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New initiative to enhance Australia's infrastructure potential

15 February 2016
Better Infrastructure Initiative launches

A new research initiative based at the University of Sydney's John Grill Centre for Project Leadership aims to eliminate the 'hit-and-miss' nature of Australia’s major projects and help deliver infrastructure benefits sooner and to greater effect for customers and the community.

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The Better Infrastructure Initiative is a call to action for governments, business and the community so that Australia achieves better value for money from its massive spending on transport, energy, water and other essential services. The Initiative will develop a reform program, supported by research and data analysis, to help policymakers, investors and the community manage infrastructure more astutely for the future.

Commencing a four-year Leadership partner program between the John Grill Centre and the National Australia Bank (NAB), the Initiative will support and encourage better infrastructure governance across the long life cycle of these valuable networks. The partnership will do this through research papers, new data generation and analytics, and thought leadership forums. It will make recommendations to inform policymaking, enhance the investment environment and improve project governance.

At the national launch of the Initiative today, Federal Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP will officially release the Initiative’s first policy outlook paper, Re-establishing Australia's Global Infrastructure Leadership, which outlines an ambitious reform agenda.

"This report is the first of several papers aimed at lifting the planning and management capabilities of government and business," Executive Director of the Better Infrastructure Initiative, Garry Bowditch, said.

Less 'gut-feeling' from policymakers and more customer led, evidence-based decision-making is one of the outcomes we are seeking - so taxpayers and investors can more confidently support infrastructure.
Garry Bowditch

Re-establishing Australia's Global Infrastructure Leadership

The report found that low innovation, declining productivity and a failure to positively engage customers are key factors holding back the nation's infrastructure. It recommends greater transparency, better standards for infrastructure governance, a shifting of priorities towards customers and wherever possible the use of a market-driven approach to improve infrastructure performance.

"Too often, customers are not strongly engaged in the infrastructure project selection process, and are offered infrastructure on a 'take it or leave it' basis. The paper concludes that where governments facilitate the development of markets and bring service providers and customers closer together, greater emphasis is placed on common sense infrastructure outcomes," Mr Bowditch said.

"Instead of always looking to build big things, we should be focusing too on the smaller but often overlooked projects to decongest and de-bottleneck existing infrastructure. We can pump tens of billions of dollars into infrastructure, but there are other things we can do that would relieve the same problem if we actually look at the root cause of the issue."

NAB Executive General Manager, Capital Financing, Steve Lambert, said NAB – as Australia's leading infrastructure bank – was delighted to be an inaugural Better Infrastructure Initiative partner.

"NAB is committed to raising the level of dialogue and challenging some of the accepted norms with a view to greater and richer outcomes for Australia's communities," Mr Lambert said.

"We have a proud record in the infrastructure sector, we understand the opportunities and the challenges involved in funding Australia's future, and we want to be a part of the solution."

"The Better Infrastructure Initiative is an example of the University of Sydney connecting with industry, working in partnership with NAB to conduct world-changing research and thought leadership for and with industry," Mr Bowditch said.