COMMENT

2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit highlights need for action

Joe Townsend, NSW Business Chamber regional manager.
Joe Townsend, NSW Business Chamber regional manager.

The state's peak business organisation, the NSW Business Chamber, believes the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit released by Infrastructure Australiashows much more needs to be done to cope with demands of a growing population.

There's no doubt improvements to transport, energy and communications networks are critical enablers of economic activity, however the current record levels of investment in infrastructure are barely enough to keep pace with rapid increases in demand and population growth.

The audit emphasises the need not just to deliver on current infrastructure commitments, but to continue exploring new opportunities to improve connections and better serve growing cities, and less well-connected regional areas.

Smaller towns and regional communities have been helped by some applications of digital technologies, but they remain at significant disadvantage with unacceptably poor provision of transport, drinking water, telecoms and other essential services.

The audit shows the NSW Government has been right to put focus on rural infrastructure, but shows the importance of turning those words into actions.

As we all know, energy is rapidly becoming more expensive, with energy network costs a significant driver of rising business costs, and as Australia's energy system modernises, and ageing assets close and need replacement, policymakers need to embrace cost-effective solutions.

The report includes a word of warning over the growth in projects in excess of $1 billion and the strain it puts on government and industry capacity to procure, project manage and deliver effectively.

This is a concern the Chamber has been highlighting for some time and which we have developed proposed solutions to address.

It is critical to the future success of the NSW economy that we train and recruit skilled people with the required project management and procurement expertise, as well as the ongoing need for enough trade skills to deliver the proposed record investment in infrastructure.

At a time of stagnating productivity and drought, the timely and effective delivery of new infrastructure in our cities and regions is one of the best ways to boost productivity and economic activity.

Joe Townsend is the regional manager for the NSW Business Chamber