Government must use opportunity to get infrastructure review right

With the federal government committed to an independent review of its infrastructure investment program, the national innovation and science agenda must be linked to upcoming investments, writes Dr Behzad Fatahi.

Undoubtedly Australia needs massive public infrastructure investments. While it is well accepted that infrastructure investment can support economic recovery from the pandemic, future growth and improved living standards are also key considerations.

I welcome the approach announced in the latest Albanese Government federal budget to conduct an independent review of the Infrastructure Investment Program to ensure the planned $120 billion investment over 10 years is made in nationally significant projects and bring clarity and more certainty to the extensive backlog of projects requiring funding and resource allocation.

As we know, in recent years planning of new infrastructure projects expanded significantly and it is required to ensure necessary funding and resources are available to complete them within a reasonable timeframe and considering the future population growth and climate change effects.

Skills shortages and supply chain challenges

It is very important to highlight that the infrastructure sector is facing significant shortages of skilled workers and materials. For example, the recent independent review on the delivery of Inland Rail by Kerry Schott AO revealed that one of the factors contributing to delays in the project has been supply chain challenges related to construction materials.

To address issues like that, the government should facilitate embracing new ideas, technologies, and innovations, while streamlining approval processes, such as environmental approvals, to better suit each project’s unique characteristics and requirements.

The federal government ought to connect the national innovation and science agenda with upcoming infrastructure investments, enabling the proposal and implementation of intelligent ideas and cutting-edge technologies. By doing so, they can decrease construction and maintenance expenses for transport infrastructure, ensuring the viability of these projects.

Considering climate change impact on infrastructure

Expressing the commitment of the federal government to Vision Zero, with the goal of eliminating deaths and serious injuries from road crashes by 2050, is very motivating. For example, post the floods in February to April 2022 in NSW, in excess of 4500 potholes appeared across Greater Sydney, while tens of thousands of potholes appeared across the country roads. Potholes on roads are a major safety concern of drivers and passengers and the longevity of vehicles. Funding allocation for various programs such as National Road Safety Action Grants Program and Black Spot Program are of significant importance for safety of our road users.

The federal government needs to collaborate with state governments and communities to ensure both short term and long-term concerns are addressed, and considering various natural hazards from flood to bush fire to climate change our transport infrastructure and network are resilient. Specifically, it is crucial to consider the effects of climate change on the operations and resilience of these planned infrastructure, as these factors can significantly impact the long-term viability and success. Indeed, the Commonwealth and state governments ought to integrate their climate change objectives and initiatives with infrastructure investments.

*Dr Behzad Fatahi is Head of Discipline (Geotechnical and Transport Engineering) and Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at UTS

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

One thought on “Government must use opportunity to get infrastructure review right

  1. Infrastructure needs to be reviewed and planned in a holistic way, across all levels of government. The full cost of accommodating population growth should be made explicit. It is currently in the order of $130,000 of public money for each person added to Australia’s population. This translates as more than $50 bn per year, until immigration is slowed. The federal government’s pipeline of $12 bn per year is clearly insufficient, but nobody is consolidating costs across all levels of government.
    Claims of labour shortages are a predictable product of the neoliberal era dependence on private contractors. Returning to direct, consistent employment of core teams facilitates throughput of apprentices and pathways for graduate engineers. Australia does not have a shortage of people willing to do this work, and we could be saving tens of billions per year by slowing population growth so we don’t have to build so many new roads, hospitals, schools etc. All our infrastructure concerns are caused by rapid population growth, driven by property and big business lobbies against the interests of the average Australian.

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required