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Address to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Industry Leaders' Luncheon, Sydney

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22 May 2015




Thanks very much, Mark. Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen. You have got a Prime Minister for infrastructure here today, you have got a Deputy Prime Minister for infrastructure, and you have got Minister Briggs as well.

That is how seriously this Government takes infrastructure and while the Deputy Prime Minister and myself do have other responsibilities, too, Minister Briggs lives and breathes infrastructure in his role with Infrastructure Australia - and judging by his radio appearances today, he never stops talking about infrastructure, either!

At the beginning of April I went to Kybong in Queensland to launch the tender for the next section of the Cooroy to Curra upgrade of the Bruce Highway.

Every day on that section of the highway, motorists dodge semi-trailers taking their kids to school; truck drivers worry about pulling in to an accident black spots; and everyone dreads the flashing lights and sirens that signal yet another serious accident.

On the day I was in Kybong, Warren Truss happened to be celebrating the 25th anniversary of his election to Parliament.

People have been talking about fixing that section of the highway since before Warren entered public life and he has sworn not to leave public life until it is fixed.

What happened was that lack of will, lack of funds and lack of information has contributed to decay through delay but finally that section of the Bruce Highway is being tackled by a Government determined to end the infrastructure inertia of the last few years.

Too often, governments have said that we cannot afford to build, yet all too often we have found that we cannot afford to delay.

Lives are lost on roads that have not kept pace with the traffic on them.


Productivity is lost through congestion and increasing freight costs.

All of us - every single one of us - lose time that we could spend doing something more productive than sitting in traffic.

The costs of delay; to ourselves, to our businesses and to our economy are almost never counted.

Infrastructure should not be seen just as a cost to government. It’s actually an investment by government in making our country more productive and more liveable.

That’s why, as the infrastructure prime minister, with the infrastructure deputy prime minister this government is investing a record $50 billion-plus in infrastructure.

Because we live in a Federation, we are working with the states and the territories.

We are working with them to help deliver the infrastructure that their communities need; through direct grants, through concessional loans and through asset recycling that give the states an incentive payment when they recycle privatisation proceeds into economic infrastructure - including urban rail.

These measures are about accelerating the public and the private investments in the big projects that our country needs.

We don’t just have to fix the infrastructure that is holding our country back; we have to fix the system that is holding back the infrastructure.

So now we’ve got the will, we’ve got the funds and the Infrastructure Australia Audit that is launched today will give the nation, for the very first time, Australia-wide information on the adequacy, capacity and condition of nationally significant infrastructure.

It is a comprehensive investigation of the infrastructure we have, what’s missing, and what we need to do to drive our country’s economic potential.

Reading their audit, you will see that it’s robust, evidence based and independent.

It is in fact the independent report card that our country needs.

It is, of course, a report to government - not a report of government.

Still, this Government will use this document as the foundation to develop a 15 year infrastructure plan that will set out our priorities in roads and other forms of transportation; in energy, in water and in telecommunications.

I invite the states and the territories to support the development of this 15 year plan, because Australians want their governments to work together to make everyone’s life richer and better.

This Audit is a first for Australia.

It will make decision-making more robust.

And it will drive action by revealing the costs of inaction.

The Audit details the cost to Australia of our failure until now to plan adequately for the future.


Road congestion, as Mark Birrell and Brendan Lyon have mentioned, is currently costing Australia some $13.7 billion a year.

As a nation, if we don’t take action on better roads, better public transport, better land use and better planning, the cost will be $53 billion a year by 2031.

$53 billion a year in congestion costs in just 15 years’ time - that’s more than $1 billion every week.

The population of our cities is getting bigger and our transportation infrastructure is getting slower.

As the Audit highlights, demand on most key urban road and rail corridors will very significantly exceed current capacity by 2031 in just over 15 years.

The good news is that the Commonwealth is already investing in fixing some of the most congested roads in the country.

For instance, the Audit shows that the worst road corridor in the country for the cost of delays is Pennant Hills Road, from Parramatta to Hornsby.

Second, in the Audit’s ‘hall of shame’, is the King Georges Road Corridor.

But improvement is already at hand.

We are working with the NSW Government to build NorthConnex and WestConnex that will address both of these corridors and work is already underway.

Both projects will improve people’s travel times, create new jobs and boost economic activity.

The NSW Government is also reinvesting the proceeds of the State’s Electricity privatisation in much needed road and rail projects.

NSW and the ACT are the first to commit to serious asset recycling, but they certainly won’t be the last.

The Commonwealth is rewarding NSW with close to $2 billion to help upgrade Sydney’s rapid transport, Western Sydney Rail and Parramatta Light Rail as well as to build more roads.

In Victoria, treasurers Hockey and Pallas are working together to support the Victorian Government’s reinvestment of the proceeds from the sale of the Port of Melbourne into major infrastructure projects.

Yes, there is a disagreement between the Commonwealth and Victoria on the East West Link.

It’s folly - extraordinary folly - to spend up to a billion dollars not to build something and to rip up the contract that improved transport, created jobs and invested in the liveability of Melbourne.

This could sentence Victorians to years of gridlock.

Still, the Commonwealth will keep our $3 billion commitment to the East West Link in a locked box to be made available to the first Victorian government that wants to build it - and we will keep talking to Victoria about nationally significant road projects so that Victorians aren’t dudded.

The development of this 15 year national infrastructure plan should resolve some of the contention around big projects by making the benefits of action and the cost of inaction more obvious.


The audit shows, for instance, that without action the cost of road congestion in Greater Perth will eventually exceed the cost of congestion in Western Sydney by 2031.

The Audit vindicates the Government’s announcement of almost $500 million worth of additional investment in Western Australia for road projects that might not have gone ahead or gone ahead much more slowly.

The work that’s now underway on some of the nation’s worst roads is only a start but it’s a taste of what can be achieved by a government that is determined to make a difference.

The whole point of infrastructure is to make it easier for Australians to work; easier for businesses to compete and easier for families to raise their standard of living.

The right infrastructure means that businesses can expand with greater confidence and parents can be home in time to take their kids to the netball or the footy.

Investment in productive infrastructure now will strengthen the economy, generate jobs in construction and soften the impact of the mining investment boom coming to an end.

With lower exchange rates making our exporters and manufacturers more competitive, a credible pipeline of infrastructure combined with lower fuel prices and low and stable interest rates will help to drive growth in our economy.

It was John Howard who often said that national competitiveness is like a race with an ever-receding finish line.

Our competitors aren’t standing still - so we can’t either.

A key measure of our competitiveness is how quickly we can move products and people around the country, and from here, to the wider world.

According to the Audit, for instance, Australia’s biggest airports, such as Kingsford-Smith, are near capacity.

Well, after years of gridlock and procrastination, this Government has finally confirmed the site for Sydney’s second airport.

The economic consequences of inaction demand that we swiftly proceed with what I call Western Sydney’s first airport.

And we will ensure that it’s a case of roads first, airport second - because we want this airport to be a success right from the start.

It means that thousands of good jobs and better local roads will be delivered well before the first plane taxis down the runway.

As the Audit highlights, investing in our regions is just as critical as investing in our cities.

Regions like Gladstone, the Pilbara, the Hunter, the Illawarra and the La Trobe Valley contribute so much to our economic muscle. These regions add $107 billion to National GDP and almost a fifth of it is attributable to infrastructure.

That is why this Government is determined to ensure that infrastructure in the regions is on the same fast-track as infrastructure in our cities.


Businesses in regional Australia make highly sought-after products, but they are let down by inadequate freight links - it’s a ‘wait for freight’ that’s simply unacceptable.

From 2011 to 2031, right around our nation, container movements through our ports are estimated to grow by 165 per cent.

The road and rail freight task over the same period will increase by 86 per.

While that does mean more pressure on our roads, our railways, our terminals and our ports, this is good news as more freight means more commerce, and more commerce means more jobs.

Our challenge is to create the means of coping with it.

Duplicating the Pacific Highway and upgrading the Bruce Highway will finally bring our eastern Australia road freight artery into the 21st century.

The fully funded duplication of the Pacific Highway will finally be completed by the end of this decade.

This upgrade is expected to save around 2.5 hours travel time.

In South Australian, the Commonwealth is working with the state government to deliver the North-South spine.

In Tasmania, we are delivering on our commitment to upgrade the Midland Highway.

And here in Sydney, we are working with the private sector to invest in intermodal capacity at Moorebank that can handle the expected growth in containerised freight moving through Sydney.

We’ve committed $300 million towards the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail which will not only serve the Murray-Darling basin but also act as a Sydney by-pass.

We are determined to improve the productivity of shipping because 99 per cent of our international trade by volume goes by ship.

Australian ports manage 1.2 billion tonnes of cargo a year which is why the Deputy Prime Minister has just released our shipping reform agenda to boost competitiveness and give our traders more efficient services.

Productivity and economic growth - and the jobs that they generate - depend, absolutely depend, on our ability to move goods efficiently and reliably.

No less important to our prosperity is the ability to move information rapidly and reliably.

Modern communications infrastructure underpins our prosperity too.

That’s why the Government is investing almost $30 billion to roll out the National Broadband Network to every home and business by 2020 but it will be a common-sense NBN, utilising existing infrastructure delivered on time, at the right price.

As well, to make sure that regional Australia gets the quality digital infrastructure it needs, we’re investing $100 million to address mobile phone black spots in rural and remote parts of our country.


Better infrastructure - digital infrastructure and built infrastructure - is critical if business is to take full advantage of the economic growth of our Asian neighbours and the free trade agreements that this Government has concluded with them.

We do have producers willing and able to scale up their production to meet the new, tariff free demand, and we want to ensure that they are no longer let down by creaky supply chains.

That’s why the Government is making investments like the $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Fund.

By 2030, two-thirds of the world’s middle class will be in the Asia-Pacific region which makes the case for better infrastructure in the North even more compelling.

During the last election campaign, we promised that vital infrastructure projects would be underway within 12 months of our election and we’ve delivered.

We promised that there would be an Audit of our national infrastructure base and today we’ve delivered.

Yes, there are challenges for governments and for the private sector alike to be even more innovative in how we tackle infrastructure problems and congestion as our population grows.

To help our next commitment is that Infrastructure Australia will now develop a 15 year plan for Australia’s infrastructure priorities.

Infrastructure Australia will work with the states and territories and seek public feedback on this Audit as it prepares the 15 year plan.

And we’ll see the plan by the end of the year.

All Australians will be able to see what our priorities are. All Australians will know what they can expect and when they can expect it.

I promise you that your Government will be working hard, day in day out, to get the right infrastructure built on time and on budget.

We will do so because building the infrastructure of the 21st century is vital for our way of life, vital for our economy and vital for our long-term prosperity.

So, if you are sitting in your car right now, if you are waiting for a train right now, if your phone is dropping out right now - you deserve to know that this Government is on your side and will build you a better future.

To use our Budget language: we will have a go so that you can, too.

So, ladies and gentlemen thank you so much.

Infrastructure Australia now has to turn the Audit into the 15 year plan - the 15 year priority list - and the Government will then work with Infrastructure Australia to get it done.

Thanks so much.