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Analysis and Comment (83)

Some US bridges are currently living out their twilight years. Bob Jagendorf

Here’s how to fix America’s crumbling bridges

There are about 600,000 bridges in the United States, and about one in four is classified as functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. This doesn’t mean they’re in danger of imminent collapse; they…
Tony Abbott is meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this week. Lukas Coch/AAP

Abbott’s awkward APEC moment over Asian infrastructure bank

Forget shirt-fronting Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s most challenging task this week will be breaking an uncomfortable silence with Chinese President Xi Jinping. And he…
Victoria’s capacity to handle the millions of containers imported and exported through its ports affects the whole state. AAP/Julian Smith

Project affecting all of Victoria has to be part of election debate

Victoria’s election debate about infrastructure is shaping up around large projects such as the East West Link and Airport Rail Link. But another infrastructure project could also be on the radar: the…
Immigrant faces from the early 1900s watch Ellis Island visitors pick their way through a crumbling hospital. Aimee VonBokel

Artists' installations raise questions about abandoned buildings

This fall, French street artist JR and American cinematographer Bradford Young each installed a series of portraits in crumbling New York buildings. The two projects were not coordinated, but together…
We’ve all experienced the frustration of waiting for public transport, but would we pay more tax for improvements? Purple Wyrm/Flickr

Six ways to boost funding for better public transport

Although Australia’s tax-to-GDP ratio is low by international standards, no-one wants to discuss how we might pay for the improvements needed to public transport, and even less the need for taxation to…
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde says the economic recovery underway in many markets is “brittle, uneven and beset by risks". Dave Hunt/AAP

The world has an economic growth problem, and more G20 spending won’t fix it

Last week the IMF revised its 2014 global economic growth forecast down to 3.3% from the 3.7% expected six months ago, confirming that most economies around the world, Australia included, continue to underperform…
Global infrastructure agendas must not marginalise developing countries www.shutterstock.com

The pitfalls of the G20 infrastructure agenda

Australia’s G20 infrastructure agenda aims to increase quality investment into global projects. The agenda advocates using the private sector to develop infrastructure in order to boost global growth and…
Australia is pushing for the creation of a G20 infrastructure hub. www.shutterstock.com

Building big: does Australia need a global infrastructure hub?

Infrastructure investment is failing to attract the funding it needs to support global growth. As of June 2014, the managed funds industry in Australia had just over $2.4 trillion dollars under management…
Tony Abbott has the support of business leaders, but will it last? Nikki Short/AAP

The Abbott economy at one: open for business, closed to real reform

In his victory speech on election night last September, prime minister Tony Abbott declared Australia was “under new management and … once more open for business”. There were, of course, specific promises…
Right idea, wrong execution: the Ord River irrigation scheme needed better surrounding infrastructure. isthatdave/Wikimedia Commons

To grow agriculture in Australia, farmers need to think like miners

It’s perhaps fitting that mining magnate Andrew Forrest is in the vanguard of a move to position Australia as a major food supplier to China. Fitting, because if the plan is to work, Australian agriculture…
Bombardment of the Gaza Strip is having devastating effects. Mohammed Saber/EPA

The Israeli assault on Gaza: a public health perspective

It is three weeks since the current Israeli offensive against Gaza began on July 8. But it is now eight years since Israel began its blockade of Gaza. Since then unemployment has risen, public infrastructure…
Xi Jinping’s tour through Latin American countries signals the time is right to reassess Chinese investment in Australia. AAP/EPA/Cubadebate

Xi Jinping’s Latin American tour harbours insights for Australia

Chinese President Xi Jinping has just returned from his second state visit to Latin America, having achieved what no other leader could. His dash through Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and Cuba has breathed…
Stuck in the past: Sydney’s rail system is crying out for investment, but Australian approaches to fares and funding are out of date. Chris Hale

Public transport has been let down by our reluctance to pay for it

Public transport has a problem with money. Campaigners often argue that mass transit is a public good in its own right, and hence should be very cheap or even free. Mainstream media and even many self-proclaimed…
The government is hoping asset recycling will lead to major infrastructure investments, but its success could lie elsewhere. Stefan Postles/AAP

Asset recycling no dream for Hockey, but efficiency boost likely

UPDATE: This piece originally said the Asset Recycling Initiative had been passed by the Senate. Subsequent to publication, the amended legislation was rejected by the House of Representatives. The piece…
Referring long-term issues to ‘depoliticised’ processes such as commissions of audit does not solve the challenges of political management for governments. AAP/Lukas Coch

To revive long-term democratic thinking we have to innovate

The 2014 federal budget was informed by the need to think long term and was accompanied by austerity rhetoric. Regardless of where you stand on the merit of austerity policy in affecting economic recovery…
A formal, transparent and public assessment of infrastructure benefits and costs is the only way to ensure the right decision are made. Dan Peled/AAP

Realising Abbott’s infrastructure dream will need state support

One of the many challenges facing the Australian economy over the next decade or two concerns investment in transport, electricity, water, communications, health and education, and other infrastructure…
The new Royal Adelaide Hospital, due for completion in 2016, is being built using BIM. RoboSparrow/Flickr

Explainer: what is BIM and is it the future of construction?

It is often argued that Australia’s construction sector productivity is lower than most other developed countries, such as the US. While there are many factors involved, Australia’s overall productivity…
Infrastructure in the Pilbara is a mixture of private and public owned assets. AAP/Will Russell

As slowdown looms, Pilbara will need networks to thrive

The Pilbara has had a remarkable boom in recent years, but with the current slowdown comes questions about its long-term future. The need to diversify the local economy is obvious, but how do you do this…
Industry assistance cuts will have long-term impacts on Australia’s international competitiveness. Image sourced from www.shutterstock.com

Corporate Australia wasn’t really the budget winner after all

The 2014 Budget has been variously celebrated and reviled as a “budget for corporate Australia”. But this assessment is based on the premise that corporate tax cuts and infrastructure spending will provide…
Infrastructure Australia does not rate even one of the budget’s newly funded projects as ‘ready to proceed’ or ‘on the threshold’. Dean Lewins/AAP

Changes help the budget but not the economy

Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget creates a clear path almost to a surplus. Our children will pay much less for current spending. Real political courage was required to get this far. But the budget also…
Roads are the way to go for the 2014 federal budget. tim rich and lesley katon/Flickr

Federal budget 2014: infrastructure experts react

The Abbott government has committed an additional A$11.6 billion for an “infrastructure growth package” that is heavy on roads, but aimed at fast-tracking what it considers critical infrastructure. The…
Sydney’s WestConnex will be a big winner from the budget, but Sydney’s infrastructure problems need more than ribbon cutting. Paul Miller/AAP

The budget will be big on infrastructure, but we need more than just roads

The Abbott government is preparing to give Sydney’s WestConnex road project a A$2 billion boost in this week’s federal budget, part of a broader $10 billion infrastructure package aimed at boosting productivity…
The states have signed on to a capital recycling deal but finding projects to apply it to could prove challenging. Alan Porritt/AAP

Capital recycling plan good in theory, difficult in practice

The provision of new infrastructure is a high priority for the Abbott government. It is a worthy cause. New infrastructure will ensure we remain competitive in the international market. Reducing logistics…
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. 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…
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. 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. 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…
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. 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…
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. 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. 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. 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. 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…
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? 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? 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…
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. 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…
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. 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…
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. 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…
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! 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…
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.

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. 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. 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…
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. 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 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. 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. 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. 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…
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…
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…
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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