Smart, Sustainable Infrastructure Fact Sheet

Smart, Sustainable Infrastructure

A Labor Government will toughen assessment of proposed major infrastructure projects by requiring the incorporation of smart infrastructure technology and sustainability measures before projects qualify for Commonwealth funding.

Under current arrangements, Infrastructure Australia independently advises the Commonwealth on major projects in terms of their cost-benefits analysis and how they fit with the existing infrastructure mix.

But a Labor Government will broaden Infrastructure Australia’s role. We will add new assessment criteria on smart infrastructure and sustainability to increase value for public money and take genuine action to improve liveability in our major cities.

Our cities are under pressure

Australia’s cities are growing rapidly. Today, four out of every five Australians live in cities. By 2031 our four largest capitals – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – will have increased by 46 per cent. Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin are expected to grow by nearly 30 per cent. [1]

At the same time, public sector infrastructure investment has declined by 20 per cent under the Abbott-Turnbull Government. [2]

Moreover, the Coalition’s strategy of announcing projects on the run has failed, leaving behind the East West Link fiasco, the collapse of the Perth Freight Link in the courts and a $6.8 billion cost blowout on Westconnex. [3]

Labor wants to see a return to evidence-based policy decisions, where projects are assessed independently by Infrastructure Australia.

As part of this, we will ensure proposals anticipate future needs as well as current demand. That is why we will require any project submitted to Infrastructure Australia to demonstrate consideration of smart infrastructure and sustainability.

Labor’s plan

Smart Infrastructure:

Smart infrastructure is technology that increases the efficiency of infrastructure.

On roads, for example, modern signalling and traffic monitoring allows for traffic flows to be adjusted according to the time of day, making more lanes accessible during peak time.

This technology increases the efficiency of new roads. But in some cases, smart technology can also make existing roads so efficient there is no need to build new ones.

Under a Labor Government, road project proponents will need to demonstrate they have incorporated smart infrastructure and at least considered the alternative option of using technology to improve existing roads.

This will ensure we squeeze every drop of efficiency out of existing infrastructure and that new projects meet world’s best practice.

Sustainable Infrastructure:

Labor’s new sustainability criteria will ensure that government incorporate measures that add to sustainability when they design new roads and railway lines.

For example, when building a new road in a city, we should consider opportunities to build an adjacent bike track or walking track at the same time. This will take more cars off the roads by increasing travel options.

In the same way, it makes sense that when we build new railway lines, stations should include safe storage areas for bicycles to make it easier for people to leave their cars at home.

The sustainability mandate represents genuine action on tackling traffic congestion in urban Australia, which will cost the nation $53 billion by 2031 if we don’t act to tackle it.

These new criteria for projects will be implemented through Infrastructure Australia.

A long-term vision for our cities

Labor believes Commonwealth investment and leadership can shape the productivity, sustainability and liveability of Australian cities.

We recognise that the decisions governments make can influence the opportunities available to people. If we want our cities to reach their full potential and compete with their global counterparts, then we need to invest in society.

This announcement consolidates Labor’s long-standing commitment to designing better cities and transport systems through evidence-based policy making.

It comes in addition to our plan to give Infrastructure Australia a $10 billion financing facility, which will unlock private investment and kickstart further infrastructure improvements across the country.

Under Labor, Infrastructure Australia will be elevated to a central player in the national infrastructure scene.

This will make it easier to get projects off the ground and help drive a dynamic approach to cities policy.

Labor knows cities matter

When Labor took office in 2007, Australia was 20th among OECD nations when it came to infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP. [4]

When we left office, Australia was first. [5]

We doubled the roads budget and allocated more investment to public transport than all other governments combined since Federation.

We established Infrastructure Australia, which conducted audits and identified a national infrastructure priority list.

We set up the Major Cities Unit and the Urban Policy Forum and established the Liveable Cities Program.

We produced the annual State of Australian Cities report, which was downloaded more than three million times in 2013 and we released Australia’s first national urban policy, “Our Cities Our Future.”

We also created the nation’s first Urban Design Protocol, which was developed with industry and included a checklist for designers to ensure they took into account a range of quality-of-life issues including heat.

The Liberals have left infrastructure off the agenda

One of the first acts of the Abbott-Turnbull Government was to abolish the Major Cities Unit.

It also disbanded the Urban Policy Forum, marginalised Infrastructure Australia and cut funding to public transport projects.

Under the Abbott-Turnbul Government, public sector infrastructure investment has also fallen by more than 20 per cent since 2013. [6]

Despite this, the Coalition will now cut infrastructure again to spend $18 million on a propaganda campaign which pretends otherwise. [7]

You can’t claim to be building for the future when you’re actually reducing infrastructure investment.

1 - Infrastructure Australia, Australian Infrastructure Audit: Our Infrastructure Challenges, Australian Government, May 2015, vol. 1, p. 20-21.
2 - Australian Bureau of Statistics, Engineering Construction Activity, Australia, Table 1:A1831482J - Value of work done; Chain Volume Measures; Total for the public sector, September 2015
3 - WestConnex Updated Strategic Business Case, November 2015, p.240
4 - OECD, “Investment in US dollars”, Economics: Key Tables from OECD, no. 3., 2014,
5 - ibid.
6 - Australian Bureau of Statistics, op. cit.
7 - Senate Estimates, Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee, Additional Estimates 2015-2016, 8 February 2016, p.14

Click here to download a pdf version of the fact sheet