The Queensland Government recently introduced the Building Queensland Bill 2015 (Bill), which proposes to establish Building Queensland (BQ), a new statutory advisory body designed to provide independent expert advice to Queensland Government agencies on infrastructure projects. 

KEY FUNCTIONS OF BQ

The establishment of BQ is a key election commitment by the Queensland Labor Government.  BQ will be an independent statutory body with a board made up of private sector directors and the Directors-General of the key central agencies. It will act to ensure that a whole-of-government perspective is brought to major infrastructure planning, prioritisation and investment.  To assist BQ in achieving this objective, BQ will have several key functions (as set out below). 

Provide advice to the Queensland Government about infrastructure

BQ will advise both the Queensland Government and relevant stakeholders on:

  • all current and future needs and priorities
  • policies, pricing and regulatory issues
  • impediments
  • options and reforms
  • emerging trends about procurement and project finance
  • the needs of users, and
  • the delivery of a project.

BQ’s recommendations must be based on a rigorous analysis of forecast growth; economic, social and environmental sustainability; cost benefit analysis; and community benefits.

Develop a robust and transparent framework

BQ must develop a framework for assessing all infrastructure projects in Queensland.  The framework will create a consistent whole-of-government approach to developing and progressing infrastructure proposals and projects.

Evaluate proposals for new and existing infrastructure

BQ is tasked with evaluating all proposals for investment in, or enhancements to, infrastructure.  A summary of each proposal must be made and approved by BQ every six months and be provided to the Minister, who will publish the information on the BQ website.  The Bill is unclear on how proposals will be evaluated.

Prepare certain business cases for infrastructure proposals

BQ will assist in the preparation of business cases for infrastructure proposals with an estimated capital cost between $50 million and $100 million.  BQ will lead the preparation of the business cases for projects with a capital cost exceeding $100 million, or where the Minister directs it to do so. 

Prepare an infrastructure pipeline document

BQ will develop an infrastructure pipeline document that records proposals or projects that it considers a priority and that will deliver a productivity or economic return to Queensland.  The pipeline document will include information on the stage of development, and the estimated cost to deliver each project.  This document must be updated every six months as it will inform the development of the State Infrastructure Plan.   

Lead the procurement or delivery of particular infrastructure projects
If directed by the Minister, BQ must lead the procurement or delivery of an infrastructure project.  Where it is directed, BQ will work alongside a government agency or specified delivery area, drawing on the resources and expertise of that body. 

Publish information and promote public awareness

BQ must publish any information relevant to its functions, including a summary of the cost-benefit analysis for infrastructure projects, on its website.

INDUSTRY BRIEFING

McCullough Robertson attended the Introduction to the Bill briefing session in June 2015.  The key points on BQ, which emerged from the session, are summarised as follows:

  • BQ has been established and staffed – while the Bill is progressing through Parliament, BQ is sitting within the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning
  • all business cases above $50 million (unless otherwise exempted by the Minister) will be funneled to BQ to either assist or lead.  It is anticipated that those business cases will not go to BQ until it has passed the preliminary investigation stage
  • BQ will be at arm’s length, independent and will not be an advocate for any particular project.  It will be a ‘centre of excellence’ providing expert advice to the Government on infrastructure projects in Queensland
  • BQ will not make any judgments on whether the projects are value for money.  That task will continue to remain with Queensland Treasury
  • BQ will not be involved in project procurement and delivery unless directed by the Minister.  Projects Queensland (in particular in its PPP expertise) would continue to exist in some form
  • expressions of interest for appointment to the Board of BQ closed in May.  There was strong interest and those applications are currently being assessed
  • the Board will consist of a chairperson, four persons from private industry and CEOs from Premier and Cabinet, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning and Treasury
  • BQ is currently working through its project pipeline.  It is currently unable to say how many projects it will be reviewing, and
  • the CEO for BQ is David Quinn (Mr Quinn previously led the commercial advisory and procurement arm of Projects Queensland).

COMPARISON TO INFRASTRUCTURE AUSTRALIA (IA) AND
INFRASTRUCTURE NEW SOUTH WALES (INSW)

While the Bill is specific to Queensland, BQ is generally modelled on the equivalent Commonwealth and New South Wales authorities.  Set out on the following page is a table comparing BQ to its Commonwealth and New South Wales counter-parts.

Click here to view table.

SUBMISSIONS ON THE BILL

Submissions on the draft Bill are due by 24 June 2014.