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Albo dusts off his old plan for independent body to decide on major projects

A national advisory body is set to have a greater role in overseeing road, rail, water, energy and other proposals from concept to completion, following an independent review.

Dec 08, 2022, updated Dec 08, 2022
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's intervention in power pricing and supply has seen a plunge in he wholesale electricity price. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's intervention in power pricing and supply has seen a plunge in he wholesale electricity price. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Infrastructure Australia was set up in 2008 by the then infrastructure minister and now Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to provide expert advice on road, rail and other major capital works.

Labor has been critical of the organisation’s treatment under the coalition government.

“The former government left Infrastructure Australia to drift with a lack of clear direction, partisan board appointments and an unwieldy list of projects,” Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said.

“It is time for renewal.”

A review by experienced executive Nicole Lockwood and former top bureaucrat Mike Mrdak, released on Thursday along with the government response, recommended the organisation’s board be replaced by three commissioners supported by an advisory board of experts and officials.

King said the recommendation would be accepted and arrangements for the current board would be announced in the near future.

Other recommendations to be taken up include a more refined, smaller and targeted infrastructure priority list and a new national planning and assessment framework which would provide greater consistency across the nation.

Infrastructure Australia would also have a new role to play in examining projects once they are completed and work more closely with state and territory bodies.

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“The changes the government will put in place will result in a stronger, more focused Infrastructure Australia with a mandate to oversee projects from idea to completion so the significant investment by taxpayers is spent wisely and well for their benefit,” Ms King said.

The government, however, rejected or only partly accepted a number of findings.

It will retain the threshold of $250 million or more for projects requiring assessment but also include flexibility for Infrastructure Australia to consider projects under the threshold if they are considered “nationally significant”.

The idea of publishing two new annual statements to improve transparency around outcomes was rejected.

“The government does not support tabling these annual products as they will likely inform deliberations of the cabinet,” the response said.

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