Australia’s independent national infrastructure adviser, Infrastructure Australia released its 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan earlier this monthInfrastructure Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Romilly Madew, provides an overview of the organisation’s 15-year reform agenda and how it will work with government and industry to drive its implementation.

A forward focused reform document

Infrastructure Australia’s vision for 2036 is to create an Australia where infrastructure improves the sustainability of our economic, social, environmental and governance settings to improve quality of life throughout our communities.

The 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan sets out the reforms needed over the next 15 years to achieve this. It provides Australia’s governments with a cross-sectoral and pragmatic reform roadmap that prioritises community outcomes and the delivery of affordable, high-quality infrastructure services across our country’s diverse geographies.

It also considers and responds to the series of unprecedented shocks and stresses Australia has recently experienced including the Covid-19 pandemic, bushfires, extreme weather events, and broader geo-political uncertainty.

As part of our role in providing independent advice to Australia’s governments, we first developed the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit which identified 180 challenges and opportunities facing our infrastructure sector.

This research was supplemented by our December 2020 Infrastructure Beyond Covid-19 report which found that the pandemic had accelerated structural trends such as digitisation, more local and regional infrastructure use, as well as service innovations and adaptations.

Building on this evidence base, our reform roadmap was developed in close collaboration with governments, industry, and communities. To achieve this, we completed a comprehensive engagement program that targeted more than 6,500 community members and industry stakeholders across Australia’s cities and regions.

This collaboration has helped ensure our reform recommendations have broad support, providing the strong foundation we believe is needed to deliver lasting reform.

As a result, the 2021 plan represents an industry consensus of the actions required to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, and deliver the infrastructure needed to support Australia’s economic recovery and build our resilience to future shocks and stresses. 

Reforms to support the ongoing national recovery

To support our national recovery, we need collective action from governments and industry, which combines both investment and reform. We have seen significant investment in the infrastructure sector throughout Australia in recent years. To continue the national recovery, we need to pursue reforms that unlock the full benefits of stimulus spending through targeted reform to deliver better and more resilient infrastructure services. To do this in Australia, we need to focus on:

  • Supporting growth outside our largest cities, in regional centres and Northern Australia.
  • Invest in transformative technology to deliver affordable and sustainable infrastructure services.
  • Promoting changes to the behaviour around infrastructure use, empowering Australians to make sustainable choices.
  • Improving transparency and coordination of the project pipeline and reforms to improve industry productivity.
  • Increasing collaboration across infrastructure delivery to support productivity and innovation.

Implementing our reform agenda

Our role is to work collaboratively alongside government, industry, and the community to support the implementation of reforms needed in the infrastructure sector.

To support the adoption and implementation of reforms across government and industry, we worked to ensure the reform agenda outlined in the 2021 plan was practical and actionable. Therefore, each reform incorporates a recommendation, which is supported by interim outcomes and a series of enabling activities. We also identified parties to sponsor, lead and support reform as well as the time-period for their adoption.

Notwithstanding this, we believe the challenge of progressing reform is a shared one – that is why Infrastructure Australia stands ready to partner with all levels of government and industry to support the implementation of reform.