Export Infrastructure Report: The Right Approach to Part of the Problem

The report into the capacity of Australia’s infrastructure to handle growing exports should now form the basis of a major Council of Australian Governments review into infrastructure generally, the Business Council of Australia said today.

BCA Chief Executive, Ms Katie Lahey said the Fisher Infrastructure Taskforce report was an important first step in identifying the issues giving rise to high-profile export bottlenecks in the economy and the Council of Australian Governments should move immediately to implement the Fisher recommendations.

However, the report does not address the equally important question as to whether the country’s urban infrastructure was adequate to support future growth.

“In a modern, integrated economy like Australia, export infrastructure cannot and should not be seen separately from other infrastructure that provides the platform for export production,” Ms Lahey said.

“Infrastructure is the support network that underpins business. It is our nation’s supply chain.

“If our energy, water and transport systems are not up to scratch, which in many cases they aren’t because of poor planning and coordination between and within governments, then at some point, it won’t matter how efficient our export infrastructure is if constraints are occurring or emerging elsewhere.

“Unless we take a comprehensive approach to addressing infrastructure at all levels, Australia’s growth prospects will continue to be limited by bottlenecks.

“The BCA is calling on our national leaders through the Council of Australian Governments to take a strategic approach to reform of the nation’s infrastructure.

Plans for a national infrastructure audit were welcome and the BCA said that given its importance, such an audit needed to be undertaken within the next six months and completed under the auspices of COAG.

The BCA released a wide-ranging report in March this year which found key economic infrastructure, such as road, rail, water and energy, were overstretched due to a lack of proper government planning and coordination.

The BCA’s infrastructure report found that addressing these issues through a national infrastructure audit and a plan for prioritising vital infrastructure would boost Australia’s economy by $16 billion a year.

Ms Lahey said the BCA remained optimistic that the meeting of COAG this week would result in better cooperation between Canberra and the states on identifying priority infrastructure issues and mechanisms to resolve them.

“The problem won’t go away with the release of one report. We need a non-partisan, coordinated approach in line with the importance of this issue to our future prosperity.”