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Having emerged from the global financial crisis largely unscathed, the Federal Government is being urged to tackle the critical issue of infrastructure spending in Australia.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) says now is the time to confront the big infrastructure challenges to ease capacity bottlenecks with railways and ports.
A report commissioned by the BCA warns bickering between states and territories on how and where to spend money could end up throttling new growth.
The BCA's sustainable task force chairman, Rod Pearse, says a new wave of infrastructure is needed.
"We have simply outgrown our infrastructure and we need to actually embrace a new wave of infrastructure reform and contemplate what will be substantially increased growth levels for the future," he said.
"All we have been doing since 2005 is catching up on our infrastructure spend and to bring some useful improvements but there is a lot more to do."
He says population growth will pose some genuine problems in the future.
"I think we see a lot of growth coming," he said.
"Ken Henry talked about a 35 million-person population in Australia in 2050, which is 7 million in Sydney and 7 million in Melbourne and a doubling in Brisbane of the population of 7 million.
"We see congestion costs doubling by 2020. A 50 per cent increase in energy demand. They need to show national leadership around putting in place the infrastructure programs, so growth doesn't result in bottlenecks."
Mr Pearse says growth should result in improvements in living standards and increased efficiencies in infrastructure.
"You need stronger institutional and government arrangements," he said.
"Where governments come together through COAG and listen to the advice they are receiving from Infrastructure Australia, which we think should have an expanded role.
"Given our infrastructure is typically cross-border, you need national regulations and we need better regulatory policies.
"We need better project planning and we need to be able to measure progress so that the increased spend basically is targeting improved outcomes in terms of on-time running for our public transport, access to public transport, the efficiency of road and rail carriage of freight, the putting in place of ports so that our resource projects are not bottlenecked and so on."
He says Australia needs to plan over and beyond the different state regulations for infrastructure projects to be effective.
"Australia really needs to think on a national basis about its infrastructure because our rail systems, our water systems, our electricity markets are most efficiently looked at from a national basis," he said.
"That means states, who have really got most of the accountability for the spend and provision of infrastructure, the Federal Government, basically really has access to the revenue and the wish to bring a truly national perspective, need to come together," he said.
Mr Pearse says projects must begin as urgently as possible.
"There is no time to waste," he said.
"We need to get onto the job. Whilst COAG has become more active and has an expanded agenda around these things, we'd all be concerned I think that some of the timetables at COAG admits they do slip. So I think it is important that there be very good project management around decisions and making sure the execution around those decisions is good.
"There are some problems of course that haven't been fully addressed at all at this stage which will be important to address, so that we can avoid bottlenecks and maximise efficiency of our infrastructure spend."
He says effective planning is required to avoid bottlenecks in Australia's export potential.
"I think that is what planning is all about so we don't have the bottlenecks, for instance, at Port Waratah and in the northern coal ports," he said.
"Those issues could be focused on and they could be resolved so Australia doesn't lose market opportunities.
"Australia is actually able to be on the front foot around that and have a good reputation with its customers in terms of having first class infrastructure."
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