The right infrastructure at the right price - Grattan Institute

The right infrastructure at the right price

Australian governments spent $28 billion more on transport infrastructure over the past 15 years than they told taxpayers they would spend. Grattan Institute’s first Forward Thinking event for the year joined three experts to discuss…


Australian governments spent $28 billion more on transport infrastructure over the past 15 years than they told taxpayers they would spend. Once politicians announce a project, they and the public treat the announcement as a commitment, and two thirds of these projects end up being built. All main political parties have committed to sound planning of infrastructure, and to making decisions with broad social benefit, yet in practice they continue to promise projects are poorly developed and scoped, and funded in advance of an Infrastructure Australia evaluation.

We are seeing declining private investment and historically low interest rates, , and many politicians and commentators are calling for more transport infrastructure spending. Transport infrastructure could ease traffic congestion and lift productivity, but without a curb on politicians’ premature promises it will remain the bluntest of economic instruments. Grattan Institute’s first Forward Thinking event for the year joined three experts to discuss how to get the right infrastructure at the right price.


Geraldine Doogue is a presenter on ABC Radio National’s Saturday Extra program which focuses on international politics, Australia’s role on the world stage, and business. Geraldine was previously the host of Radio National’s Life Matters program for 11 years and received a United Nations Media Peace Prize and two Penguin Awards for her role in ABC TV’s coverage of the Gulf War. In 2000 Geraldine was awarded a Churchill Fellowship for social and cultural reporting. In 2003, she was recognised with an Officer in the Order of Australia for services to the community and media.


Marion Terrill is Transport Program Director at the Grattan Institute. Marion is a leading policy analyst and former public servant who has also worked in the private sector. Her public policy experience ranges from authoring parts of the 2010 Henry Tax Review to leading the design and development of the MyGov account. She has provided expert analysis and advice on labour market policy for the Commonwealth Government, the Business Council of Australia and at the Australian National University. She joined the Grattan Institute in April 2015.

Dr Tim Williams is CEO of the Committee for Sydney. He was, before coming to Australia, the senior Special Advisor to a number of UK cabinet ministers in the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG). In that role, between 2005 and 2007 he was one of the UK’s leading policy makers on urban regeneration and city development. Since coming to Australia in October 2010, Tim has become recognised as a leading thinker about high speed broadband and the impact of digital media on communities, public services and businesses. His ground-breaking report, ‘Connecting Communities: the impact of broadband in the UK and its implications for Australia’, was launched at the National press Club in Canberra in February 2011.

Adrian Dwyer is Executive Director of Policy and Research at Infrastructure Australia with responsibility for the organisation’s policy and research activities – including as lead on the delivery of the 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan. His team recently published the first advisory paper in Infrastructure Australia’s new infrastructure Reform Series, which aims to support the implementation of the Plan’s key recommendations around better infrastructure planning, better decision making and better value services for users and tax payers. The first paper in the series, Capturing Value: Advice on making value capture work in Australia, provides guidance to governments and the private sector on how value capture can be applied in the Australian context. Adrian has held senior policy roles in the public and private sector with a particular focus on infrastructure market reform. Prior to joining Infrastructure Australia, he was Head of Policy at Infrastructure Partnerships Australia.