Infrastructure Australia Overhaul: new reforms set to reshape national infrastructure advisory body

24 January 2024

Infrastructure Australia (IA) is on the brink of a significant transformation with a series of reforms set to redefine its role, delineate its functions, and establish a new governance framework.

The Infrastructure Australia Amendment (Independent Review) Bill 2023 (Bill), encapsulating the proposed changes, successfully passed both houses of Parliament on 6 December 2023. The Bill is a response to an Independent Review of IA conducted in 2022 by the Independent Review of Infrastructure Australia, ushering in pivotal changes to the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008 (Act).

The key changes aim to:

  1. clarify IA’s role by establishing it as the independent advisor to the government on nationally significant infrastructure investment planning and project prioritisation;
  2. redefine IA’s functions to include conducting audits or assessments of nationally significant infrastructure to determine adequacy and needs, conducting or endorsing evaluations of infrastructure projects, developing targeted infrastructure lists and plans, and providing advice on nationally significant infrastructure matters. Importantly, IA will consider the work of state and territory infrastructure bodies in its audits and project valuations; and
  3. establish a new governance structure, replacing the previous 12-member board structure with three commissioners responsible for overseeing IA’s functions, for a maximum term of appointment of 5 years. Commissioners will be expected to contribute considerable subject matter expertise and consider Commonwealth Government policies in relation to infrastructure.

The Bill also includes transitional provisions to maintain the continuity and validity of IA’s previous work and it underscores its compatibility with human rights, particularly in promoting gender equality in appointing commissioners.

Industry responses to these reforms have been positive. Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has welcomed the renewed focus and independence of IA, emphasising the need for the body to align with government objectives while maintaining its autonomy. Roads Australia and the Australian Constructors Association have echoed similar sentiments, emphasising the importance of collaboration in the national infrastructure pipeline and advocating for greater knowledge-sharing.

These reforms mark a significant transformation and new era for IA, aiming for a more streamlined, focused, and expert-driven advisory body. We expect that all players in the Australian infrastructure sector will be eagerly waiting to see their effectiveness in addressing the concerns raised in the Independent Review.

This article was written by Marko Misko, Partner, Julie Charles, Special Counsel and Taulant Javori, Associate.

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