Australian governments are lagging in efforts to implement necessary infrastructure reform, the latest analysis has found.

As it works to develop the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan, Infrastructure Australia commissioned global consulting firm EY to assess progress on implementation of the 78 recommendations from its first plan which was published in 2016.

The analysis shows that progress has been sporadic or mixed at best.

Of the 25 recommendations which were ranked as either high or moderate priority, it found that:

  • Progress has been ‘sporadic’ on implementation of eight recommendations. This includes four of the thirteen recommendations which were identified as high priority and four of the twelve recommendations which were identified as moderate priority.
  • Progress has been ‘mixed’ regarding implementation of sixteen recommendations. This includes nine of the thirteen high priority recommendations and seven of the twelve recommendations identified as moderate priority.
  • There has been no progress on the remaining moderate priority recommendation for the Commonwealth to continue to provide incentives after the winding up of the Asset Recycling Initiative.

The analysis found that there were no high or moderate priority recommendations for which significant progress had been made across all relevant jurisdictions and/or sectors.

There were also no high or moderate priority recommendations on which broad based action had been taken across all relevant jurisdictions and/or sectors.

Released five years ago, the first Australian Infrastructure Plan set out a 15-year roadmap for investment and reform in infrastructure planning and delivery across the nation.

That plan made 78 recommendations across areas of:

  • Better utilising infrastructure and emerging technology to maximise productivity
  • Capitalise on opportunities delivered by urban population growth to enhance economic prosperity and liveability
  • Delivering efficient infrastructure to connect people to jobs, goods to market and Australia to the world (connectivity)
  • Maximising opportunities for growth in productive regional economies and supporting sustainable regional communities
  • Increasing and sustaining funding for infrastructure delivery; and
  • Delivering competitive markets which enable infrastructure and infrastructure services to be delivered in the most efficient, cost-effective and customer focused manner possible.

(Table: High Priority Reforms in which progress has been lacking)

Source: Progress since the 2016 Australian Infrastructure Plan, Infrastructure Australia, April 2021 (released in May 2021)

In its analysis, EY found that progress across many areas of implementation was sporadic or mixed.

Take, for example, a recommendation that state and territory governments deliver long-term regional infrastructure plans.

Whilst there has been considerable activity dedicated toward this area, the analysis found that approaches to-date had been ad-hoc and inconsistent across jurisdictions.

Whereas Queensland has regional plans for its northern and south-east regions which include infrastructure priorities and are holistic in their approach, for example, South Australia has not developed any regional infrastructure plans at all.

On a recommendation that governments adopt processes to deliver well-designed, higher density urban development which is connected to infrastructure and public amenities, meanwhile, the analysis found that most progress focused around New South Wales and Victoria.

Finally, the report found only sporadic evidence of implementation of the recommendation that infrastructure owners and operators develop and maintain strategies to improve the resilience of their assets.

None of the strategic asset frameworks across Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia refer to either resilient infrastructure or the need to consider resilience.

The latest analysis will help to inform Infrastructure Australia’s preparation for its 2021 edition of the plan which is set to be released in mid-year.

During a recent presentation to the Water Services Association of Australia, Infrastructure Australia Chief of Infrastructure Assessment, David Tucker said the plan would include a focus on resilience and adaptability along with how the infrastructure sector can best support the nation’s COVID-19 recovery.