the role of the Federation,” he said.

“The report (Australia’s economic future: an agenda for growth) …reminds everybody that there are significant challenges in the role that Federal government, state government, and local governments are all playing in this space.

“We’re urging (that) we really need the ability to not only deliver up a business case, not only to fund it, but the ability to actually roll it out and implement it.

“There is real danger that we will end up with some splendid pictures and no implementation and then everybody will feel terribly disillusioned by the whole process.”


Infrastructure Victoria Chief Executive, Michel Masson said the organisation is looking for solutions to solve challenges over the next 30 years, including optimising existing assets.

“We think it’s very important to answer the question of how do we make the most of what we currently have before we look at building new pieces of infrastructure,” he said.

“This optimisation of existing assets has two areas of focus.

“One, technology. You can’t seriously look at the next 30 years without looking at the benefit of the internet of things, big data, what the sensors are going to look like.

“We also think…for the next 30 years… you have got to look at asset management.

“It’s one thing for instance to know how many schools we’re going to need in the next 30 years, it’s equally important to look at the way we maintain our existing assets to ensure that they continue to deliver the service.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen over the next 10, 20 years. But just because we haven’t got a crystal ball, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start planning for the future and providing you and the community with a long term plan with short, medium and long term recommendations on not just shovel ready projects, but also…policies and regulations that we need to look at in order to really make the most of existing assets.”

Read CEDA's major research for 2016, Australia's economic future: an agenda for growth