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  5. We may not build a wall but we should build – investing in WA Infrastructure
15 Feb 2017

Mr Trump has a $1 trillion domestic infrastructure investment “plan”, utilising home-grown labour and material. Whilst time will test the legitimacy of these plans, they prompt countries all over the world, including Australia, to look to our own infrastructure needs. Do we have a strong and sustainable infrastructure development plan that will attract and maximise returns on investment in construction and infrastructure?

When the GFC hit in 2008, WA weathered the storm relatively unscathed due to its mining and resources industries but the same can not be said for our eastern State counterparts.

Suffering the impacts of the economic downturn, bodies such as Infrastructure NSW and Infrastructure Victoria were established to ensure that those States had access to independent, long-term planning and investment advice, aimed at boosting their economies through 20 to 30 years’ worth of strategic investment in infrastructure.

These bodies aim to protect a State’s government-funded infrastructure projects from being used as political bargaining chip and give that State an opportunity to make the investment decisions aimed at ensuring sustained growth.

In late 2016, the Civil Contractors Federation WA (CCF), in conjunction with BIS Shrapnel, released a report titled ‘WA Infrastructure Report 2017’.  The report contained a detailed analysis of the Western Australian economy and options for weathering the upcoming tough times.

The report states that debt is not always a bad thing and encourages the government to take advantage of reduced interest rates by borrowing to fund future construction and infrastructure projects for the State.

The report also points to what its author perceives as WA’s short-sighted planning.  It then calls for measures to ensure that the State’s projects (and the resources required to fund them) are not tied to a particular four-year parliamentary term.

This suggestion is echoed in a report titled “Building the West” released by a coalition of key construction and engineering groups (including the CCF) (the Infrastructure Coalition).

The Infrastructure Coalition hopes that a new statutory body called ‘Infrastructure WA’ will embrace a bipartisan approach to managing infrastructure and construction opportunities within the State, focused on sustaining economic growth for the State and making long-term (20-30 year) plans for infrastructure development.

This suggests that both public and private sector interests are looking to shake up what may be seen as outmoded planning and investment process in WA.  It indicates moves towards a more independent and long-term solution for our State’s economic future driven by investment in construction and infrastructure.  These are moves that HHG Legal Group wholeheartedly supports.

When times are tough, government spending on large infrastructure projects creates the energy and enthusiasm needed to dig out of an economic rut. We do not need a wall but we do need a long-term plan and commitment from our State government (and any party aspiring to be elected to government in a few weeks) to building much needed and essential infrastructure to get us through the next “boom”.

*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

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