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IA releases lists projects that have been submitted for assessment

Estimates & Committees
Janet Rice 11 Feb 2016

Senator RICE: I wanted to start with the list of 14 projects, both initiatives or full projects. Are you able to share with us what that list is?

Mr Davies: We are just finalising that list. I was just referring to projects that we are currently evaluating there.

Senator RICE: On what grounds are you not able to share that list with us?

Mr Davies: That information is confidential between us and the state and territory governments and we committed to advise them before we make that information public, which is normal when we make an assessment. We advise before we publish the information.

Senator RICE: Even just the names of the projects?

Mr Davies: Yes.

Senator RICE: You cannot share just the names of those 14 projects with us on the grounds that that is confidential information?

Mr Davies: In terms of the project assessments we are doing some of those are already in the public domain, but not all of them.

Senator RICE: Can you go through them all so we can have the 14 on the list. We have got a couple. We have got WestConnex. We have got the Perth Freight Link. Can you name the other 12 and their status, whether they are an initiative or a full proposal?

Mr Parkinson: This list relates to proposed projects; that is, projects which have been submitted with a full business case which are currently under assessment. Because they are currently under assessment there is no decision as yet on whether they are projects.

Senator RICE: But this is the list of the 14 that you previously mentioned?

Mr Parkinson: These are from the list of the 14 that are in the public domain. Of those there is the inland rail proposal; the Smart Motorways M4 Upgrade proposal; WestConnex; the upgrade for Tanami Road; the Ipswich Motorway, Rocklea to Darra section; the Pacific Motorway upgrade, Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes; the Western Distributor; Murray Basin Rail project; Forrestfield-Airport Rail Link; Maldon to Dombarton Rail Link.

Senator RICE: So that is 10.

Mr Parkinson: We also have a draft in progress of the western Sydney airport business case.

Senator BULLOCK: Congratulations,Senator Rice. Senator Sterle asked that question about 10 times and could not get an answer, so well done.

Senator RICE: Is the draft of your western Sydney airport case currently classed as an initiative rather than a full project?

Mr Parkinson: It has been submitted as a project proposal and we are working with the proponent to finalise that business case.

Senator RICE: So is it the case that there are another three that you are not willing to share with us at the moment?

Mr Parkinson: There are others which are not in the public domain; that is correct.

Senator RICE: Is it another three? We were told before that there were 14.

Mr Parkinson: That would be correct.

Senator RICE: So it would be correct that there are another three that are not in the public domain.

CHAIR: Can you just confirm that the Junee roundabout is not on the list?

Mr Parkinson: Yes, I can confirm that.

CHAIR: I was just checking.

Senator RICE: So is the ground for not sharing those other three with us that you are claiming public interest immunity, essentially?

Mr Davies: As part of the consultation that we did following the release of the audit we have received over 200 submissions from state and territory governments, industry bodies, associations and individuals, but we have assessed all of those submissions. A number of those are more advanced in their development than others, but at this stage we have committed to all those entities that have submitted, including state and territory governments, that before we discuss any of those in detail we advise them of our intention to do so, so that they can manage their end.

Senator RICE: Is the Melbourne Metro Rail Link one of those three?

Mr Davies: At this stage we have not received a business case for Melbourne Metro?

Senator RICE: You have not received the business case so it cannot be a full proposal. Is it included in that list of those three initiatives?

Mr Davies: No. We have not received the business case for Melbourne.

Senator RICE: So it is not even on your list as one of those 14?

Mr Davies: No.

Senator RICE: Whether they are a full project or an initiative?

Mr Davies: No.

Senator RICE: Can you tell us what stage you are up to with your assessment of the Western Distributor, which is one of your projects?

Mr Davies: It is hard to describe the stage. We are in the middle of our review of that project and we are having ongoing conversations with the Victorian government, so it is underway. Again, it is a similar answer to my previous one, that how long the conversation takes and the toing and froing depends on both sides being quick with their answers to questions and providing additional information, so it is hard to put a time frame on it.

Senator RICE: We were told earlier this morning that the federal government's Infrastructure Investment Division hopes to complete its assessment of whether the Western Distributor should be eligible for money by the end of the calendar year, so what is your time frame in terms of relationship with that time frame?

Mr Davies: I am hopeful we will complete our assessment way within that time period.

Mr Mrdak: We were talking about this financial year.

Senator RICE: This financial year?

Mr Mrdak: Yes, 2015-16.

Senator RICE: So Infrastructure Investment wants to finish its assessment as to whether the Western Distributor should get federal funding by the end of this financial year?

Mr Mrdak: Based on the information we have Victoria still has a number of stages of its own assessment process to go but I think my officers, when we were referring to this year, we tend to talk in financial years.

Senator RICE: I thought they specifically said this calendar year but if it is this financial year then that is even—

Mr Mrdak: It may take longer. That will depend on the quality of the information and the processes with Victoria, but we would look to expedite the assessment as quickly as possible.

Senator RICE: So, if we are looking at the federal government finishing its assessment by the end of the financial year, you would be looking at finishing the Infrastructure Australia assessment before then—it would have to be. Do you have any sense of when it will be done in terms of your negotiations with the Victorian government?

Mr Davies: We have a good working relationship with the Victorian government and I am hopeful they will provide the additional information that we are currently asking for quickly and allow us to do our job.

Senator RICE: So the ball is currently in their court?

Mr Davies: Yes.

Senator RICE: I am interested in how Infrastructure Australia is going about its assessment of individual projects in light of your work on the development of the 15-year priority infrastructure plan. How can you tell whether one project stacks up compared to what might be better, cheaper or more sustainable ways of achieving the same transport outcomes?

Mr Davies: As I mentioned earlier, we have had a review of the process for developing projects and have endeavoured to strengthen the definition of the problem as part of that process, which is an area we saw for improvement. That has been a big part of the work that we have been doing with the jurisdictions over the last eight or nine months. That provides the basis for looking at a broad range of solutions. They are the solutions that will ultimately be assessed as part of an options assessment in the business case development process and our aim is to provide input through that process so that we can actually make sure that we get a fully rounded business case at the end of that process.

Senator RICE: What you are saying is that the business case for each individual project has to include an assessment of all the other projects?

Mr Davies: An assessment of the options considered, yes.

Senator RICE: What level of assessment would need to occur for all of the other possible solutions, the other ways of fixing that transport problem?

Mr Davies: It would very much depend on the problem.

CHAIR: Do you include in your calculations the predictions of the future for climate and weather?

Mr Davies: As part of the project assessment there is an environmental assessment.

CHAIR: I bet you do not. Do you look to the growth areas? I mean the science is probably 50 or 60 per cent right on the anticlockwise movement of the weather—and you probably know nothing about this stuff—and some of the pastoral country in the top end of Western Australia and so on becomes dry land farming; it becomes agricultural country, like Fitzroy Crossing, for instance, and the potential increase in productivity. Do you include that?

Mr Davies: Again, it depends on the project. That would certainly be part of the assessment of the project.

CHAIR: Does someone give you say a map that says, 'This is what Australia could look like in another 30 or 40 years'?

Mr Davies: Maybe not 30 or 40 years but certainly we would expect to see projections with any business case that we were assessing.

Senator RICE: Can I go back to my questions please, Chair.

CHAIR: Maybe.

Senator RICE: I can think of three other projects that would need to be looked at in the context of the Western Distributor, Metro Rail being one of them. From what we know, from the very reduced amount of business case that has been made available by the Victorian government, consideration of the Port Rail Shuttle is not included in it. Comparing then the Western Distributor with the much more cost-effective West Gate Distributor, which does the same thing for getting truck traffic off the streets of Yarraville and Footscray for about a fifth of the cost, would you be requiring all of those projects to be properly assessed as part of the Western Distributor business case?

Mr Davies: As part of our assessment of the business case we are looking at the strategic fit of that particular solution within the jurisdiction's broader transport solution in that example. We would expect to have that described as part of the business case so that we can understand the strategic fit. The selection of projects is a job for the state government. Subsequently, part of our role is to assess their chosen solution and test the strategic merit of that solution, but also look at the viability of the business case in terms of the cost and benefit.

Senator RICE: The Port Rail Shuttle, as a case in point which has already got $37 million of federal funding, has not been included in the traffic modelling for the Western Distributor. Would it be acceptable to Infrastructure Australia for that omission to continue to be there?

Mr Davies: That is not a project that we have looked at.

Senator RICE: Are you saying that in order to assess the business case of the Western Distributor you need then to look at all of these other potential options for meeting the transport problem that they are proposing a solution for?

Mr Davies: Typically, the broader network development options would be something tested through scenario testing and the modelling for that specific project. That is certainly something we are looking into at the moment.

Senator RICE: In this case we have got the Port Rail Shuttle that is not included in their transport modelling, at least that is what their publically available information indicates. Is it acceptable to you if the modelling does not include projects? It seems to me it is a big gap in looking at the broader potential transport solution.

Mr Davies: I cannot speak of the specifics of that example, but certainly as part of our assessment we look at the broader system modelling for transport solutions. That is one of the areas we typically ask for scenario testing to be undertaken.

Senator RICE: Will you be insisting on a comparison of the effectiveness of the Western Distributor with the other option that was proposed up until 12 months ago of the West Gate Distributor, which is a much less expansive project but would serve the same purpose in terms of getting trucks to the port?

Mr Davies: We are currently assessing that business case. We will make our assessment public once that is completed.

Senator RICE: Thank you.

CHAIR: I take it that refers to Melbourne. I am not too sure why we need a central business district anymore. You can do a lot of things on the kitchen table at home these days that you used to have to go into the office to do. Do you think through what business is going to look like in another 20 years? Why do we need a central businessdistrict? People go to an office now and they send an email to the person. They do not even talk to them. The body corporate I am involved in down here in Reid drive me insane with emails, but they will not talk to you. Is there any need in the future for Infrastructure Australia to look at what a modern city will look like? I have had the view for a long time that, for instance, they should have built the fast train from Sydney to Melbourne, which was a $1.4 billion cost back in the 80s, because water is going to be an issue for some of the places, especially Goulburn, Sydney and Melbourne; Sydney is going to have a water problem if it keeps growing. Places that are on the Murray and on the Murrumbidgee that have got a really reliable water supply could have been half a million people. Do you think of it like that at all or do you just think it will stay the way it is? If you are 50 miles out of Melbourne you have got to go into the CBD to go to the office. Is that not looking back instead of looking forward?

Mr Davies: As mentioned earlier, we are just finalising the 15-year infrastructure plan. The growth of all of our cities is a focus of that plan. We look forward to sharing that plan with you.

CHAIR: Why would you need to go to the 50th floor of an office and sit in an office where everyone else is sitting on their computers, not talking to one another, et cetera, when they could be at home doing it?

Senator RICE: Could I ask just one more question? I just wanted to get a specific response. With those three projects that I have mentioned, the Port Rail Shuttle, the West Gate Distributor and the Metro Rail Tunnel, can you tell me whether they are specifically included as part of the network options that are being included in the business case for the Western Distributor that you are currently assessing?

Mr Davies: As I mentioned earlier, we are in the middle of doing our review of that project.

Senator RICE: But can you tell me specifically: are those three projects included in the network that is being assessed as part of the business case?

Mr Davies: Once we have completed the review of the project we will share that assessment as part of the normal process.

Senator RICE: Are you not willing to tell me whether those projects are included in the business case?

Mr Davies: That information is confidential between ourselves and our colleagues in Victoria. Again, once we have completed our assessment we will make that information available. S

enator RICE: Are you essentially claiming public interest immunity on the grounds of confidentiality between the states?

Mr Davies: We are only partially through the process of making our assessment, so the assessment is not completed.

Senator RICE: For us it is very frustrating in the public because we do not have access to this information. This information is redacted from the business case that is available to us.

Senator BULLOCK: Why is it confidential? She is not asking for the outcome of your report, she is just asking whether certain things form a part of the consideration. You do not have to comment; you might think it is the worst idea anybody ever had. We are not asking about that. We are just asking you whether it is among those things you are considering.

CHAIR: I could think of reasons why. It could affect the market value of things.

Senator RICE: It is just whether assessment of those three other infrastructure projects is included.

CHAIR: You have had your go. It was not that long ago that we had telegrams and you had to have Morse code, and we are now at this, which has got more power than the computers going to the moon. We have come a long way in 20 years? The demand for where you are and what you can do from where you are might be completely different. Do you not figure that?

Mr Davies: As part of the development of the 15-year plan, we have been thinking about some of these opportunities and certainly the role of technology is something that is part of that consideration. We look forward to sharing our plan with you when we launch it shortly.  

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