After considerable speculation, the WA Government has launched its proposed model to establish an independent infrastructure advisory body, Infrastructure Western Australia (Infrastructure WA). Infrastructure WA will be established in 2019 and will comprise of a mix of 10 public and private sector experts, including representatives from Treasury and the Departments of Premier and Cabinet, Planning Lands and Heritage, Primary Industries and Regional Development and Transport. Infrastructure WA is intended to improve infrastructure planning and decision making in WA and will focus on identifying and assessing the infrastructure needs and priorities for WA. In summary, the likely functions of Infrastructure WA will be to:
- develop a 20-year infrastructure strategy for WA and identify infrastructure needs
- evaluate infrastructure proposals which are high risk or above $100 million
- create more transparency and support government agencies to develop their own infrastructure plans/business cases and to administer existing infrastructure planning/advisory processes
- coordinate WA’s dealings with Infrastructure Australia
- provide independent expert advice on infrastructure matters including alternative funding and financing models.
The proposed model for Infrastructure WA is based on a number of similar infrastructure advisory bodies across Australia. The key features of the proposed model are summarised in further detail below.
Does it go far enough?
Some of the key policy drivers underpinning the establishment of Infrastructure WA appear to be to take the politics out of infrastructure planning and to ensure that the Government is less siloed in its decision making and that State funds are invested more wisely. The proposed model for Infrastructure WA is overall a step in the right direction to address the inefficiencies in the status quo. However the WA Government will retain a considerable degree of control over short to medium term planning and prioritisation. There remains potential for politicisation of infrastructure investment. By contrast, other states have taken a different approach to short to medium term planning, with their infrastructure advisory bodies preparing 5 year plans (which, at least in NSW, informs the budget process).
Project funding and financing is another area where Infrastructure WA will be given a limited role, in contrast to similar bodies in other states. The WA Government has taken the view that this is a matter best left to Government and government agencies. However we query whether there is a bigger role for Infrastructure WA to play in assessing funding and financing options, particularly given its independence, its role in infrastructure auditing and the fact that it will have a more targeted and active interaction with the private sector and government agencies on infrastructure matters.
It is also unclear how Infrastructure WA will maintain independence, given its involvement both in assisting government agencies to prepare business cases for projects and in evaluating project proposals. The proposed model does not provide much guidance on this matter other than that it will be managed through internal processes.
Unfortunately it appears Infrastructure WA will play a limited role in respect of existing major projects, for example Metronet and Westport. These will be significantly progressed by the time it is established and therefore planning will be done for this infrastructure investment within the existing status quo.
The WA Government is currently seeking submissions on its proposal by Tuesday 20 March 2018.
For a copy of the proposal and information on how to make a submission visit: https://www.dpc.wa.gov.au/ProjectsandSpecialEvents/infrastructurewa/Pages/default.aspx.
If you have any questions on the Infrastructure WA Proposal or would like help writing a submission please contact Katherine Vines.
Key features of proposed model
Functions undertaken by Government / other agencies