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Analysis and Comment (53)

Committing to new infrastructure is dangerous when political motivations are the driver. Committing to new infrastructure is dangerous when political motivations are the driver. AAP/AAP Image/Alan Porritt)

Trains, planes and automobiles: how our cities get the mix wrong

It’s hard to get past the feeling that we are stuck in 1970s thinking when it comes to planning infrastructure such as airports. The Federal government has finally announced Badgerys Creek in Sydney’s…
Projects such as the recently-opened Shenzhen North Station in China, serves up Australia some lessons - if we’re willing to listen. Projects such as the recently-opened Shenzhen North Station in China, serves up Australia some lessons - if we’re willing to listen. Chris Hale

Time for Australia to consider Asian lessons on city infrastructure

As prime minister Tony Abbott completes a whistle-stop tour of Asia, Australia’s “place in Asia” is an ongoing discussion. Abbott hailed the “shared values” that enabled Australia’s free trade deal with…
Melburnians have taken to the streets to challenge government transport policy priorities. Melburnians have taken to the streets to challenge government transport policy priorities. AAP/Joe Sabljak

Without a national cities policy, who joins all the planning dots?

Australia does not have a national cities policy. But in committing funding to transport infrastructure, the federal government is significantly shaping Australian cities. Local government and community-based…
Sell the antiques, pay for the house extension: capital recycling could be one way of funding new infrastructure. Sell the antiques, pay for the house extension: capital recycling could be one way of funding new infrastructure. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Explainer: what is capital recycling?

Treasurer Joe Hockey has spent much of the year – certainly since the G20 finance ministers' conference in Sydney – talking up “capital recycling”. The idea sounds promising: new projects can be built…
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is seeking a mandate for large-scale asset sales in the state. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is seeking a mandate for large-scale asset sales in the state. Dan Peled/AAP

Hockey’s asset sales sweetener could shift Queensland thinking

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s announcement that states will receive an incentive payment of 15% of asset sales if they invest the funds in infrastructure is good news for Queensland’s Newman government…
A proposal to remove registration and petrol taxes and replace them with distance charges should get the green light. A proposal to remove registration and petrol taxes and replace them with distance charges should get the green light. AAP/Lukas Coch

Making road users pay could clear infrastructure gridlock

This week, Australian motoring groups decided to back road user charges, arguing that it would be a fairer system. At the same time, the groups said the change to user charges would secure sufficient funding…
The use of ministerial approvals for major NSW developments has skyrocketed. The use of ministerial approvals for major NSW developments has skyrocketed. AAP

Tackle fast-tracking of approvals to close nexus between politicians and developers

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s planned repeal of 9500 redundant regulations and 1000 Acts of Parliament could loosen dangerously close ties between politicians and developers. While such ties are problematic…
More international competition won’t necessarily drive down infrastructure costs if the groundwork isn’t done by governments. More international competition won’t necessarily drive down infrastructure costs if the groundwork isn’t done by governments. AAP/Tony McDonough

How to attract foreign firms to do Australian infrastructure

Australia’s two biggest construction companies, Leighton and Lend Lease, control a significant share of construction – up to 75% in cases such as major rail projects. The recent Productivity Commission…
Infrastructure is a key challenge for Jay Weatherill’s South Australian state government, which has been returned to power in a minority government arrangement. Infrastructure is a key challenge for Jay Weatherill’s South Australian state government, which has been returned to power in a minority government arrangement. AAP/Ben Macmahon

Labor lives to fight another day in South Australia

The electoral uncertainty in South Australia has come to an end, at least for the foreseeable future. To some disbelief, Labor premier Jay Weatherill has managed to overcome the odds – and indeed the polls…
The city’s newly-named infrastructure project could be an underground success. The city’s newly-named infrastructure project could be an underground success. AAP Image/John Pryke

Brisbanites get to name their tunnels – but that doesn’t mean they like them

The superhero jokes started straight away. mX — the local public transport throwaway — opened its coverage of Brisbane’s newly-named BaT (Bus and Train) Tunnel with: Na na na na na na na na BaT Tunnel…
Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel has gone into voluntary administration twice since it was opened, and the government has become embroiled in legal action to recover costs. Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel has gone into voluntary administration twice since it was opened, and the government has become embroiled in legal action to recover costs. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Political costs trash public-private infrastructure benefits

Last week’s Productivity Commission draft report on public infrastructure made a number of useful recommendations about getting projects assessed and delivered on time. But the report does not go far beyond…
Australians are addicted to the political theatre surrounding infrastructure investment. Australians are addicted to the political theatre surrounding infrastructure investment. Tracey Nearmy/AAP

Infrastructure needs science, so who put the politicians in charge?

The recent productivity commission report into public infrastructure left the most important policy question unasked, namely: if there were better ways for planning and building transport infrastructure…
New ways are needed to pay for infrastructure, according to the Productivity Commission. But our Asian neighbours are already at work. New ways are needed to pay for infrastructure, according to the Productivity Commission. But our Asian neighbours are already at work. AAP/Dean Lewins

Government should front cash for long-term infrastructure

Elected with a pledge to be the infrastructure prime minister, Tony Abbott has repeatedly promised to bring more private investment into high-priority infrastructure projects. Last week’s Productivity…
Even the tallest infrastructure creeks under flood pressure. Even the tallest infrastructure creeks under flood pressure. Derek Harper

What use are apps when your web infrastructure is underwater?

According to Ofcom, 80% of adults in the UK had access to the internet in 2013 and each spent about 35 hours online each month. And half of all adults in the UK access the web using their mobile phones…
But fare rises are in line with inflation. But fare rises are in line with inflation. London Permaculture

Believe it or not, rising rail fares are actually good news

I wonder how many friends I would make among commuters by suggesting last week’s 3% rise in rail fares is at least in part a good news story. Of course, there has been understandable indignation that fares…
Is selling public infrastructure assets to fund government projects a good idea? Is selling public infrastructure assets to fund government projects a good idea? AAP

Open for business: selling off public assets to fund infrastructure

When Tony Abbott stepped up to claim victory for the Coalition in September, he declared Australia was “under new management and once more open for business”. One hundred days on, we look at the open for…
Next stop Deutsche Bahn? Next stop Deutsche Bahn? Gareth Fuller/PA

Eurostar sale shows rail policy is still on the wrong track

The government’s announcement that it is to sell off its stake in Eurostar is another sign of its convoluted thinking towards railway policy. The operator of international train services from London through…
Tractors and quad bikes – seen here at Australia’s Mawson Station – are only two of many forms of transport used in Antarctica. Tractors and quad bikes – seen here at Australia’s Mawson Station – are only two of many forms of transport used in Antarctica. Chris Wilson/Australian Antarctic Division

Why the ‘infrastructure PM’ can’t give Antarctica the cold shoulder

Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently declared that he wanted to be known as the “infrastructure prime minister”. But what of Australia’s iciest infrastructure – that located in Antarctica? A 20-year strategic…
Governments are failing to keep up with infrastructure demand, but are tolls the answer? Governments are failing to keep up with infrastructure demand, but are tolls the answer? John Pryke/AAP

Should users pay the toll for Australia’s infrastructure problem?

Australia spends more on infrastructure today than at any stage in its history. Yet governments are unable to meet demand and don’t expect ever to do so. What can governments do to keep up with escalating…
Safety first, but which kind of safety? Safety first, but which kind of safety? peretzp

Stuxnet is scary, but human safety should come first

Critical national infrastructure keeps our water and electricity flowing, our payments running and our manufacturing and distribution moving. This infrastructure faces a new threat in the form of cyber-attacks…
The world, north of the M25. The world, north of the M25. HS2

HS2: how will it affect my town?

Professor Peter Mackie Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds Leeds and its metropolitan region should be one of the big winners from HS2. Financial and legal services, engineering consultancy…
It’ll be quick, but will it be worth it? It’ll be quick, but will it be worth it? Gareth Fuller/PA

Hard evidence: is it possible to forecast HS2’s benefits?

The recent publication of the government’s strategic case for HS2 has added to mounting concerns about the strength and validity of evidence put forward to support the project. Previously, the business…
A ‘ghost bike’ at notorious Bow flyover in East London. A ‘ghost bike’ at notorious Bow flyover in East London. Dominic Lipinski/PA

There are solutions to these needless cyclist deaths

It has been a grim month for cycling in London. Just days ago newspapers wrote of five deaths in nine days, and barely is the ink dry before yet another death this morning makes six in under two weeks…
Infrastructure construction costs are far higher in Australia than in comparable OECD countries, making it difficult for politicians to commit to large projects. Infrastructure construction costs are far higher in Australia than in comparable OECD countries, making it difficult for politicians to commit to large projects. AAP/David Crosling

Australia’s infrastructure cost conundrum

Infrastructure is about the long-term growth and prosperity of a nation, but Australia will get very little of this benefit if the cost of building it continues to rapidly escalate. Australia is becoming…
Cars stuck in traffic at an intersection. Cars stuck in traffic at an intersection. www.shutterstock.com/e2dan

Stuck in traffic: how to get our cities and economy moving

The strength of Australia’s economy depends on how well our cities function - yet right now, it’s as if we’re driving with the handbrake on. Cities are crucial to productivity. When they work well, they…
A focus on freeways will drive Australia’s transport emissions up. A focus on freeways will drive Australia’s transport emissions up. Leonard John Matthews

Abbott’s transport priorities drive Australia into the past

In last week’s election, the respective contenders to lead the nation offered contrasting views on the transport future. One opted to promote urban roads and the other, urban passenger rail. We chose roads…
Both the Labor and Liberals see infrastructure as a crucial economic driver; but Chinese investment in this area has been politicised. Both the Labor and Liberals see infrastructure as a crucial economic driver; but Chinese investment in this area has been politicised. AAP

Infrastructure prime minister must face Chinese elephant in room

Tony Abbott wants to be known as the infrastructure prime minister. He could be remembered for building roads and scrapping high-speed rail. But the role of Chinese finance and technical expertise in infrastructure…
The Coalition claims that infrastructure costs in Australia are spiralling out of control. The Coalition claims that infrastructure costs in Australia are spiralling out of control.

FactCheck: does building hospitals, schools and airports cost more in Australia than in the US?

“Resource projects are 40% more costly in Australia than the United States, building hospitals cost 62% more, schools 26% more and airports a staggering 90% more.” – The Nationals' leader Warren Truss…
Is there a better way to face the challenges of the future? Is there a better way to face the challenges of the future? Clown image from www.shutterstock.com

Forget the Sideshow: Australia needs better decision-making for a better future

As a nation we pay too much attention to the sensational and the short-term. Whether it’s a social media spat, a gaffe in question time, or a political interview that runs off the rails – our national…
Investing in large-scale infrastructure will make Australia’s economy more efficient in the face of a receding mining boom. Investing in large-scale infrastructure will make Australia’s economy more efficient in the face of a receding mining boom. AAP

Beyond the mining boom: from resources to infrastructure

The term of the new Australian government – whether finally led by Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull – will be shaped by one dominant economic reality: the end of the mining boom. The immediate…
Osborne: coming after an extra £11.5bn from departmental expenditure. Osborne: coming after an extra £11.5bn from departmental expenditure. PA

Spending review 2013: a triumph of politics over reason

The spending review is a strange beast. Invented by Gordon Brown, it would normally cover 3 to 4 years instead of a single year – but this one is aimed at 2015-16. Chancellor George Osborne’s 2010 Review…
NSW Treasurer Mike Baird has highlighted the infrastructure spending in today’s NSW budget. NSW Treasurer Mike Baird has highlighted the infrastructure spending in today’s NSW budget. AAP Image/ Tracey Nearmy

NSW Budget boosts infrastructure, delivers deficit: the experts respond

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird has handed down a state budget that predicts a return to surplus as early next year, with major spending on infrastructure as its showcase. The budget predicts a lower than expected…
Speed is not enough, we need growth. Speed is not enough, we need growth. Gareth Fuller/PA

Planes and trains can deliver the growth the IMF wants

The International Monetary Fund’s annual report on the UK economy calls for the Chancellor to boost economic growth through investing in infrastructure. While the IMF is right to make this point, we must…
Playing politics with transport will only lead to a train wreck. Playing politics with transport will only lead to a train wreck. Flickr/awmalloy

Keep them off the rails: politics and transport don’t mix

The 2013-2014 Federal budget includes billions of dollars allocated to transport, including a new Melbourne rail tunnel. At the same time the Victorian State government has plans for a different tunnel…
Ah, the freedom of the open road! Ah, the freedom of the open road! Walter Parenteau

New freeways cure congestion: time to put the myth to bed

Although the national budget is now apparently $12 billion in debt, a welter of state governments are pressing the federal government for support to build new freeways. The Victorian Government has just…
Victorian Treasuer Michael O'Brien has delivered an action budget for Victoria, but is it too late? Victorian Treasuer Michael O'Brien has delivered an action budget for Victoria, but is it too late?

Victorian budget delivers surplus, but will it be a road to reelection?

The Napthine government kicked up the political tempo in Victoria yesterday, courtesy of the latest state budget. Delivered confidently by the new Treasurer, Michael O’Brien, the budget has let loose a…
Rail has been a part of Federal “knitting” since, well, Federation. Rail has been a part of Federal “knitting” since, well, Federation. Annie Mole

It’s not in the knitting? Urban rail’s growing significance

Tony Abbott has created a new phrase that wonderfully describes a political tradition or paradigm: “not in our knitting”. “We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it’s important that we stick…
The Business Council of Australia’s call for long-term thinking is moving in the right direction, but wants both expensive spending programs and lower taxes. The Business Council of Australia’s call for long-term thinking is moving in the right direction, but wants both expensive spending programs and lower taxes.

Business lobby yearns for a long-term view, but offers a contradictory wish list

There is much to consider when thinking about our future as a nation. We are a small, resource-rich, open economy facing a volatile global environment. We are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate…
The planned Melbourne Metro project faces engineering hurdles, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel. The planned Melbourne Metro project faces engineering hurdles, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel. AAP/Julian Smith

Dig this: how to construct Melbourne’s Metro tunnel safely

According to a report in Fairfax media today, the Labor government is set to announce funding for Melbourne’s A$9 billion metro rail tunnel, in addition to the A$40 million it has already contributed towards…
Last time around, the Victorian Government made too many decisions predicated on a stereotyped idea of Australian drought. Last time around, the Victorian Government made too many decisions predicated on a stereotyped idea of Australian drought. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Victoria needs flexibility to get through the next drought

The notion that Australia is the driest inhabited continent on the planet has created a persistent stereotype. Recent weather shows it to be misguided. It suits embarrassed planners, myopic politicians…
Criticisms of secrecy around infrastructure tendering fail to properly acknowledge the realities of costing and managing major projects. Criticisms of secrecy around infrastructure tendering fail to properly acknowledge the realities of costing and managing major projects.

All in the delivery: is there really a problem with how Victorians pay for infrastructure?

One of the initiatives in the Victorian government’s economic statement released late last year was a decision to change the arrangements for announcing the cost of major infrastructure projects. Until…
Universities campuses need to adapt to the new reality of mobile students and online education. Universities campuses need to adapt to the new reality of mobile students and online education. Flickr/Jill

The university campus of the future: what will it look like?

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today Victoria University’s David…
Infrastructure lobbyists are pushing for more funding to fill the “infrastructure gap”, but the investment doesn’t make sense. Infrastructure lobbyists are pushing for more funding to fill the “infrastructure gap”, but the investment doesn’t make sense. Indiana Public Media

Is Australia heading for a transport infrastructure bubble?

Every Australian State and Territory has an ongoing roads program and a “wish list” which it brings to the Federal Government for funding. The current extent of the multi-billion dollar program can be…
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls has delivered a budget that commits to austerity, with a return to surplus within three years. Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls has delivered a budget that commits to austerity, with a return to surplus within three years.

Queensland budget commits to austerity

The 2012-13 Queensland budget was the most anticipated policy announcement in several decades. The cut-backs in public sector employment previously forecast and cost saving measures announced in the early…
Olympics are sold on the benefits their infrastructure will bring, but sometimes reality doesn’t match the promise. Olympics are sold on the benefits their infrastructure will bring, but sometimes reality doesn’t match the promise. CmdrCord

London 2012: infrastructure legacy or a costly waste?

When London won the Olympics, it was booming. The GFC changed everything. In 2008, Tessa Jowell, minister for the Olympics, said: “Had we known what we know now, would we have bid for the Olympics? Almost…
Improving the transparency and evaluation of major infrastructure projects is one way to increase productivity. Improving the transparency and evaluation of major infrastructure projects is one way to increase productivity. AAP

Budget provides a chance to carve out the path to higher productivity

Productivity growth results in more valued output per unit of production input, or the same output for fewer inputs. Growth of productivity requires changes involving the adoption of new technology, better…
Cycling infrastructure gets people on their bikes, and the economic benefits are legion. Cycling infrastructure gets people on their bikes, and the economic benefits are legion. Janet Lackey

Bike lanes' economic benefits go beyond jobs

You might have heard that bike lanes are a waste of money. The Australian National Audit Office recently investigated the $40 million bike path scheme, announced in 2009 as part of the Federal Government’s…
Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel is on the brink of bankruptcy for the second time. Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel is on the brink of bankruptcy for the second time. AAP

Mind your PPPs: how to avoid the pitfalls of the public-private partnership model

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been in the spotlight recently, but seemingly, for all the wrong reasons. The NSW government, which has a particularly chequered history with PPPs, announced this…
Personal loans should be used to fund major infrastructure projects, like the National Broadband Network. Personal loans should be used to fund major infrastructure projects, like the National Broadband Network. AAP

Want to end the GFC? Put debt to good use

The Global Financial Crisis should be called the Global Debt Crisis. Too much debt has been created and there is not enough productive capacity to pay the interest on the debt, let alone repay the loans…
It’s first decade as a nation has been challenging, but the outlook for Timor-Leste is positive. It’s first decade as a nation has been challenging, but the outlook for Timor-Leste is positive. AAP/Mick Stone

Reducing risk in Timor-Leste: a strong foundation for one of the youngest nations

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor) is one of the world’s newest post-conflict nations. Next year it celebrates ten years as an independent democratic state, after almost 30 years of Indonesian…
Investment in Australia’s ports is one obvious priority to enhance growth - but let’s broaden our outlook. Investment in Australia’s ports is one obvious priority to enhance growth - but let’s broaden our outlook.

With the NBN locked in, it’s time to bridge our infrastructure gaps

There has been much debate in the popular and political discourse on the state of our national infrastructure. The general consensus, despite Victoria’s Baillieu government’s failure to put forth any proposals…
Fixing Australia’s infrastructure policy regime will be a long, bumpy road. Fixing Australia’s infrastructure policy regime will be a long, bumpy road. AAP

Swan’s splurge alone can’t fix the cracks in Infrastructure Australia

Australia’s ability to provide appropriate infrastructure for the future remains under question, despite changes to Infrastructure Australia’s role announced in the 2011 Federal Budget. The budget has…
Brisbane’s Clem7 tunnel - a PPP too far? Brisbane’s Clem7 tunnel - a PPP too far? AAP

Putting PPPs in their place

Recent reports that the Queensland government may build its $2B Sunshine Coast hospital by using a public-private partnership appear to indicate a continuing love affair with this form of funding. State…

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