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In a period of scarce capital and many competing priorities for investment, a mature debate is needed about what constitutes sensible infrastructure investment.

What are the characteristics of such investments? How should they be paid for, and by whom? How should these proposals be evaluated? Unfortunately, there have in the past been some examples of poor decision-making, poor proposals and inadequate evaluation. A transparent process needs to be employed so that decisions about what kind of infrastructure Australia requires can be made in a sensible way.

There is no shortage of capability within our industry to deal with complex, multifaceted infrastructure proposals, with appropriate community engagement. Our IS rating scheme aims to improve Australia’s infrastructure on a number of fronts. It delivers continuous social, economic and environmental improvements across the design, construction and operation phases of infrastructure assets. It is a world-leading risk and opportunity assessment framework, providing a new benchmarking tool to allow the infrastructure sector to gather information around continuous improvement, and it highlights and rewards achievements for leadership in sustainability implementation. Most importantly, it has started defining the business case for sustainability. 

Since the launch of the IS tool in February 2012, we have seen steady progress with industry take-up; this is described in the report from Antony Sprigg, our CEO, that follows. We are pleased with this progress, but there is more for us to achieve, and Antony describes our plans in this area.

The way forward is clear. Investment in new infrastructure is an investment on behalf of current and future generations. Australia is using up infrastructure in which our predecessors invested; the current generation must make a contribution. And so, it is important that these investments are optimal with both high-value, low-cost infrastructure investments, as well as the significant high-cost projects, being considered. IS provides the framework for assessing all such proposals and demonstrates the benefits of including sustainability considerations in the business case for each new infrastructure asset.

There is widespread agreement that investment in our cities and regions is vital to the economic development of Australia. This is, in turn, an investment in Australian communities, and we as an industry should reflect on the fact that communities are made up of people, buildings and infrastructure. Both people and buildings rely on the right mix of infrastructure, and we are compelled to get that mix right. My board and our operations team are proud to have the opportunity to assist in that process.

David Singleton
Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia