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Shifting Australia's Infrastructure Mindset to the long game

The second paper from the Better Infrastructure Initiative

The John Grill Centre’s Garry Bowditch argues Australian policy makers need to shift their mindset to be more innovative and customer-focused when designing infrastructure and services to avoid the piecemeal approach of previous governments.

Date of publication: September 2016

A new quantitative online survey of more than 1,000 Australian consumers conducted for the John Grill Centre supported findings in the centre’s latest paper, 'Shifting Australia's Infrastructure Mindset to the long game'. The survey asked consumers which among 18 categories of infrastructure operators – including passenger transport, schools, hospitals, airports, utilities and roads – were considered the most customer-focused. Those surveyed were asked to rate services they had used in the past 12 months.

Key recommendations from the paper


Shifting the mindset

Policymakers need to adopt an active approach to planning and managing infrastructure. This requires governments to shift their mindsets and define future infrastructure challenges in terms of services and service outcomes that meet the changing needs and expectations of customers and community.


Infrastructure, a catalyst for innovation

All federal, state and local government infrastructure agencies need to review how to better structure future infrastructure contracts in favour of innovation, customer needs and requirements over the life of the contract or public-private partnership (PPP).


Strong memory means strong foundations

There is an urgent need to redress a lack of institutional memory in the major successes and failures of previous project and related infrastructure endeavours.


Project leadership

Governments and private sector proponents need to invest in people with the capability to be world-class project leaders who can deal with the dynamic risks and uncertainties of managing business and defining projects responsibly, transparently and accountably.


Highways England model for Australia

The Australian Government should prioritise the reform of federal and state financial arrangements to allow for a customer-focused, corporatised public road agency for each state and territory. Highways England provides an excellent model to guide this reform.


Embracing future change

Through contractual and administrative arrangements, governments need to give greater priority to infrastructure being flexible and able to adapt to the customer.


Getting more from PPPs

Governments need to ensure future PPP land transport contracts give sufficient incentive to concession holders to adequately develop and adapt assets and services to the changing requirements of customers and adjoining networks.


Patronage risk

Governments cease forthwith with new PPP contracts that assign demand risk to a concession holder that does not have the power or capability to manage it. This occurs where the PPP is part of an adjoining network where it has limited or no control over it. A review of efficient risk allocation practices is required to inform the development of the next generation of PPP contracts.


Privatisation, retain as important reform option

Policymakers need to understand and propagate the lessons and successes from past privatisation, and in doing so make a more evidence-based case to the community.


Investors need to step up

Current and prospective owners of infrastructure assets need to engage the community using their credentials as responsible organisations. For example, they need to be proactive through creating new standards in transparency and accountability for service standards and customer satisfaction by establishing a voluntary Investor Accountability Protocol.

Shifting Australia’s Infrastructure Mindset to the Long Game

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Australian policymakers need to shift their mindset to be more innovative and customer-focused when designing infrastructure and services to avoid the piecemeal approach of previous governments.
Garry Bowditch