Chapter 2

Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications portfolio

This chapter outlines some of the key issues discussed during the hearings for the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications portfolio on 19 and 20 October and 10 November 2020.
The committee heard from the following divisions of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (the department) and portfolio agencies:
People, Governance, Parliamentary and Communication Division;
Finance, Legal and IT Division;
Major Transport and Infrastructure Projects Division;
Western Sydney Airport Co. Ltd. (WSA Co);
Australian Rail Track Corporation;
Infrastructure Investment Division;
Infrastructure Australia;
Regional Development, Local Government and COVID Regional Recovery Division;
Cities Division;
Territories Division;
North Queensland Water Infrastructure Agency;
National Water Grid Authority;
Civil Aviation Safety Authority;
COVID Aviation Issues Management Division;
COVID Aviation Response Programs Division;
Airservices Australia;
COVID Surface Transport Division; and
Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
The National Faster Rail Agency and the Portfolio Strategy and Policy Coordination Division were released during the course of the hearing without providing evidence.

Western Sydney Airport – Leppington Triangle Deal

The committee sought information from the department during the hearing on 19 October 2020 regarding the ANAO independent audit on the purchase of the Leppington Triangle land for the future development of the Western Sydney Airport. Examination of the purchase continued during the spill over hearing on 10 November 2020.
Evidence heard by the committee regarding the purchase included:
The acceptance by the department of all three of the ANAO’s recommendations;1
The commencement of a formal investigation process into possible breaches of the APS Code of Conduct;2
Chronology of events leading up to the ANAO investigation;3
The valuation process of the land;4
The Northern Road alignment;5 and
The role of the WSA Co. in the purchase.6

Australian Rail Track Corporation

Mr Richard Wankmuller, Chief Executive Officer of the Inland Rail Program, apologised for the absence of Mr Mark Campbell, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the ARTC.
Topics discussed for the ARTC centred around the Inland Rail project. Subjects included:
Updated budget figures and infrastructure suitability in the Acacia Ridge section;
The possibility of sharing rail lines between freight and passenger rail for the Brisbane to Toowoomba portion of the project;
Intermodal terminal locations and how they interact with rail hubs and road connections;
Maintenance of the Victorian north-east rail link;
The Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program; and
Current Victorian rail project business cases.7

Infrastructure Investment Division

The committee received updates on several infrastructure projects, including:
The Murray Darling Basin Rail Project;
Goulburn Valley Highway Shepparton Bypass;
The Hobart to Sorell traffic corridor;
Bagdad–Mangalore bypass;
Bass Highway Cooee to Wynyard upgrade;
Marion Road overpass;
Hobart Airport roundabout;
Dixons Long Point crossing;
Bruce Highway Upgrade Program; and
Frankston to Baxter Rail.8

Infrastructure Australia

Ms Romilly Madew, Chief Executive Officer, opened with a short statement regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on the agency. Ms Madew noted that Infrastructure Australia had received increased funding in the budget with a view to expanding the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan to respond to COVID-19.9
Topics discussed for Infrastructure Australia include:
The assessment process for business cases before the agency;
The Sydney Metro¬–Western Sydney Airport business case;
The Urban transport crowding and congestions audit addendum and the amount of infrastructure spending in regional areas; and
The integration of active transport into infrastructure projects.10

Regional Development, Local Government and COVID Regional Recovery Division

The committee received an update on existing and progressing funds and grants including:
The COVID Relief and Recovery Fund;
Building Better Regions Fund;
Regional Recovery Partnerships;
Community Development Grants;
Securing Raw Materials Program; and
Regional Cooperative Research Centres Project.11
The committee also sought an update on the Albury–Wodonga, Barkly and Hinkler regional deals. The committee heard that the Barkly Regional Deal has funded projects including an airstrip refurbishment at Alpurrurulam, community sports projects through Sport Australia, an Aboriginal hostel trial at Tennant Creek, and development projects for the Barkly business hub.12

Cities Division

The committee received updates on the Hobart, Launceston and Townsville city deals. Particular projects within those city deals included:
Bridgewater Bridge, Hobart;
Albert Hall, Launceston;
Launceston northern suburbs in negotiation with the Launceston City Council; and
The Haughton pipeline, Townsville.13

Territories Division

Topics discussed for the Territories Division include:
The delivery of education services on Norfolk Island;
Assistance from the New South Wales Government for the Norfolk Island Health and Residential Aged Care Service; and
The funding agreement with the Indian Ocean Territories Regional Development Organisation.14

North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority

The committee primarily heard evidence detailing the staffing arrangements and office location of the NQWIA. Updates were also given on the following projects:
Hell’s Gate Dam;
Big Rocks Weir;
Hughenden Irrigation Project; and
The Western Queensland irrigation and agriculture assessment.15

National Water Grid Authority

Topics discussed for the National Water Grid Authority include:
Provision of project funding under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund;
Staffing levels within the authority;
The progress of the 22 capital commitments currently with the NWGA;
Water projects at Wyangala and Dungowan; and
The Emu Swamp Dam.16

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Topics discussed for CASA include:
The agency’s investigations process;
Regulations on rural and remote aircraft operators;
The effect of COVID-19 on aircraft operators;
The split of regulations between CASA and the Australian Space Agency; and
Airport fire response times.17

COVID Aviation Issues Management Division and COVID Aviation Response Programs Division

Topics discussed for the aviation divisions include:
Support for regional airports, including the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program and the Regional Airports Screening Infrastructure Program;
Availability of the Jobkeeper allowance to employees in the aviation industry;
Funding and monitoring of the Domestic Aviation Network Support and Regional Airline Network Support programs; and
Funding for security changes at regional airports.18

Airservices Australia

Topics discussed for the aviation divisions include:
Financial impact of COVID-19 on the agency;
Implementation of the findings of the Broderick Review; and
Past code of conduct investigations and processes.19

COVID Surface Transport Division

Topics discussed for the COVID Surface Transport Division include:
The National Road Safety Strategy;
COVID response on freight transport; and
National Road Safety Data Hub.20

Australian Maritime Safety Authority

The committee sought information on the difficulty of crew changes within the shipping industry due to COVID-19 restrictions. The agency and department identified 14-day quarantine periods and international aviation caps as key barriers to overcome. The department also used Queensland, where crew changes can occur due to private transport, as an example of how the industry is adapting to COVID-safe measures. The committee also received updates on the implementation of Marine Order 504 and the agency’s view on the Productivity Commission’s report into national transport regulatory reform.21

  • 1
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, p. 6.
  • 2
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, p. 6.
  • 3
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, p. 20, 32; Proof Hansard, 23 October 2020, pp. 2–13.
  • 4
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, p. 23.
  • 5
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, p. 38; Proof Hansard, 23 October 2020, pp. 19–23.
  • 6
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, pp. 60–62.
  • 7
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, pp. 66–82.
  • 8
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, pp. 82–130.
  • 9
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, p. 130.
  • 10
    Proof Hansard, 19 October 2020, pp. 131¬–136.
  • 11
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 3¬–43.
  • 12
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, p. 44.
  • 13
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 52–56.
  • 14
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 56–59.
  • 15
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 59–64.
  • 16
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 64–75.
  • 17
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 75–88.
  • 18
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 88–104.
  • 19
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 104–115.
  • 20
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 115–131.
  • 21
    Proof Hansard, 20 October 2020, pp. 131–138.

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