Premier Daniel Andrews and Treasurer Tim Pallas met with a group of 30 key engineering professionals last Thursday 18th Dec to discuss ways that the engineering professional sector could assist the government in delivery its Projects 10,000 Infrastructure strategy over the coming 8 years. IPWEAvic was invited to attend and Bruce Douglas Acting CEO stood in for President Ross Goyne.

The Treasurer welcomed delegates and outlined the significant challenges the  new government will face in delivering its promised program.

Not the least of these challenges is convincing the Federal Govt that it should redirect its $1.5b contribution ( originally for East-West link) to a diverse range of infrastructure projects including 50 rail level crossing removal projects, the Western Distributor, Melbourne Metro rail priority upgrades, $1b in metro arterial upgrades, $1bn in Regional Arterial upgrades and a range of projects in the Education and Health sectors.

Most of these projects remain to be properly scoped and documented and all must still go through the various permits and approvals processes before they are put to tender and constructed.

The key element of the forum was a jointly prepared discussion paper, presented by Professionals Australia and endorsed  by all present and this highlighted a number of elements where improvements can be made by Govt in the delivery model, to avoid what has been sadly evident with past intense infrastructure delivery programs and which has resulted in close to 20% of program value being wasted.

The main points cover;

1   The Government ( and Local Government) must re-establish its capacity as an informed and competent purchaser, this extends to include the professional capacity of these agencies as effective and capable project clients and stop the ill-informed practice of total risk transfer in  project delivery as this has lead to very high risk pricing elements in tender responses being provided by the private sector.

2  Implement Projects Victoria quickly so that there is effective oversight and control of the infrastructure program delivery. Through this mechanism establish competent auditing and procurement capacity.

3   Move quickly to encourage the re-establishment of competent engineering skills in the infrastructure  construction and management sectors, covering both the private sector and state and local government. A strong statement of project pipeline commitments will give all parties confidence to invest in workforce development, up-skilling and retention.

4   Ensure all projects have a proper allocation of resources to properly address the life-cycle costs of their creation and operation, in other words, properly recognise and value the Asset Management requirements of these new and upgrade projects.

5   Commit to the Best Value principles and encourage the most appropriate procurement model for the various projects having regard to their risk profiles. Use standard contractual terms so that time does not continue to be wasted in endless meetings debating and  renegotiating what should constitute core contractual elements.

6   Develop new opportunities for project funding so that the backlog of much needed public infrastructure projects can be effectively addressed and so that industry can build confidence in investing in company growth.

The forum concluded with the strong recommendation that an Engineering Advisory Panel be established to assist govt in quickly  establishing the Projects Victoria delivery model and that as part of this, a central point of access and advocacy be put in place to enable the engineering sector to be able to more effectively connect with government on all key elements of infrastructure delivery, that this position should be a Chief Engineer Role, similar to the Chief Scientist and Chief Health Officer positions.

IPWEA put the view that Local Government is a key player in the effective delivery of all major infrastructure projects and that Public Works Professionals are fundamentally important to successful outcomes and so must be encouraged to strive for and sustain high levels of professional competence  and strong networks because in so doing, will remain well placed to prevent or overcome many of the likely roadblocks to effective infrastructure program delivery.

A number of members contributed their thoughts on infrastructure program delivery priorities to the Acting CEO and these ideas were taken to the forum and presented through the discussion process, thankyou to all those who contributed their ideas.

Bruce Douglas – Acting CEO

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