National Infrastructure Plan released

With a remit to look up to 50 years into the future, the National Infrastructure Plan has been released by Infrastructure Australia. The aim, in preparing the plan, is to provide governments with a clear set of actions to take advantage of economic opportunities flowing from the economic growth expected in the Asia region in the coming years.

The plan calls for the establishment of a single national infrastructure fund, encouraging private investment to help fund infrastructure projects, selling or leasing current infrastructure to raise further funding, wider use of user pays systems and improvement in the way infrastructure development is organised and regulated.

“Our aim in preparing this plan has been to provide governments and the community with a clear set of actions to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the growth of the Asian economies over the next half century,” said Sir Rod Eddington AO, Infrastructure Australia Chairman. “There are challenges in pursuing these reforms. The community is wary of change. Too often, governments have been reluctant to make the case for such change. Failure to pursue these reforms will leave a poor legacy for our children and grandchildren.”

The report calls for an outward-looking ports and national freight network to provide long term certainty for ports and freight networks, boosting competitive global gateways to Asia to meet the growing domestic and trade freight task.

In the next 50 years, the report points out, the global centre of commerce will move into Australia’s vicinity and demand for Australian goods will grow. This means Australia will need a connected and integrated national freight network, enabling business to move goods to and from local and overseas markets faster and safer. The aim is to lower the cost of transport, and enable Australia to exploit our close proximity to Asia, to our competitive advantage.

The freight task in Australia is said to have quadrupled over the past 40 years, and is expected double again in the next 20 years. Freight accounts for an estimated 9 per cent of our gross domestic product and supports employment in around a quarter of a million Australian businesses.

The report asserts freight will follow the next lowest cost route they can, with freight trips spilling onto local and community roads, if opportunity for infrastructure is limited and access constrained. Infrastructure Australia calls for the freight industry and the community need to reach an understanding balancing community need by consolidating routes where freight can travel, with the economic importance of freight activity and by providing highly efficient infrastructure links between our most important freight locations.

According to Infrastructure Australia, the national freight network is a lasting solution that will address the systemic and long term challenges facing freight. Short term actions, it reckons, will not deliver the policy settings to deliver the right infrastructure to get the freight moved efficiently. The report says Australia’s major freight generators should be connected by a national network irrespective of who might own individual segments.

“This is not a national ‘takeover’ of freight infrastructure, but an approach that ensures interoperability, with national specifications for rail, roads, communications, corridors and shipping,” says the National Infrastructure Plan.

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