Report shows significant gaps in Australias export infrastructure

first_imgA national audit carried out by research firm ACIL Tasman shows that there are significant gaps in Australia’s export infrastructure and some of the nation’s existing capital is in a state of disrepair, according to the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA). To ensure Australia is equipped to come through the current economic malaise, new physical and social infrastructure will be needed and much of the existing export capital will need to be repaired or expanded, the audit reported. This comprehensive examination of existing and projected infrastructure needs in Australia’s key minerals regions, in the MCA’s opinion, sounds a warning to both governments and industry that a failure to address key shortfalls in the nation’s infrastructure could see a repeat of past failings – when ships queued off the coastline, skilled employees were difficult to attract and retain and international competitors increased their share of the global market at Australia’s expense. The findings suggest some of Australia’s export infrastructure has suffered from neglect and is in a critical state of inadequacy.The MCA sees the messages from this report being clear: “there is an urgent need to recognise the joint public and private effort required to bolster social and physical infrastructure and for better planning and streamlined regulation. Despite extensive investment by the minerals sector in both industrial and community infrastructure – some A$30 billion during 2008 – too often governments in the past have abrogated their responsibility to local communities and thus constrained the investment that private sector has wanted to make.”The MCA has long argued that the priority should be on investing in infrastructure rather than fuelling consumption. MCA: “It is encouraging and welcome to see governments have begun to address these challenges, particularly the spending in the Federal Government’s 2009/10 Budget and the Western Australian Government’s commitment to boost regional investment and training. This is good start to build on.“It also means governments must get the policy settings right on encouraging investment – and that means better regulation and planning, reducing and not increasing sovereign risk and the careful crafting of other relevant policies, such as the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, to ensure that Australians can share in this twenty-first century economic revolution.”The report – The Australian Minerals Industry’s Infrastructure Path to Prosperity – catalogues existing road, rail, port, energy, water, telecommunications and community infrastructure in 21 minerals growth regions and identifies what needs to be done to boost exports and maintain or grow Australia’s position as a premium global supplier of minerals and energy. It highlights the need to upgrade and expand transport networks and introduce whole-of-supply-chain strategies in the planning and regulation construction of ports, railways and roads.Extensive investment in hard infrastructure – the main contribution the private sector can make – will depend on getting the regulatory environment right so that investors feel confident about putting their money into building capacity. Increasingly, growth regions and their supply chains are overlapping, offering more choice and competition for suppliers and increasing the nation’s reliability as a supplier of minerals products.The report also highlights that access to reliable, adequate and affordable energy supplies, proper water management, better telecommunications links and the social infrastructure to support the communities in which the industry operates will be equally critical to realising the sector’s potential and maximising the returns to the nation from the joint venture between companies and the community in turning Australia’s minerals resources into societal capital. This will be a challenge for governments as well as industry.The MCA has identified that if capacity constraints are overcome and market share expanded, Australia could be $129 billion – or 8.5% of today’s national income – better off by 2020. “Nations such as China and India have a strong desire to boost the prosperity of their people and the task of industrialisation and urbanisation will re- start. We are confident that the underlying fundamentals of the economic super-cycle are checked but not compromised.”last_img read more