Economy

Australia could luck out in Asian Century due to poor infrastructure

Melinda Oliver /

Australia could fall behind in the Asian Century if it does not improve its infrastructure, innovation and creativity, experts have warned.

Ken Henry, a former Treasury secretary and current director of the National Australia Bank and the Australian Securities Exchange told The Australianhe thought Australia could be lacking in sufficient port, road and rail links to be an effective exporter during the Asian development boom.

“We do not have the infrastructure requirements for an economy and a society that is well connected with Asia,” Henry said.

Henry was at the forefront of the Gillard government’s white paper into the Asian century and said there is “enormous potential” for Australia during Asia’s boom phase.

However he said “we simply don’t have the infrastructure assets, the infrastructure services, to ensure that in the commercial space – but also the social space – we make the most of those connections”.

Henry is involved in a green paper by the SMART research group which is calling for “clearer decision-making to inform a national market for Australia’s infrastructure”. 

He thinks lots of questions regarding our infrastructure should have been asked 10 or 20 years ago, not now, The Australian reports.

CPA Australian chief executive Alex Malley echoed Henry’s concerns in the accountancy body’s pre-budget submission to the federal government.

“With tentative signs of economic recovery in key global markets and a continued focus on Asia, Australia is uniquely positioned to take advantage of what has now become the Asian Century,” Malley said.

“However, despite our ‘open for business’ mantra, we are not the sole trader in our region. Across Asia, new and existing competitors are increasingly moving into areas Australia once regarded as areas of traditional advantage.

“This is not a time for complacency. It is the time to boldly step up.”

Malley said that as a nation, Australia must now make “brave choices” to secure our success in the Asian century.

“We must make sure that we do everything possible to support Australian businesses to be globally competitive.”

He said Australia is poised to take centre stage on a global level as we host the G20 Summit.

“Just as the strength of our economy made us an international example in weathering the worst excesses of the global financial crisis, this is a time when we should again demonstrate global leadership by making the tough decisions that will strengthen the global competitiveness of Australian business.”

The CPA Australia submission reiterates that Australia’s ability to compete will be “put at risk” unless action is taken to address the infrastructure deficit when it comes to road, rail, air and sea transport.

“Without the ability to safely, efficiently and effectively transport goods, data and people within Australia, our businesses face a significant disadvantage,” it said.

The group said funding of infrastructure should include user-pays principals, along with selling suitable public assets and investing the proceeds into new projects.

“CPA Australia calls on the government to consider providing a 40% or 50% discount on income earned from investment in infrastructure projects to attract more private capital to these major projects which will drive the future of Australian business.”

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