National gap on infrastructure can be filled: The Hon. Mark Birrell

"If we get our infrastructure right, we will protect Australia's quality of life at a time of significant population growth," Infrastructure Australia Chairman, the Hon. Mark Birrell, told a CEDA forum in Melbourne .

“Infrastructure Australia has been given a mandate from the Prime Minister to advise on creating a 15-year plan around national infrastructure,” he said.

“We are currently in the process of doing an audit…and during 2015 we will be using this audit to distil the longer term vision.

“Our audit is being produced with close engagement with the states and the territories.

“Our approach to the national infrastructure plan will be driven by a very positive belief that the national gap on infrastructure can be filled.”

Mr Birrel said Infrastructure Australia will be seeking infrastructure that does three things:

  • Strengthens Australia’s role as a globally focused economy, helping us export value added products, services and resources.
  • Allows Australia to meet its needs as a highly urbanised nation, enhancing the liveability of our cities, fostering the skilled jobs and the innovative businesses that our cities create.
  • Underpins Australia’s prospects for sustainable growth, utilising the best of new technology and ensuring integrated land use decisions.

“Infrastructure Australia will seek to provide wise answers on fresh options that are available on the funding of infrastructure and what can be afforded as a nation,” he said.

“We certainly need to expand the total funding base for new infrastructure, we need to create effective new market mechanisms that signal where infrastructure should go, and we want to ensure that we have sustainable capital investment.”

Also speaking at the CEDA event, Victorian Auditor General’s Office Assistant Auditor General, Natalia Southern, said: “Infrastructure project planning including the development of a robust business case is the critical foundation of any successful major project. 

“Yet time and time again, we’ve found that business cases are poorly developed and unsupported by rigorous data, assumptions and analysis of benefits, costs and risks.

“Serious effort needs to be put in to developing robust business cases, rigorous information and testing of assumptions is important, and all options need to be fully considered.

“Rushing this part of the process can have serious implications for the quality of business cases and outcomes of those projects.

“We’ve reported on a number of infrastructure projects that have failed to be managed to scope, cost and time.”