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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Only eight of Australia’s 32 largest infrastructure projects had a public business affair

Politicians love the vote-drawing power of major transportation projects. They also like to keep the details of how they decided to keep a project under wraps, to avoid awkward scrutiny from the public.

Since 2016, Australian governments have committed 32 projects larger than $500 million, with Grattan’s Institute analysis showing that only eight had a business case published, or assessed by a relevant infrastructure body at the time at the time when the money was given.

A business case documents the essential elements of an argument that a particular project is worth building, and the best available option for solving a specific problem.

Business matters should be essential for any government, given its commitment to large expenditures. They enable decision makers to establish whether a particular project (or other policy) is a worthwhile investment, and if it is more worthwhile than alternatives. It is reprehensible that federal and state governments often decide to invest in large projects without publishing such assessments – and often without doing them.

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Even the business cases with the biggest drawbacks

Size is no constraint. There was no published business case at the time of the commitment for even the largest projects worth over $5 billion, such as the 24 km Sydney Metro West Rail Tunnel between Sydney’s CBD and Parramatta, the Melbourne Airport Rail and the 10 km Torrance-to-Darlington Adelaide. Section of North South Corridor of K.K.

This means that politicians are unwilling to share these projects with – or even without knowing – if those projects are in the interest of the community, let alone if they are the best option for the money. .


Most of these 32 projects received federal as well as state funding.

Of the 22 large projects that the federal government has contributed to since 2016, only six had a business case published or assessed by Infrastructure Australia, a mandate in 2008 to provide independent advice to governments on infrastructure. Established federal agency.

Of the 16 projects without business cases, 14 were listed as “initiatives” on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list, indicating that they had “the ability to address a nationally significant problem or opportunity”. But their evaluation had not yet been completed when committed.

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The remaining two projects are Phase 2 of the Monash Freeway Upgrade in south-east Melbourne and the Albion Park bypass on NSW’s Princes Highway, south of Wollongong. These two projects, valued at more than $2 billion between them, did not appear on any of Infrastructure Australia’s priority lists at the time state governments committed to them.

As Infrastructure Australia put it in a 2018 report on decision-making principles: “Too often we see projects being committed before a business case is prepared, a full set of options have been considered, and a potential project There has been a rigorous analysis of the benefits and costs.”

In a March 2018 press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a joint $10 billion funding to build a rail link to Melbourne Airport.
In a March 2018 press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a joint $10 billion funding to build a rail link to Melbourne Airport.
Stephen Postels / You

case after facts

It is true that 11 major transportation projects later ended with a business case.

Last month, for example, the Victorian government released the trade and investment case for the first phase of its vast suburban rail loop, which cost $30 to $34 billion — three years after announcing its commitment to the project. .

We have also seen business cases following the decision to invest on Stage 1, several sections of Queensland’s M1 Pacific Motorway of Sydney’s F6 motorway and Tasmania’s largest project, the $500 million Bridgewater Bridge across the Derwent River in Hobart.

Only eight of Australia's 32 largest infrastructure projects had a public business affair
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Ebetz, State Treasurer Peter Gutwin and Liberal MLC Jane Howlett announce funding for a new Bridgewater Bridge in Hobart with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a press conference in June 2018.
Rob Blakers/AA{

too much privacy

It is not just business matters where transparency is lacking. Information about tender procedures – who bids, who won, by what procedure, and contract value – is not published regularly in Australia. Even so, it can be difficult to find.

Research by The Grattan Institute shows that NSW discloses more information than other states, regularly publishing contract and tender information in a central register. Queensland discloses the least amount of information, and everything it publishes is available in a central location.

Politicians can defend their secretive practices by indicating that they are the ones elected to make decisions. But people you can imagine are also the most likely to side with governments in preferring shadow – those who build and advise large projects – to disagree.

In August the Grattan Institute hosted a webinar with two respected representatives of construction companies, Bede Noonan of Aciona Geotech and Chris Locke of McConnell Dowell, and Owen Hayford of Infralegal, an expert legal advisor. All strongly agreeable governments should at least make public business matters public.

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It was not only a question of public accountability, he argued, but an opportunity to persuade the community about the merits of a proposal, and to bring in more innovative ideas.

They are right. Transparency isn’t everything, but it is important. Governments should publish all this: business cases, tender documents, contract values, the basis on which claims for major projects are settled, evaluation criteria, post-completion reviews.

Politicians should welcome the inquiry. Transparency builds trust in this fragmented time.

A video from the Grattan Institute’s webinar “How to Make Our Transportation Project Get Better Bang for Rs.” is available here.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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