Infrastructure Australia Gets the Free Rein It Needs

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Amendments to the Australian Government’s Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 (the Bill) have today been introduced in the Senate.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said the government’s revisions are in response to stakeholder feedback.

“The government has moved to clear up ambiguities in the Bill, which led to a misunderstanding of the government’s reforms to make Infrastructure Australia more independent,” Mr Truss said.

“By deleting three clauses from the Bill, we will provide even greater assurance around the responsibilities and independence of Infrastructure Australia.

“Infrastructure Australia needs to move away from assessing lists based on already announced government priorities and focus strategically on Australia’s future infrastructure needs to inform decisions, rather than play catch-up.

“These revisions show that the Australian Government is focused on enabling Infrastructure Australia to play its part in building the infrastructure we need for the future.

“We propose to delete Section 5A(2), the intent of which was to exclude Defence projects and projects seeking Commonwealth funding of under $100 million from evaluation. By deleting this reference, the misunderstanding that the Minister could prevent IA from assessing classes of proposals is eliminated.

“We will move to delete Section 5D, which was intended as a positive power to direct IA to publish its findings, while striking a balance with commercial-in-confidence matters. By deleting this provision, it is clear that it is the responsibility of IA to determine what it will and will not publish in accordance with general law principles, including in relation to breach of confidence, the Privacy Act, other common law principles and the FOI Act.

“We also propose to delete Item 9, subsections 6(3) and 6(4), which were designed to ensure that IA undertook its functions in a timely manner and provided advice on key policy issues relating to Government priorities. The effect of this deletion means that the legislation will revert to what is currently in the Act, whereby, the Minister will be able to provide directions of a general nature only.

“Importantly, the changes we propose do not affect our commitment to give Infrastructure Australia a broader range of responsibilities and charge it with developing a rolling 15-year infrastructure plan for Australia.

“The abolition of the Infrastructure Coordinator role, to be replaced with a Chief Executive Officer answerable to an independent Infrastructure Australia Board, will strengthen Infrastructure Australia’s status as a truly independent statutory authority.

“A more robust and transparent Infrastructure Australia is a key part of our plan to build a strong and prosperous economy.”

The revised Bill was introduced in the Senate today and is expected to be debated today.

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