Transport industry missing in make-up of Infrastructure Australia

By: Jason Whittaker

The transport and logistics industry has been snubbed in the announcement of the make-up of Infrastructure Australia, with half of

The transport and logistics industry has been snubbed in the announcement of the make-up of Infrastructure Australia, with half of the board being made up of current as well as former government officials.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese today announced the 12-member board will be stacked with Terry Moran, the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Secretary to the Treasury Ken Henry, Anthony Kannis, executive director of Western Australian Treasury and Jim Hallion, who is the chief executive of the Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure.

The former government officials include Mark Birrell, who served as a cabinet minister in Victoria and is now chairman of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, and Ross Rolfe of Babcock & Brown, formally the director-general of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in Queensland.

Rounding out the board is Heather Ridout from the Australian Industry Group, Garry Weaven of Industry Funds Management, Dr Kerry Schott, the managing director and chief executive of Sydney Water, Professor Peter Newman of Curtin University and Phil Hennessy, who is the Queensland chairman of KPMG.

As announced a few months ago, Sir Rod Eddington will chair Infrastructure Australia.

Despite not having a representative from peak industry groups such as the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Ports Australia, the Bus Industry Confederation or the Australasian Railways Association, Albanese says Infrastructure Australia will be well-equipped to identify bottlenecks and work to fix them.

"Under the leadership of Sir Rod Eddington, this group has the capacity to cut through and identify the critical issues as well as the proven abilities to find innovative solutions to the infrastructure challenges Australia faces," Albanese says.

According to the minister, the "diverse" make-up of the board equates to a "fresh approach" to infrastructure projects. He says the decision to put a total of six current as well as former government officials on the board "underscores just how serious we are about bringing in expertise from outside of government who want to contribute their energies to making our nation what it can be".

The trucking industry will need to rely on Birrell, who is also the deputy chairman of Australia Post. And despite his role, the ATA is confident Birrell will focus on all facets of road freight.

"In our submissions to the Government, we argued that at least one member of Infrastructure Australia should have expertise in transporting freight by road," ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says.

"Australia Post is a company that unquestionably has that expertise – it has one of the largest freight transport fleets in the country," he says.

Now the board is named, Infrastructure Australia will be tasked with three immediate responsibilities. First on the list is the completion of an audit on infrastructure priorities by the end of the year. This is to be followed by the development of an infrastructure priority list to guide investment.

The board will then work on determining the disincentives to greater private investment in public infrastructure. According to Albanese, this will include looking at the complexity and cost of public-private partnerships.

"Ultimately, the work and advice of Infrastructure Australia will inform the Government’s allocations from the soon-to-be-established $20 billion Building Australia Fund," he says.

The Opposition has raised concerns the fund will be used to bankroll Labor's next election campaign, with shadow treasurer Malcolm Turnbull referring to it as pork barelling.

However, while Cabinet and Prime Minister will have the final say on which projects to fund, a spokesman for Albanese says the process will be transparent.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ABC e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook