Thought leaders at the UOW SMART Infrastructure Facility have found that Australia could save billions of dollars by better planning and managing infrastructure projects.
Having recently undertaken an analysis of how major projects are procured and managed by the government, SMART’s CEO, Garry Bowditch, has stated that inefficiencies in the planning and procurement process, and the execution of infrastructure plans, are costing the taxpayer between $4 and $5 billion a year.
To ensure the taxpayers are getting value for their money, greater transparency and accountability is needed, he added.
“Australia cannot afford to continue its practices where poor value for money, year after year, results in a level of inefficiency that could, if corrected, fund the equivalent of at least the entire annual capital expenditure program of two large states.”
Mr Bowditch said that excessive public construction during booms, bureaucratic red tape, a lack of long term planning and the pursuit of new mega projects instead of the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure have contributed to the country’s cost blow-outs.
The SMART analysis furthers SMART’s contribution to national infrastructure debate since the Infrastructure Imperatives for Australia was released earlier this year. SMART’s findings in both instances, as well as the role of first class infrastructure in favourably positioning Australia in a global market, were key talking points at the second annual SMART Infrastructure Business and Policy dialogue on 13 August at the MLC Centre in Sydney’s CBD.
With Sydney’s urban sprawl as a backdrop to the podium, infrastructure thought leaders, including SMART economist Professor Henry Ergas and Dr Ken Henry, Chairman of the SMART Infrastructure Facility, and decision makers such as Mr Jim Betts, CEO of Infrastructure NSW, discussed methods for lifting infrastructure efficiency and lowering costs.
Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Jamie Briggs, when speaking at the business and policy dialogue, said the current Federal Government has employed a range of strategies to improve infrastructure development, including driving public sector involvement.
“The reality is much of the major infrastructure needs across the country are beyond the capacity of federal and state governments to deliver alone. And we need the private sector to be involved … Putting aside the innovation that the private sector brings into projects, and the efficiency that it brings, it’s necessary for the capital to ensure that we’re actually delivering,” Minister Briggs said.
Video: The Hon. Jamie Briggs MP
Various forms of infrastructure were discussed at the Business and Policy Dialogue.
Dr Ziggy Switkowski, Executive Chairman of the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co), spoke about the challenges of rolling out the national broadband network, particularly to remote locations across Australia as well as how crucial a fast broadband is for business – small and medium enterprises and global players.
“We’ve all accepted that you’ve got to have a high quality internet environment to operate, either at a household level or a business level,” Dr Switkowski said.
International keynote speaker Sir John Armitt, Chairman of the London Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), arrived in Australia ready to impart some practical advice based on his own experiences with the ODA and the recently publishedIndependent Armitt Review.
Since its inception, the SMART Infrastructure Facility has successfully positioned itself as an important contributor to national debate about infrastructure, investment and policy.