A bold 15-year roadmap for Australia’s infrastructure is betting on a ‘digital-first’ approach to accelerate our country’s post-pandemic economic recovery. Released in early September, the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan is urging governments to lead the digital transition to unlock significant productivity gains and efficiencies in infrastructure planning, delivery and operations.

If governments, as public infrastructure’s regulators, funders, owners and benefactors, succeed in this approach, the country’s infrastructure development will move to digital by default, rather than exception.

As well, the plan, put out by the independent statutory authority, Infrastructure Australia, prioritises inserting sustainability and resilience into infrastructure decision-making and driving industry productivity and innovation.

It will also reform procurement, which is good news given there’s $110B in Federal Government commitments for infrastructure investment. With the expected surge in major public infrastructure building over the next three years, the skills shortage will mean one in three vacancies won’t be filled. During that time, Infrastructure Australia forecasts a:

  • 120% average growth in demand for materials
  • 125% growth in demand for equipment
  • 140% growth in demand for plant.

Planning for an uncertain future

The plan offers nine key recommendations it has paced through a ‘quadruple bottom line evaluation’ to make sure they deliver social, economic, environmental and governance outcomes.

  1. Unlock place-based outcomes for every community – letting identity inform infrastructure needs
  2. Balance sustainability and resilience regarding infrastructure outcomes during uncertain times
  3. Boost industry productivity and innovation
  4. Deliver an integrated transport network
  5. Enable an affordable transition to a net-zero future for energy
  6. Prioritise water safety and security
  7. Equip all Australians with digital and telecommunications connectivity
  8. Ensure equity and quality of life in social infrastructure to support economic prosperity
  9. Accelerate Australia’s transition to a circular economy when it comes to waste.

According to Infrastructure Australia, they are principles and priorities, but can guide governments in responding to challenges and opportunities in an increasingly uncertain world.

Putting sustainability first

A crucial tool to develop business cases for major infrastructure is the organisation’s revamped assessment framework. It denotes a shift from risk to resilience planning in the way Australian infrastructure is designed, built and operated. Other factors to be embedded in the process are resourcefulness, robustness, redundancy, recovery, adaptability, integration and inclusivity. You can find out more about the assessment framework here.

The plan’s move to foreground sustainability and resilience in future infrastructure planning has earned kudos from the Infrastructure Sustainability Council and the Property Council.

Connecting remote Australia

The plan also acknowledged that connecting regional and remote Australia has been challenging, particularly during the pandemic. To ensure those areas aren’t on the wrong side of the digital divide, Infrastructure Australia has called for minimum infrastructure standards for transport, water security and telephony technologies, among others. It argues that regional and remote areas should be more economically sustainable and liveable once integrated freight and transport networks improve to “meet end-to-end access needs”.

Infrastructure Australia’s recommendations include connecting regional and remote areas to 5G, next-generation mobile technology, with more benefits than just about speed. Its greater capacity, reliability and lower latency means it can support remote surgery and remote emergency response management.

The 5G tech is helping transform two sectors with a presence in regional and remote Australia. Agribusinesses are using 5G for the automation of tractors, livestock sensors, water controls and soil monitors. Meanwhile, this technology helps introduce more automation, and therefore safety, productivity and efficiency in the mining sector.

Construction sector the hero

But it’s the construction sector that features as the true hero in the 327-page infrastructure plan. Australia will hamper its chances of future success without a strong building sector that understands risk management in economic uncertainty and digital transformation. Ensure the sustainability of your construction business so it can take advantage of upcoming infrastructure projects.

Let us guide you on finding the best construction insurance for your needs, be it a single project or for annual contract works. Cover can include the construction work itself, as well as the legal liability for others who may be injured or suffer damage to property on or around the work site.

The limits of cover terms and conditions will vary between policies. You can also opt for extras such as legal liability, plus construction plant and equipment. Insurance is your key to a post-pandemic recovery.