Infrastructure Australia needs broad skills mix

The Federal Government should be careful to ensure both infrastructure providers and users are represented on its proposed infrastructure advisory body, a leading infrastructure expert says.

Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese yesterday appointed Sir Rod Eddington to head the 12 person Infrastructure Australia board. Eddington is a former airline industry executive and current director of corporate giants such as Rio Tinto and Qantas.

Rumours are now swirling about who else will be appointed to the body – former Leighton Holdings chief executive Wal King and superannuation supremo Gary Weaven among the names being canvassed.

Rod Sims, a leading infrastructure expert and director of consultancy Port Jackson Associates, says Infrastructure Australia will work best with representatives of the sectors that drive infrastructure provision, such as construction and finance, as well as the resources and transport businesses that use the infrastructure.

“You need a couple of people who are actually experiencing the problems. It would be great to have that feeding in because it’s the users who are suffering, not the infrastructure builders,” Sims says.

Business with a lot of container traffic through ports, that use the railways and operate their own transport systems on a day-to-day basis, would be best placed to speak for infrastructure users, Sims says.

Getting the skills mix right will also be important if Infrastructure Australia is to come up with systemic solutions to infrastructure problems, Sims says.

“Obviously business people who operate in the sector will be central, but they should also have some state and federal government people, or others with more policy or economic knowledge, to bring some conceptual economic thinking – it’s not just about building, it’s about removing bottlenecks permanently,” Sims says.

But Sims says he is supportive of the first task Infrastructure Australia has set for itself, an audit of Australia’s infrastructure and its capacity.

“Fixing infrastructure is crucial to helping exports and creating a functioning economy and to do it we need a top-down view rather than a focus on particular locations, that’s why the audit is a very good idea,” Sims says.

The final make-up of Infrastructure Australia will be announced on 20 March.


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