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Davies lights path to proper infrastructure decision making

Departing Infrastructure Australia head’s guidelines gain ALC support


The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) greets Infrastructure Australia (AI) chief executive Philip Davies’ rebuke of politicians over lax or self-interested construction decision-making with enthusiasm.

With the release of IA’s 11 Infrastructure Decision-making Principles guidelines and in an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper, Davies seeks to deflect the urge to make untested spending promises, particularly during election campaigns, that give rise to a subsequent imperative to keep them, no matter how unwise.

The effort, which prompts the ALC to describe is as “a vital contribution to enhancing transparency and accountability in decision-making around major infrastructure project”, comes seven months after the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) released a scathing analysis of road infrastructure planning for projects worth billions of dollars.

IA states the guidelines were developed in response to a recommendation in the 2016 Australian Infrastructure Plan and are designed to ensure major public infrastructure investments “deliver the best outcomes for the community and the best value for taxpayers”.

Read Infrastructure Australia’s take on road funding here

“The Australian Infrastructure Plan acknowledged that Australia’s governments and the community would benefit from a set of clear principles to provide a benchmark for high quality infrastructure decision-making,” Davies, who leaves IA next month, says.

“While the Infrastructure Priority List has helped create a credible pipeline of future infrastructure investments, too often we are still seeing instances of projects being committed to before a business case has been prepared, a full set of options have been considered, and rigorous analysis of a potential project’s benefits and costs has been undertaken.

“Ultimately, we want to ensure that community needs are properly understood, all options considered and communities consulted before projects are committed. This should include making better use of existing infrastructure by deploying new technologies or utilising the data we’re already collecting.

“The Infrastructure Decision-making Principles should act as a guide for Australia’s governments, establishing clear lines of responsibility and accountability for major infrastructure projects and providing the broader community with a clear set of expectations with which to hold decision-makers to account.

“We want to see Australia’s governments do more to engage with communities, both in communicating long‑term infrastructure plans, problem identification and by incorporating community input in a meaningful way into the project development processes.

“Part of this involves being more transparent around project decision-making by publicly releasing the analysis and processes that form the basis of funding decisions.

“Many of these principles are already embedded in Infrastructure Australia’s broader approach to providing infrastructure advice, as well as our Assessment Framework, which guides the assessment of nationally significant infrastructure priorities and provides advice to project proponents in preparing their submissions.

“The scale of investment in major projects and the long life of most infrastructure assets warrants rigorous decision-making processes.

“Our hope is that Australia’s governments embrace these Infrastructure Decision-making Principles and give the community added confidence that decisions on public infrastructure projects are robust, transparent and accountable.”

ALC MD Michael Kilgariff sees the guidelines as a way of mending government credibility with an increasingly cynical public while giving spending outcomes the best chance of aiding efficiency and productivity.

“ALC has been a steadfast supporter of IA’s independent efforts to ensure that infrastructure development in Australia is subject to rigorous, evidence-based assessments, and that projects ultimately deliver the best economic and social outcomes for the community,” ALC MD Michael Kilgariff says.

“The Infrastructure Decision-making Principles IA has published today offer all governments a way to meaningfully engage with the community about long-term infrastructure plans, and make sure infrastructure investment is targeted towards those projects that address long-term challenges and deliver the greatest possible economic dividend.

“The principles released today build on IA’s significant body of work that will help to promote greater supply chain efficiency and safety.”


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