Secretary’s Master Plan for Nation-Building Revealed in Anticipated Infrastructure Policy Statement

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What groundbreaking vision does the Secretary unveil in the highly anticipated Infrastructure Policy Statement, charting a path for transformative nation-building endeavours?

In Canberra, Jim Betts conveyed to an audience that a more practical approach to achieving national priorities in infrastructure is for the Commonwealth to act as a co-investor alongside other government tiers.

Betts stated, “The fundamental question I pose is how the Commonwealth can position itself as an informed and influential investor.” He further noted that increased strategic transparency would be one way to surpass previous levels.

These remarks were made by the highest-ranking official at the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications, and the Arts during a recent CEDA ‘State of the Nation address.’

Labor Government’s Triumphs, Transparent Strategies, and Infrastructure Policy Statement Set to Reshape the Nation

Reflecting on the inaugural year of the new Labor government, Betts highlighted the primary focus of the bureaucracy, which involves translating election commitments into budget priorities and enhancing the integrity of legacy grants programs.

Over the next two years, Betts expressed his intention for the department to establish transparent strategic frameworks to enable industry and government partners to navigate the infrastructure ecosystem more effectively.

This effort would involve the reconstitution of Infrastructure Australia, which has already undergone parliamentary processes, transforming it into an independent and publicly accessible source of advice for the government. Betts also mentioned the development of decarbonisation roadmaps for the transport sector.

The department is crafting and publishing an infrastructure policy statement articulating the Commonwealth government’s objectives regarding the infrastructure construction sector.

The infrastructure policy statement will encompass various aspects, such as unlocking the housing supply, strengthening trade network resilience and supply chains, and improving the efficiency of land transport networks.

Betts also emphasised the importance of fostering a culture of respect among federal, state, territorial, and local governments. He highlighted that strategy documents, evidence-based approaches, and long-term planning are vital for managing expectations and aligning priorities. Robust assessment tools play a critical role in setting projects up for success.

Kerr’s Candid Call: Challenging the “Strategy and Pipeline” Status Quo, Urging Equal Emphasis on Social Infrastructure and Innovation

During a separate panel discussion at the CEDA event, Esther Kerr from Australian Unity emphasised the necessity of expanding perspectives beyond a narrow “strategy and pipeline” outlook. She cautioned public servants against treating social infrastructure inferior to other sectors such as transportation, energy, and utilities.

“I have concerns when the secretary discusses the consolidation of the extensive list of infrastructure priorities, as smaller-scale social infrastructure projects may appear less significant and risk being overshadowed due to their perceived lack of ‘nation-building’ impact,” expressed Kerr.

As the CEO of wealth and capital markets, she stressed the importance of always keeping in mind that infrastructure serves as a means to an end: enabling people to commute, return home, experience comfort, ensure childcare, and access healthcare.

“We must not embark on constructing any infrastructure without a clear understanding of its purpose and how it will enhance the lives of Australians,” she emphasised.

Steve Brogan, the acting policy and research chief at Infrastructure Australia, noted the relevance of CEDA’s recently published report on dynamic capabilities in guiding innovation among partners in this field. The report examines strategies to address Australia’s productivity challenges.
“The act of innovation, which involves making valuable changes, presents a genuine opportunity for federal and state governments, their collaborative efforts, and the industry at large,” Brogan stated.

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