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Australian infrastructure plan published

Infrastructure Australia has published a plan proposing changes to infrastructure development in the country over the next 15 years.18 Feb 2016

The Australian Infrastructure Plan looked at infrastructure challenges and opportunities and proposed 78 changes that should be made to increase growth.

Proposals include the consolidation of funding pools into one infrastructure fund; the establishment of a road user charging scheme, initially for heavy vehicles and eventually for all passenger vehicles; and the transfer of all remaining publicly owned electricity networks, water utility businesses and retail businesses to private ownership.

The report also recommended that 'value capture' opportunities are identified in public infrastructure projects, where any financial benefits brought to private owners by public projects are shared with taxpayers. 

Australia's asset recycling scheme should be continued, where incentive payments are made to state and territory governments that sell assets and reinvest the proceeds in productive infrastructure, the report said.

Population growth in Australia now exceeds countries including the UK, Canada and the United States, Mark Birrell, chairman of Infrastructure Australia said in his introduction to the report.  

"By 2031, more than 30 million people will call Australia home, and most of them will live in our four largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth," he said.

Australia’s proximity to the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region will also bring new opportunities, Birrell said.

"By 2031, Asia will represent around two-thirds of the world’s middle class population, creating huge demand for Australian produce and skills," he said.

"Unless we transform our infrastructure base and invest in new nation-shaping projects and policies, we risk failing to capitalise on these historic opportunities," Birrell said.

Brendan Lyon, chairman of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia said: "The plan does not pull any punches, outlining fundamental changes to the cost, price and ownership of key infrastructure to make cities and the economy both continue to work into the future."

"This is a very honest prescription of what’s needed to fix Australia’s infrastructure and it warrants a calm and considered response from the major parties," Lyon said.

"After standing still for 15 years, Australians know that congestion, transport and wider infrastructure problems will not fix themselves. This report is firmly supported by the infrastructure sector and we look forward to the government and opposition response, in due course," he said.

Infrastructure expert Simela Karasavidis of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "It is refreshing to see a plan for Australian infrastructure development that critically and objectively looks at the challenges and opportunities faced by the Australian infrastructure industry and that presents intelligent proposals for consideration. Let’s hope that all federal and state governments and those in opposition give this plan the serious consideration it deserves."

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