Boomtown! Property and Infrastructure Summit
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I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we are gathering and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
I extend that respect to any First Nations people who are participating in this event.
It is my absolute pleasure to join you here today at Boomtown! Before we get into the discussion, I just wanted to take the opportunity to make a few introductory comments, including sharing what’s next for Infrastructure Australia.
I’ve had this event pencilled in my diary because this is one of – if not the most – important regions of our nation. Western Sydney is an economic powerhouse, the third largest economy in the nation.
It’s a diverse community, home to 1 in every 11 Australians, with residents born in more than 170 countries and a First Nations community deeply connected to this Country.
And it’s a diverse environment – home to a $600 million food bowl, a World Heritage Listed National Park, one of the most important river systems in the state and open spaces used by Sydneysiders from all over.
Western Sydney is the beating heart of modern, multicultural Australia. It is undergoing rapid transformation and with that comes significant challenges but also enormous potential.
That’s why we are continuing to invest in infrastructure across the West, including: planning for the Castlereagh Connection and works on the Richmond Road corridor; accelerating construction on Dunheved Road; constructing the M12 Motorway and Sydney Metro; and of course, building Western Sydney Airport itself.
Importantly, we are also setting the stage for future, targeted investments.
During the election campaign, we promised to establish a Western Sydney Transport Infrastructure Panel to guide our investments across the region.
This week, we took the next step towards its establishment, when – stepping in for the Prime Minister – I announced the inaugural members at the Bradfield Oration.
This body will be tasked with providing me with a strategic assessment of the needs and opportunities for transport investment across the west.
I am hoping it will take some of the politics out of investment, working alongside Infrastructure Australia and reporting to me ahead of the 2023-24 Federal Budget with the priorities for transport infrastructure investment for the next decade.
This is not our usual approach to transport infrastructure. But what I’ve learned over my short time as the infrastructure and transport Minister is that the complexity of Western Sydney needs a different approach.
One that builds on the long history of place based decision making that exists there, draws together the very different challenges of each area of Western Sydney and attempts to build a consensus of priorities across levels of government to assist with investment and future decisions.
I look forward to working with the Panel to this end. Importantly, today I am releasing the report and Government’s response to the review of Infrastructure Australia.
Infrastructure Australia was established by the Prime Minister in the last Labor Government to, as you know, provide independent, expert advice to the Commonwealth on the infrastructure investment Australians needed for a better future.
But a decade after its establishment it needs renewal. We need to ask how we identify the genuinely transformational projects the nation needs.
How we ensure these projects deliver the productivity dividends we so need.
And we need to revisit how Infrastructure Australia works with the infrastructure advisory bodies that have been established in each state.
To answer those questions, I asked Nicole Lockwood and Mike Mrdak to conduct an independent review of Infrastructure Australia and report back to the Government.
The review recommends that Infrastructure Australia: produce a more refined, smaller, targeted Infrastructure Priority List; develop a national planning and assessment framework to support national consistency in infrastructure assessment; adopt a more active role in the post completion stage of infrastructure projects, and; adopt a structure for Infrastructure Australia to work closely with the infrastructure bodies set up by states and territories.
The Government has agreed and as a result: Infrastructure Australia will produce a more refined, smaller, targeted Infrastructure Priority List.
This will lead to more targeted advice in order to better inform the Australian Government’s decision-making; Formal responses to Infrastructure Australia’s advice, findings and recommendations will be more consistently published by the Australian Government; Infrastructure Australia will develop a national planning and assessment framework to support national consistency in infrastructure assessment; Infrastructure Australia will adopt a more active role in the post-completion stage of infrastructure projects to better evaluate whether projects are achieving their intended outcomes; and The Infrastructure Australia board will be replaced with an advisory board, but its day to day work will be overseen by three full time commissioners to lend additional expertise and capacity.
Most of these changes will require legislation to assist with the transition.
I will be making a series of announcements regarding transitional arrangements for the board in coming days.
My hope is that the outcomes of this review will re-establish the relationship between Infrastructure Australia and the Australian Government’s decision making in infrastructure investment.
This will take some time but it is critical to ensuring that we make the best decisions to build the places we live, here in Sydney and across the country.