Infrastructure bill announced

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese, last week introduced his Infrastructure Australia Bill into Parliament with a speech that looked back to Labor icon Ben Chifley and the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Infrastructure Australia will be a statutory advisory council that will develop a strategic blueprint for Australia’s future infrastructure needs.

Mr Albanese says its immediate task would be to undertake a national infrastructure audit to determine the condition of Australia’s nationally significant infrastructure, including water, energy, transport and communications.

“The audit will identify gaps, deficiencies, impediments and bottlenecks across these important sectors of the national economy as well as take into account expected future demand,” he says.

“This information will inform the development of the infrastructure priority list to guide future investment decisions.”

Mr Albanese says the first priority list will be completed within 12 months and presented to CoAG in March 2009.

“In addition, Infrastructure Australia will be expected to provide advice on regulatory reforms that can improve the utilisation of existing infrastructure and streamline new proposals,” he says.

“It will propose ways to harmonise legislation and regulation across jurisdictions.”

The Infrastructure Australia council will have twelve members, including five from the private sector.

The council will be chaired by one of these private sector representatives.

Under the Bill, the councillors will all be required to have knowledge of, or experience in, a field relevant to Infrastructure Australia’s functions.

The Australian Trucking Association has welcomed the establishment of Infrastructure Australia, but will defend the Government’s road funding from attempts to divert it to other infrastructure projects.

These other projects should be funded by increasing the overall amount of spending on infrastructure, not by taking money away from roads.

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