Cutting through regional infrastructure complexity for national benefit
The Productivity Commission’s current inquiry into Public Infrastructure is an opportunity to identify and propose solutions to systemic issues in Australia’s national infrastructure system.
For regional Australia this offers prospects of a more level playing field and greater acknowledgement of regional infrastructure’s role in the bigger picture.
Australia’s infrastructure position mimics that across much of the world – rising labour costs and smaller budgets, yet increasing demand for services. Ensuring infrastructure provides for basic needs as well as optimising local, regional and national productivity has become increasingly difficult.
Infrastructure bottlenecks and inefficient infrastructure, whether it be large or small, limit the productive potential of our economy. Armed with a clearer understanding of how infrastructure works together we are now more than ever in a position to refine the principles of public infrastructure investment and resolve these important nuances.
For this reason the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) supports the development of a sophisticated and comprehensive national system of infrastructure prioritisation and provision. This includes increased use of alternate funding models such as private-public partnerships.
Infrastructure in regional Australia is plagued by complexity and programmatic (bandaid) solutions. While local infrastructure is central to a productive economy, it is often overlooked in favour of larger (and sometimes more glamorous) projects. Continuation along this path is likely to lead to a critical infrastructure tipping point. A point which would ensue high remedial and productivity costs.
To avoid this criticality and to expedite the treatment of the local infrastructure system within a national system, the RAI proposes the establishment of a body to oversee the local infrastructure process.
Local Infrastructure Australia has the potential to lead the system wide change that has been absent from the response to date on the local infrastructure deficit by providing services in three areas. Project pooling and private finance brokering; Advisory services to local governments on infrastructure development and management; and Consistent national information on local infrastructure needs and associated socio-economic benefits.
Australia has a vast amount of resources to develop a more effective and efficient system to identify, prioritise and invest in infrastructure. We should use this knowledge to develop an appreciation of where our efforts should be best spent, address those vital parts of the system that are too easily dismissed and transition to a more modern approach to infrastructure investment in Australia.
The RAI’s full submission to the Productivity Commissions Inquiry can be downloaded here.