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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 54

(Question No. 3847)

Mr Tickner asked the Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services, upon notice, on 1 May 1986:

(1) Has his attention been drawn to (a) the substantial evidence which suggests that at the present rate of maintenance and replacement, the infrastructure and fabric of cities such as sewerage, pipelines and underwater structures, developed during the last century or so in Europe and North America are deteriorating faster than they are being repaired or renewed and (b) estimates, that urgent renovation or replacement is needed for 7 000 miles of United Kingdom sewerage over 120 years old and substantial attention should be given to the 20 000 miles that are around 100 years old.

(2) What is the extent and rate of decay of such infrastructure in Australian cities.

(3) Is any long term planning taking place within Commonwealth, State or local authorities concerning the need for progressive replacement and repair of such infrastructure within Australia.

Mr Uren —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) (a) and (b) Yes.

(2) Some findings of limited research into the situation in Australian cities was provided at the National Infrastructure Conference held in Canberra in October 1985. Some further research is currently being undertaken by the CSIRO into the extent of the problem. However, more research needs to be carried out by all levels of government in Australia as comprehensive information on the extent and rate of decay of infrastructure in Australian cities is not available. It might be noted that the infrastructure (especially hydraulic systems) of some Australian cities is of equivalent age to those in Europe and North America. For example the water supply system of Melbourne was installed at a similar time to that for London.

(3) At the 1985 Local Government Ministers' Conference it was agreed to establish a Task Force to examine the maintenance of infrastructure under the control of Local Government.

The Task Force is chaired by a representative of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations and includes officers of the Local Government and Regional Development Division of my Department, the Department of Housing and Construction and the Institute of Local Government Engineers. The Task Force is required to report on the extent of information available on the deterioration of engineering infrastructure under the control of Local Government and to recommend what further action, if any, might be undertaken in this area. The Task Force is expected to complete its work and two reports by February/March 1987.

As the honourable member is aware, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure announced in May last year that a sub-committee was to be appointed to inquire into Infrastructure in Australia.

I understand that the sub-committee will be reporting its findings later this financial year.

The 1986 Local government Ministers' Conference has agreed that the two reports to be prepared by the Infrastructure Maintenance Task Force should be made available to the House of Representatives' Inquiry.