The Australian Greens have a number of significant issues with the
Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill which were addressed during the inquiry
but not reflected in the recommendation to pass the bill in its current form.
This bill weakens the independent arms-length decision-making in IA,
increases the power of the Minister to interfere in IA’s evaluation processes,
has the capacity to exclude classes of projects from IA’s consideration
including public transport, removes climate change considerations, and
foreshadows a return to reduced merit in assessments, deal-making, forsaken
productivity and favouring roads over public transport.
The issue of going backwards on climate and public transport is of
particular concern. The Prime Minister wants to be seen as “an infrastructure
Prime Minister” – this bill spells out what kind of agenda he is setting us up
Particular issues with the bill
A number of submissions to the inquiry expressed significant concern
with the particular elements of the bill that relate to expanding the
discretionary powers of the Minister in relation to Infrastructure Australia
fulfilling its roles and obligations.
The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council said that the
changes this Bill introduces to the functions of Infrastructure under which the
Minister may give directions to IA where of "greatest concern". In
particular, their submission raises concerns with Section 5A(2) which empowers
the Minister to exclude any ‘class of proposals’ from IA’s remit for
The Urban Development Institute Australia shares the concerns expressed
by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, and in specific, the
functional obligation of Infrastructure Australia to "review and provide
advice on proposals to facilitate the harmonisation of policies, and laws,
relating to development of, and investment in, infrastructure" being
shifted to the discretion of the Minister.
Similar concerns along these lines were raised in submissions from the
Committee for Melbourne, the Business Council of Australia and Consult
It's also concerning to note that Infrastructure Australia was not
consulted while the Bill was being drafted. In its submission Infrastructure
Australia notes that the "proposed new provisions appear diametrically
opposed" to Infrastructure Australia's "objectives and
The Bill removes references to climate change in defining the functions
of Infrastructure Australia, something noted by a number of submissions.
The submission by the Australian Conservation Foundation recommends
include green infrastructure as a valid infrastructure sector, something
supported by The Greens.
The submission and evidence heard by the Moving People 2030 Taskforce
was compelling. In particular their concerns with Section 5D (1)(b) which
removes the requirement for Infrastructure Australia to publish project
evaluations or material used in those evaluations or plans, audits and advice,
other than at the direction of the Minister. The Taskforce stated ‘this will
completely undermine the credibility of Infrastructure Australia and its value
to the nation. It runs counter to the principles of consultation and
transparency which any attempt to obtain consensus on a national infrastructure
plan must accept’.
In short, the Australian Greens believe
Climate change must remain as a strategic priority;
Productivity gains shouldn’t take precedence above all else (e.g.
Schedule 1, Part 1, Section 5B). Sustainability principles and green infrastructure
should be a feature, and mass public transport should be included as a
IA should also be free from Ministerial direction on the scope of
audits, lists, evaluations, plans or advice, including the infrastructure to be
There should be more opportunity for consultation with
individuals, community organisations and their representatives; and
Transparency and independence should be enhanced not curtailed
(e.g. Schedule 1, Part 1, Section 5D) - IA should publish draft and final evaluations
and reports immediately and without the need for approval by a Minister.
Commercial-in-confidence material should be published where it is necessary to
assess the public benefit of a proposal or evaluation.
For these reasons and the damning evidence against this Bill heard in
the Inquiry and articulated in numerous submissions, the Greens believe the
government must be out of its mind to pursue the amendments contained.
Senator Scott Ludlam
Australian Greens Senator for Western Australia
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