Infrastructure Association of Queensland luncheon

Thank you Patrick (Condren, MC) for your introduction.

It’s great to be here today. As I look around the room I can see some familiar faces, many of who I met with only two weeks ago to discuss the very exciting South East Queensland City Deal.

The election of the Morrison Government means some of the approaches we have championed – such as our ten-year Infrastructure Investment Pipeline and our commitment to City Deals – are able to reset the approach to infrastructure policy in Australia.

These two initiatives will frame my remarks to you today.

Infrastructure Investment Pipeline

There can be no doubt that expenditure on infrastructure makes a vital contribution to supporting economic growth in this country.

The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia emphasised this point last month when he said:

‘Spending on infrastructure not only adds to demand in the economy but, done properly, it can boost the economy's productivity. It can also directly improve the quality of people's lives through reducing congestion and improving services.

Congestion affects us all in one way or another. For those who face traffic every day, it takes valuable time away that could be spent with family and friends, or at work. To businesses reliant on getting across cities rapidly, it is an added cost.

And to all Australians, congestion it is a drain on the economy.

Avoidable congestion across our capital cities now costs $25 billion per year. Without any policy change, this is predicted to rise to as much as $40 billion per year by 2030.

Over the past decade, our freeways have slowed, trains have become fuller, and many people in our community are concerned that it will only get worse.

Brisbane’s share of this avoidable cost of congestion is currently $4 billion per year. This cost is projected to increase to more than $6 billion per year by 2030.

Congestion, of course, is largely a function of a simple equation: rapid population growth and infrastructure not keeping pace.

We are working on both fronts to take action.

On the population side of the equation, we are putting in place policies to ease the population pressures on our big capitals of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. These cities have been growing very fast by historic and international standards and account for 75% of Australia’s population growth in recent years.

Our population plan consists of reducing the migration rate (which constitutes 60 percent of Australia’s population growth) and encouraging more new arrivals to our smaller cities and regions, which are crying out for more people.

On top of this, we have outlined a fast rail plan to connect our regional cities to our big capitals, with $2 billion to get the first fast rail project going – Melbourne to Geelong.  This will allow people to live in those centres (and enjoy the cheaper housing and regional lifestyle) while still being able to access the big employment markets easily and simply on a daily basis. This works in conjunction with our migration changes to take population pressure off the big cities.

The other side of the equation is infrastructure. As I have mentioned, the Government has massively increased its infrastructure expenditure since it came to office.

In 2014, we outlined a $50 billion infrastructure plan which was recognised at the time as the biggest in Australian political history.

Earlier this year, we boosted the infrastructure expenditure to $100 billion. A third of the 900 major projects that we have announced since coming to office have been announced in the last 6 months alone.

In the 2018-19 Budget, we first committed ourselves to ‘a credible, decade-long Infrastructure Investment Pipeline of projects.’

Our embrace of a ‘pipeline of projects’ is a step-change in Commonwealth processes.

It acknowledges the obvious – that some major city-shaping, or even nation-shaping projects, have longer construction times than the standard four-year forward estimates period of a Budget. 

Completion of the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail, for example, is expected in 2025, and the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport in 2026, although construction of both is well underway.

Of course, we still strictly adhere to the normal fiscal discipline of Budget practice, but we want to provide certainty around that pipeline of projects because the feedback from industry, in fact many of you in this very room, has been that you need certainty of this future pipeline. We are committed to delivering that.

Our Government has committed over $25 billion to infrastructure in Queensland since coming to Government in 2013, with over $16 billion of that to be delivered over the next ten years of our forward pipeline.

Another element of our disciplined approach is to have Infrastructure Australia assess business cases for all projects where we are expected to contribute

$100 million or more.

In July this year, Infrastructure Australia completed their assessments of the business cases for three Queensland projects: two on the M1 Pacific Motorway and one on the Bruce Highway. 

Of these:

The Australian Government has invested nearly $1.8 billion to bust congestion and improve efficiency along the M1 Pacific Motorway.

We are also delivering major upgrades to reduce congestion, improve safety and increase flood immunity on the Bruce Highway, through a $10 billion Upgrade Program.

Of course, these are just some of the many transport infrastructure projects that we’re investing in and construction is underway on a range of Queensland projects as we speak.

Within the 2019-20 Budget and the election campaign, we also committed funds to projects relating to the Gateway Motorway, the Gladstone Port Access Road Extension, the Cairns Ring Road and Stage 5 of the Townsville Ring Road.

We have committed over $1 billion to Queensland under the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative to upgrade key commuter and freight corridors which benefit regional communities and industries.

We have already committed $888 million towards upgrades of the Warrego Highway Corridor between Ipswich and Roma.

At the other end of the scale, our Government has committed over $593 million across 30 congestion-busting infrastructure projects in Queensland, through the Urban Congestion Fund.

These projects tackle pinch points on urban roads, like interchange upgrades and improved safety features on the Gympie Arterial Road north of Brisbane. We are also funding Commuter Car Parks to get more people off the roads and onto public transport, including at Beenleigh, Ferny Grove and Mango Hill Stations.

We have also committed $112 million towards Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A, involving the extension from Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads, building on our earlier commitment of $95 million to Stage 2.

A greater willingness to invest in business cases is another hallmark of our Government’s approach.

We have established a Major Project Business Case Fund for this purpose, committing $78 million towards eight business case studies in Queensland, so far.

These include investigating options for passenger rail services from Brisbane to Toowoomba and for faster passenger rail services from Brisbane to the Gold Coast. 

Previously, we had committed funds under the Faster Rail Prospectus initiative to explore fast rail options for Brisbane to the regions of Moreton Bay and the Sunshine Coast.

And subsequently committed $390 million to deliver the Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade.

To coordinate our investment in fast rail projects, and advise on future opportunities, we have established a National Faster Rail Agency, which will be supported by an Expert Panel.

Taken together, these fast rail measures are indicative of our willingness to explore a ‘45-minute region’ for South-East Queensland, which is the very first point cited in the Statement of Intent for a City Deal. 

City Deals

Speaking of City Deals, I was here just two weeks ago, engaging with some of our key stakeholders – many of you who are in this room today, along with Councils and State Government for the South East Queensland City Deal.

Yesterday we were in Logan and Moreton Bay and this morning I was on the Sunshine Coast meeting with lots of the local industry representatives.

It’s a really rewarding feeling having everyone come together and make plans for the future of a city – there’s nothing like it.

Our cities agenda has established the use of City Deals as a way to deliver place-based policy for our cities.

They are providing great opportunities around Australia, building stronger, better and more liveable cities.

Queenslanders are more aware of this than most, given our very first City Deal was in Townsville, in 2016.

Three years on, we are collaborating successfully across the three levels of government to deliver on the Townsville City Deal; a 15-year agreement which is set to transform the city’s economy and central business district.

An example of this is the North Queensland Stadium, which is due for completion early next year. This project alone created around 2,000 local jobs, with more than 80% of the construction hours delivered by local subcontractors.

This has had flow on impacts and contributed to a 3% reduction in the unemployment rate in Townsville since we signed the deal. And of course this will also provide, ongoing employment for the region when completed.

From February of next year, North Queenslanders will be able to attend concerts, watch rugby games and other sporting matches.

This stadium will be a mecca for entertainment and provide further opportunities to attract major events to North Queensland, boosting tourism for the area and bolstering the local economy.

This is just one example of the delivery elements in a City Deal, the impacts of which are positively impacting the community.

Since Townsville, I am very proud to say that the City Deal model has been rolled out to Launceston, Western Sydney, Darwin, Hobart, Geelong and Adelaide.

In addition to South East Queensland, which I will discuss in a moment, we are engaging with both Perth and Melbourne on City Deals there.

City Deals can, and do, address the priorities of local communities.

They are informed by conversations within communities about the type of city or region they want to live and work in.

They require genuine engagement from the Commonwealth, state, territory and local governments to maximise investment and achieve national priorities.

They are time and resource concentrated, but that effort by all levels of government can, and does, achieve great outcomes.

The Statement of Intent, signed in March this year, outlined a shared 20-year vision for a South East Queensland City Deal.

The Statement of Intent covers six key themes: Connecting Infrastructure; Jobs and Skills; Liveability and Sustainability; Housing and Planning; Digital; and Governance and Leadership.

As you probably know, in the year to June 2018, nearly 90 per cent of Queensland’s population growth occurred in SEQ.

The City Deal will allow the three levels of government to work collaboratively across multiple agencies, and with the community, as well as the private and public sectors, to map out a joint, long-term plan to successfully manage the challenges posed by South East Queensland’s population growth.

City Deals help coordinate government action across departments within a single level, just as much as they do across three levels of government.

Under the ‘Connecting Infrastructure’ badge, the SEQ City Deal will see the three levels of government agree on the infrastructure investment priorities.

We will also work together to build on the existing investments already planned for the region, to ensure these achieve maximum business and community benefits.

Three of these are cited in the Statement of Intent:

  • The Cross River Rail, which is fully funded by the Queensland Government’s;
  • The Brisbane City Council’s Brisbane Metro; and
  • The Commonwealth’s $9.3 billion investment in the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail.

Inland Rail’s benefits will be amplified by creating an economic corridor from Toowoomba to Brisbane to support economic development and jobs growth.

There’s a great deal of economic activity already happening in anticipation of the Inland Rail, particularly in sectors such as agribusiness and freight and logistics.

Through the City Deal, the three levels of government can make sure we’re reducing the barriers to this business activity, and communicating the opportunities for investment to industry, to ensure this infrastructure delivers on its region-shaping promise.

I am confident that throughout the SEQ City Deal, we will see all three Deal partners engaging regularly with the private sector and community to make sure our shared plan for the region is clearly communicated.

This will both boost business confidence and ensure we’re maximising the opportunities for private sector investment and the innovative financing of projects.

I also want to acknowledge today, your Association’s long and strong advocacy for an ambitious SEQ City Deal.

Our largest Deal to date – Western Sydney – involves eight local Councils.

The SEQ Deal will involve ten. Among them are five of the largest Councils in Australia.

So, the scale of our ambitions for South East Queensland are obvious.

Of course, all those involved need to work through the issues methodically, if we are to ensure this City Deal will be fit for purpose for twenty years.

I mentioned earlier that I was here just a few weeks ago for very a constructive discussion with the Deputy Premier and the Chair of the Council of Mayors on the next steps for this Deal, and I would like to thank your CEO, Priscilla, for her valuable contributions at the Industry Roundtable the Deal partners held that day.

We will be holding more discussions with community and industry here in the region over the coming weeks, as we work towards developing the Deal by mid-2020. I am excited about what we can achieve – working together.

I want to thank the Infrastructure Association of Queensland for the opportunity to speak here today.

Queenslanders played a significant role in the return of the Government.

This will give longevity to key elements of our current approach – like our ten-year infrastructure investment pipeline, increased funding for business cases for major project proposals, and the development of City Deals.

We have made a record $100 billion commitment to transport infrastructure.

We have seven City Deals in place, with three more on the way.

I look forward, as you do, to finalising the South East Queensland City Deal and then getting on with its delivery.

Thank you for listening.