The infrastructure policy announced by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott today is a positive step towards better infrastructure provision in Australia, BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott says.
Ms Westacott said the policy, which proposes to strengthen Infrastructure Australia’s advisory role and mandate published cost–benefit analysis of Commonwealth-funded infrastructure projects, was consistent with long-standing BCA infrastructure policies.
The BCA’s 2011–12 Budget Submission recommends that government funding of major infrastructure projects like the National Broadband Network should be subjected to rigorous cost–benefit analysis that is made publicly available. It also argues for a stronger advisory role for Infrastructure Australia, complemented by regular infrastructure audits by the Productivity Commission.
“The Opposition’s announcement means that a stronger role for Infrastructure Australia is supported by both major parties and by business,” Ms Westacott said.
“Bipartisan support for a stronger Infrastructure Australia is important for giving governments the best advice on major infrastructure projects needed to support a stronger economy.
“Infrastructure Australia has played an important role in the past three years in highlighting deficiencies in Australia’s infrastructure provision and pointing to the tasks required to improve infrastructure in Australia,” Ms Westacott said.
The BCA has also recommended that the Productivity Commission be asked to undertake regular audits of Australia’s infrastructure gaps. This would complement Infrastructure Australia and support better long-term infrastructure planning.
“The use of independent, transparent cost–benefit analysis of major infrastructure projects is important for ensuring the prioritisation of projects is driven by the national interest and not political motivation,” Ms Westacott said.
“The National Broadband Network is a large-scale project with major impacts on the telecommunications sector and the broader economy that should have been subjected to a cost–benefit analysis before its approval.
“A full and transparent cost–benefit analysis of the National Broadband Network is needed to demonstrate that it is the best way to develop Australia’s broadband market and provide consumers with fast, affordable and reliable broadband.
“The costs of poor infrastructure decisions are not always immediately apparent but become evident over time. Projects with low or negative economic and social returns effectively hold back the growth of the economy and ultimately act to lower living standards,” she said.