Population and infrastructure

Population growth

  • Set the permanent migration intake to maintain Australia’s long term rate of population growth, with two-thirds of the program filled by skilled migrants, but strengthen the following:
    • Better target skills requirements.
    • Strengthen coordination of population planning between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments.
    • Introduce a regional development initiative that takes the pressure off Sydney and Melbourne as the principal destinations for newly arrived migrants.
  • Commit to well-managed population growth through the Council of Australian Governments.

Decentralisation and regional development

  • Develop a decentralisation policy that encourages investment, infrastructure and services outside city centres and in regional and rural Australia.
  • Designate up to 20 areas as specific regional growth centres.
    • Consider prioritising infrastructure needs and policy settings to encourage employment in these regional growth centres.
    • Adopt a hub and spoke model.

Skilled migration

  • The employer sponsored Subclass 482 – Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa should remain uncapped and responsive to the need to fill genuine skill shortages quickly.
  • Retain the Global Talent Scheme to allow four-year visas and a pathway to permanent residence for executive talent and global specialists above a $145,400 salary floor.
  • Reform the Industry Skills Fund further so that the funds paid by industry are directly targeted at narrowing the gap in Australia's skills shortages.

National infrastructure priorities

  • Strengthen the role of Infrastructure Australia to produce the ultimate and uncontested plan for national infrastructure planning to lift productivity and competitiveness.
  • Governments to prioritise funding for high-priority projects on Infrastructure Australia’s priority projects list and agree to implement IA’s policy reform recommendations.
  • Require cost-benefit analysis and ensure Environmental Impact Statements adequately consider community impacts.
  • Task the Productivity Commission to undertake a strategic assessment of infrastructure policies and recommend reforms – and repeat every five years.

States based infrastructure planning

  • Require the states to develop a 15-year plan that details a rolling pipeline of high-quality public infrastructure investments delivered in partnership with the private sector with appropriate sharing of costs and risks.
    • The 15-year plans should also include spending on maintenance, upgrade of existing infrastructure and regulatory reforms to drive more efficient use of existing infrastructure.

Innovative funding and financing

  • Move to national cost-reflective road pricing versus project-by-project tolling.
    • Any introduction of direct road pricing should be accompanied by reductions of indirect charges and taxes on road users.
    • Use technology to apply cost-reflective road pricing on a per kilometre charge; a one-off charge based on anticipated travel; or a per-trip or access charge.
    • Hypothecate the revenue from road pricing into road investment and maintenance.
  • Embrace asset recycling initiatives under which state and territory governments privatise infrastructure assets and reinvest the proceeds into new infrastructure.
  • Assess the reasons for Australia’s high construction costs and identify ways to lift productivity and improve value for money on major projects.

Lift restrictions on gateway infrastructure

  • Conduct regular and transparent audits of existing infrastructure, including whether gateway infrastructure is being effectively used, and benchmark how services are performing.
  • Prioritise the development of, and reserve, international gateways and major transport, freight, employment and housing corridors, including for high-speed rail from Brisbane to Melbourne.
  • Increase flexibility for aircraft movements and slot cap arrangements at Sydney Airport but retain the curfew and noise sharing arrangements.
  • Ensure there is no curfew for the Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.
  • Pass the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill 2017, and ultimately end the cabotage regime, to deliver an efficient coastal shipping sector which can improve the competitiveness of Australian businesses that use coastal shipping in their supply chains.
  • Adopt strategic planning processes that build a “vision’’ for the future development of a city or a regional area. Planning needs to have a view to future needs, not play catch-up.
  • Reform strategic planning of cities and regions to fully integrate land use, transport and social infrastructure and access to natural resources, and to better resolve land use and ownership conflicts.
  • Identify urban and regional growth corridors and future housing and infrastructure needs to cater for population and economic growth.
  • Simplify zoning restrictions that prevent housing supply from keeping pace with demand, especially within our major capital cities, and contribute to high house prices.

Major Project approvals

  • Adopt the Business Council’s best practice model for major project approval as a priority to speed up approvals and provide greater certainty for investors and the community.
  • The model supports decision making within 12 months under a single application, single assessment and single approval approach. It involves:
    • greater strategic planning with better community consultation to direct future land uses and conditions for approval
    • giving primary responsibility for approvals to a single agency, eliminating the need for investors to liaise with multiple departments
    • a single application filed after a pre-application consultation process that gives communities a voice right from the start
    • standardised terms of reference, Environmental Impact Statements and conditions of approval
    • a one-year umbrella timeframe during which a decision should be made
    • better targeted conditions on approvals that are directly linked to environmental outcomes
    • streamlined administration and compliance through better coordination between agencies
    • published data about time taken by agencies to manage applications, their adherence to best practice and how they can improve
    • amending provisions on legal standing so that judicial review is the appeal mechanism. Standing should be available to project proponents and those directly impacted by the decision.
  • Remove Commonwealth and state duplication in the development assessment process, including introducing bilateral agreements for states to approve proposals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, initially for low-risk, low-impact proposals in environmentally well-understood areas.
  • Require all levels of government to commit to growth strategies that increase the supply of housing, and set housing supply targets and release land accordingly.
  • Reinstate the former National Housing Supply Council’s functions to highlight gaps between housing supply and demand and to monitor state government progress on increasing housing supply.
  • Consider introducing more ‘As of Right’ planning approvals for land zoned as residential and for developments that comply with a housing code. More housing development should be code assessable to speed up approvals.
  • State metropolitan growth plans must integrate land use and infrastructure, and need to take precedence over local council plans.
  • Encourage the Commonwealth to use its purchasing power to leverage land release by the states in a timely manner.
  • Introduce National Productivity Payments that are conditional on states agreeing to reform their development assessment and approval processes to make greater use of zoning and complying development.
  • Increase opportunities for the private sector to partner with the government, and play a greater role in precinct planning, urban regeneration and new housing developments.
  • Encourage institutional investment in long-term rental by supporting the “build-to-rent’’ model along with appropriate long-term rental regulatory frameworks.