Engineers offer cautious welcome to steady-as-she goes infrastructure budget

11 May 2017

Engineers Australia: With over 60,000 engineers employed in infrastructure planning and delivery in this country, we welcome the budget’s commitment to infrastructure.  We remain cautious about the value of investment in real terms as this has not shown the growth that’s needed to signal a strong commitment to expanding our national capability and returning our sector to a clear growth trajectory.

While projects like Badgery’s Creek are necessary as an overdue nation-building initiative, announcement of these mega-projects can overshadow the dwindling investment in other areas of infrastructure like roads, information technology networks and energy assets.

We remain concerned about the historical budget blurring between capital costs and ongoing operating costs of our asset base.  If we’re to get a truly honest picture of our national investment, there needs to be a full and clear discussion of lifecycle operating costs, and this applies to any capital asset investment, whether that be a bridge or a warship.

Engineers Australia believes that any investment in infrastructure is an investment in Australia’s economic future and we would have welcomed greater examination of how we can capitalise on the current low cost of project finance.  It’s never been cheaper to borrow money to invest in projects that would ultimately have a major economic multiplier effect on our economy.  We hope that we don’t lose opportunities through lack of public debate on infrastructure finance options, even if this means raising the politically fraught issue of debt financing.  Our leaders need to face this issue.

From a policy point-of-view, commitments to asset recycling and the independent planning role of Infrastructure Australia are sensible and welcome.

While the budget was never going to address the detail of skilled migration policy, we are pleased that the government has shown a willingness to engage on this matter.  With 57 per cent of Australia’s engineering workforce being overseas-born, there is a strong and urgent need to make sure these policy settings meet the long-term needs of Australia’s workforce.

From an engineering perspective, we give the budget a qualified pass mark, but more investment will be needed if we’re going to meet our aspirations to transform to a high-tech, knowledge economy.

 

--ENDS--

 

Source:  Engineers Australia - www.engineersaustralia.org.au

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