Fifteen mega projects worth more than $72 billion are set to be fast-tracked as the Morrison Government attempts to restart the Australian economy.

Addressing the State of the Nation conference hosted by the Centre for Economic Development of Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that fifteen major construction projects are on a fast-track for approval under a bi-lateral model between Commonwealth and state/territory governments.

The new projects will be worked on by joint assessment teams under a process Morrison says will target a 50 percent reduction in Commonwealth assessment and approval times for major projects from 35 months to 21 months.

Combined, the projects will generate up to 66,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The projects include

  • The 1,700 kilometre inland Rail Link between Melbourne and Brisbane
  • The proposed 1,500 megawatt capacity undersea Marinus Link electricity cable connecting Tasmania and Victoria
  • Expansion of BHP’s Olympic Dam copper mine to increase capacity from 200,000 tonnes to 350,000 tonnes per annum
  • Emergency town water projects in New South Wales
  • Road, rail and iron ore projects in Western Australia.

Morrison also committed $1.5 billion to commence work on smaller priority projects which he says are ready to go.

Of this, $1 billion will be allocated to ‘priority projects’ which  are ‘shovel ready’ whilst $500 million will be spent on road safety upgrades.

Morrison said the government is also looking to streamline approval processes under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The ultimate objective, he says, is to streamline Commonwealth and state processes to a point of ‘single touch approvals’ – a process which will be informed by a review of the Act which is currently underway.

Already, he says, measures to cut project approval times have seen average decision timeframes slashed from around 90 days as at the end of 2019 to around 40 today.

By the end of the year, Morrison said the Government would like to see this cut further to an average of 30 days for major projects.

Industry groups welcomed the move.

Adrian Dwyer, chief executive officer of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia said the moves would help to revive the economy and boost productivity.

“The Federal Government has made a smart move to accelerate approval for projects that have clear strategic merit, alongside the $1.5 billion investment in smaller capital projects and road safety programs,” Dwyer said.

But he called o n the government to do more to boost the economy, including using its balance sheet capacity to deploy more money into new infrastructure projects.

Property Council of Australia chief executive officer Ken Morrison also welcomed the moves, but said the ‘fast-track’ philosophy should be applied to all approval processes.

“We need to invest in new infrastructure, we need the productivity gains it can deliver, and we need the jobs and economic stimulus these projects bring,” said Ken Morrison, Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia.

“We can’t afford for these nation-building, growth-enabling projects to be entangled in protracted and inefficient approvals processes.

“However, it’s not just the blockbuster projects which get held up unnecessarily by red tape and multiple layers of review by different agencies across different levels of government.”