Australians can’t take many overseas holidays at the moment, so today I’ll take you to visit 2030 instead.
Australia in 2030 is truly a different place – but why?
Think back to that whopping infrastructure budget of $225 billion to be spent in the four years to June 2023. This was when we struck gold when it comes transforming Australia, with governments and industry working together to make sure we got the best bang for buck out of the massive kitty.
Infrastructure Australia, our national infrastructure strategists, introduced their Sustainability Principles way back in 2021, laying the foundations for the prioritisation of a more holistic range of infrastructure benefits, addressing social, economic, environmental and governance outcomes.
At the same time, Infrastructure Australia refreshed their annual Infrastructure Priority List (IPL) to identify nationally significant investment opportunities that underpin a thriving country.
By informing how infrastructure projects are assessed, and advising on how we most wisely spend our infrastructure budget through the IPL, the Sustainability Principles have been instrumental in delivering the Australia we’re lucky to enjoy in 2030.
The effects are being felt all over the country. Out on her farm in central Queensland, Margie needs to see a specialist about her chronic health condition. Ten years back that meant a six-hour drive into Brisbane for a consultation, taking her away from her kids for a night. But that world has gone, with the delivery of the IPL-prioritised initiative of “Enabling digital health services for regional and remote Australia”: With the excellent broadband network now in place, it’s no trouble for Margie to arrange a video telemedicine consultation. Following her meeting with the specialist, their office sends the information to her GP in Roma and she can pick up her prescription in half an hour’s time. Thanks to this “levelling up” in health outcomes, Margie is no longer looking at shorter lifespan than someone with the same condition who lives in the city.
On the highway south of Sydney, Jane is on the final leg of her six-hour journey from her coastal home to see clients in town. Jane lives on the NSW south coast, running her freelance business remotely, again thanks to the excellent broadband now available. Like most people on the highway, she’s travelling in her electric car. She feels safe doing this because of all the electric vehicle charging points along the highway, prioritised under the IPL’s “National Highway electric vehicle fast charging” initiative. These charging stations are super quick too, charging her car’s battery in less than 30 minutes – the perfect pause for a coffee before it’s time to get back on the road.
Rising sea levels were causing headaches in Jane’s coastal home town, but the IPL ‘Coastal hazards adaptation strategy’, adopted by the NSW Government and delivered in partnership with local governments, have meant that a mix of strategic planted vegetation and buffer zones are keeping the waves at bay. As well as ensuring her community’s continued viability, that’s saved her a lot on her house insurance.
Back in her car, she listens to the radio. There’s a heatwave predicted in South Australia.
Jane worries about her son in Adelaide, but at least she knows his power will stay on during the hot weather as the resilient system will cope with the extra demand. Extreme weather is more common these days due to climate change, but thanks to infrastructure investment, the systems are resilient. Local energy generation, with many buildings generating their own power from rooftop solar or tapping into local generation schemes, means that outages due to overwhelmed power systems are a thing of the past. The extremes aren’t as bad as they could have been either – the expansion of the ‘renewable energy zones’, prioritised by the IPL, has meant that large scale new renewable projects in solar, wind and hydro have kept Australia’s emissions lower, enabling us to play an important and necessary part in international leadership on climate action.
Over in Perth, it’s bin night and Mariam is putting out the rubbish. There’s a lot less household waste than there used to be, thanks to the success of the Australian Packaging Covenant, and she’s sorted her rubbish carefully into the different recyclable categories. Even the kids know what happens next: “Our plastics and glass turn into roads and pavements!” That’s thanks to the heavy investment in “National waste and recycling management”, identified as an IPL priority, helping to solve waste issues and also provide local jobs. As they travel between school, home and the kids’ sport, Miriam and her kids sometimes wonder whether the road they’re on is made of the plastic and glass they have separated out.
Right now, Ali has finished work in Melbourne’s CBD and is travelling home by train. Thanks to the level crossings removal initiative prioritised in the IPL, Ali’s journey functions safely and seamlessly with the cars, trams and active transport modes that work alongside it. No more boom-gate traffic jams! From his window he can see kids playing in the parks created under the raised rail lines, lined with water-wise native vegetation. He notices the rainwater tanks installed at every station, whilst recalling the early adoption of recycled materials when the level crossing removals commenced… No wonder these types of projects were awarded with high sustainability accolades over a decade ago!
The walk home from the station was thirsty work; time for a drink of water. As Ali turns on the tap, even the clean, potable water that comes out of it is recycled, thanks to serious investment in the ‘South East Melbourne recycled water supply infrastructure’, identified as an IPL priority initiative many years prior.
It’s not quite Bali or Paris, but I hope you’ve enjoyed your short holiday in 2030. By touring the infrastructure that make future Australia such a great place to live, work and play, you’ve seen how great infrastructure decision-making can truly make a better country for all of us. Next stop: making it a reality.