Infrastructure Australia released the long-awaited Australian Infrastructure Audit: Our Infrastructure Challenges in May. The audit strategically examines Australia’s infrastructure needs, emphasising the limitations of the nation’s existing infrastructure, and underlining the need for greater investment and improved planning over the coming years.

Professionals Australia will be lodging a formal submission in response to the Audit findings, encouraging Infrastructure Australia to consider our Better Infrastructure arguments. If you would like to provide feedback towards our submission, or review our draft submission when on hand, please let us know at the end of this summary.

World-leading infrastructure is integral to the productivity of the economy. Infrastructure Australia estimates that infrastructure services alone contribute over 13.0 per cent of GDP. However, while this value may seem significant, the audit noted that congestion around capital cities cost the nation an estimated $13.7 billion in 2011. This number, while already shocking, is forecast to swell to a staggering $53.3 billion in 2031 unless swift corrective action is taken to renew Australia’s dwindling infrastructure stock.

Future infrastructure needs are expected to skyrocket, as Australia maintains among the highest rates of population growth in the world. This population growth will place upward pressure on congestion and increase road travel times, as more cars fight for space on our struggling road network. The audit forecasts Australia’s national freight task to rise by around 80.0 per cent between 2011 and 2031. This will place additional strain on arterial roads as road-freight is the dominant form of freight transports across the country. Ultimately, the audit’s forecast for Australia’s quality of life is bleak, unless Governments drive strong additional investment in well-planned projects.

The audit makes a strong argument for additional investment. Major investment will be required if Australia wishes to maintain its high-quality of life amid rising population and growing congestion.

More importantly, the audit makes several mentions as to how Australia might reverse the trend and improve its infrastructure base. The proposed solutions largely align with Professionals Australia’s Better Infrastructure campaign, calling on Governments to place a greater emphasis on planning, rigorous evaluation, and to address skills shortages.

“Australia would benefit from a strong and consistent pipeline of well-planned infrastructure projects. This would provide greater certainty for infrastructure constructors and investors, and provide the basis for a well-resourced environment for project procurement and informed decision making.”
Infrastructure Australia, Australian Infrastructure Audit: Our Infrastructure Challenges, May 2015, Pp. 3

The audit also recommends that Governments develop a skilled workforce capable of planning and delivering key projects. This process requires Governments to be forward thinking, investing in skilled engineers and major projects now, in order to deliver the infrastructure that society will depend upon in the future.

Infrastructure Australia places the responsibility on governments to drive productivity growth through its management of infrastructure. Key aspects of this process include the efficient management of existing stock, long-term planning, project appraisal and review in order to develop and maintain a pipeline of key projects. The emphasis is also placed on engineering, as the audit underlines the need for continuous improvement to promote modern building practices. This process requires that engineers play a pivotal role in making Governments informed purchasers, to ensure that tax-payer dollars deliver the best infrastructure projects possible.

Notably, the review calls for detailed post-completion reviews, were knowledgeable engineers address the successes and failures of a project to learn from errors and build upon effective strategies. Infrastructure Australia has made the first step, calling for greater, smarter investment in infrastructure.

They Audit calls for submissions, to inform the development of a 15 year Australian Infrastructure Plan. It will then be up to Governments, to take the initiative and build the infrastructure that the nation so sorely needs.