Collaboration the key to unlocking bottlenecks: Albanese

Albanese takes aim at parochialism, calling for an end to commonwealth-state rivalry to fix Australia's "parlous" state of infrastructure

By Brad Gardner

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese has fired a broadside at parochialism, saying the only way to bring Australia’s "parlous" state of infrastructure up to standard is to end commonwealth-state rivalry.

In a speech to an infrastructure conference in Sydney yesterday, Albanese told attendees little has changed in Australia’s approach to key infrastructure projects since the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme, which was plagued by a lack of disagreement between states.

Citing comments made by former Prime Minister Ben Chifley in 1949 urging states to unite on the scheme, Albanese told the conference "interstate bickering" continues to dominate discussion on all projects, from road to rail and telecommunications.

"Decades on from Chifley’s call to arms, governments today are still grappling with the same challenges that threatened to derail the Snowy River project," Albanese says.

"For too long, our ability to take a long term view of Australia’s infrastructure needs has been hampered by the blame game which has existed between federal and state governments."

During his speech, Albanese urged jurisdictions to chart a new course on infrastructure development, saying the Rudd Government is committed to scrapping the business-as-usual approach.

"With the amount of freight being moved on our road and rail networks expected to grow dramatically over the coming years, it’s clear we urgently need to modernise our transport infrastructure," Albanese says.

"We have made this a priority because our infrastructure is in a parlous state."

However, he says greater partnerships between the private and public sectors must also be established if infrastructure bottlenecks are to be removed.

"The only way to reach our infrastructure goals is for the public and private sectors to work hand in hand to deliver the infrastructure this nation needs to take us to the next level of economic growth and prosperity," Albanese says.

Albanese spoke of the establishment of Infrastructure Australia as evidence of the Labor’s commitment to public-private partnerships (PPPs), which is made up of a number of government and industry representatives.

He says the body, which is currently auditing Australia’s infrastructure to assist it in developing a funding priority list, is essential in ensuring transport infrastructure can cope with the burgeoning freight task.

Referring to a report by ABN Amro, Albanese told attendees greater private sector participation is essential because between $380 billion and $455 billion will need to be spent on infrastructure over the next decade.

He says the Government is working to streamline the PPP process to make it more attractive for investors and state and territories are also working towards national regulations for the road, rail and maritime sectors.

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