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Australia's new reforms to infrastructure delivery: what they are and why they matter

Date
21 March 2022

With seven focus areas underpinned by 30 best practice principles, Infrastructure Australia’s report is a solid blueprint for reform. 

Australia's new reforms to infrastructure delivery: what they are and why they matter
The roadmap sets out roles for owners, delivery agencies, Infrastructure Australia and industry groups. Image credit: BigPixel Photo/Shutterstock

Infrastructure Australia (IA) has outlined a new 10-year reform roadmap for the construction and infrastructure industry.

Delivering Outcomes aims to improve productivity, certainty in delivery costs and timescales, and the sector's financial health. These are familiar themes the world over.

The ambition is to make Australia globally competitive by achieving socio-economic and environmental goals through infrastructure investment.

What’s in the Delivering Outcomes roadmap?

The reform roadmap has seven focus areas tied to an end of reform goal. Each focus area is then underpinned by 30 best practice principles.

The seven focus areas are:

  1. Outcomes: Investment being driven by socio-economic and environmental outcomes.
  2. Systems: Infrastructure being managed and planned as a system to align solutions with what people need.
  3. Digital: Digital technologies and techniques being embedded in delivery.
  4. Collaboration: To drive high performance and financial sustainability for construction.
  5. Commercial: Using commercial decisions to reinforce innovation and financial sustainability.
  6. Innovation: Across the board, but particularly in delivery models.
  7. People: Improving wellbeing and resilience.

The reform package reinforces concerns flagged in previous IA work, such as their Market Capacity Report on the challenge of turning ambitious public outcomes into practical delivery on the ground.

The 30 best practice principles draw on input from industry leaders and other infrastructure professionals and experts. ICE held a presidential roundtable with IA to bring global perspectives into the discussion.

Experiences from other countries have also been incorporated, including the Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme, the Construction Playbook, the NEC suite and Project 13.

Examples include outcomes-focused delivery models, portfolio procurement, developing digital twins, contracting for collaboration, should-cost modelling and modern methods of construction.

These have all been refined for the Australian context, with IA going even further by looking at how to apply reform measures at the sub-national level, taking into account local capacity and capability.

What happens next?

Developed in partnership with industry leaders, it is hoped that this increases the likelihood of reform measures leads to tangible change.

However, a similar hope with the UK Construction Playbook has not yet materialised. This shows the real effort required to turn around behaviours and practice in an industry like construction.

The roadmap sets out roles for owners, delivery agencies, Infrastructure Australia and industry groups. The lesson from around the world is the need for active political leadership to really drive change and knock heads together where required.

If the reform proposals don’t take root, political leaders will be the ones that need to explain why the public are not getting the infrastructure services they need.

Infrastructure Australia seeks feedback on the proposals outlined by 29 April 2022.

  • Register for TIP Live which brings together senior government officials and industry figures to explore how the infrastructure sector can respond and deliver on the UK Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme.
  • Join Talking Productivity on 23 March, a Q&A with ICE President Ed McCann, which will explore how to improve project efficiency and effectiveness in Australasia.
  • Chris Richards, director of policy at Institution of Civil Engineers