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AfPA’s Federal Budget submission snapshot

Roads Australia welcomes new member

Lise Sperling, of the Australian Flexible Pavement Association (AfPA), provides an overview of the organisations recent Federal Budget Submission for 2023-24.

Across all aspects of our day-to-day lives, roads bring us together, facilitating all functions of our social fabric and economic activities. 

The ongoing viability, level of service and safety is entirely dependent on the significant contributions of all levels of government to new projects and maintenance of the existing network, and equally a skilled competent workforce to deliver on these commitments.

In the Australian Flexible Pavement Association’s (AfPA) recent submission to the Federal Government’s Pre-Budget 2023-24 submission process, AfPA has stated and made calls for more sustainable, longer-term pipelines of investment, with a focus on fixing it first. 

The report states “This means not just fixing problems retroactively but ensuring that roads stay well-maintained, making them more resilient to catastrophic weather events. Government allocating more spending for longer periods of time to road maintenance will ensure communities are safely and reliably connected and can drive transport productivity. Whilst we commend the continual spending into new capital projects, we recommend elevating spending, especially within regional and rural areas, as doing so would have significant safety and economic benefits.”

Sperling says AfPA commends the Federal Government on the ambitious and ongoing infrastructure investment, which has served to connect communities, support jobs and helped push the industry’s performance to record levels. The road and bridge construction industry heavily depends on ongoing public funding and urgently requires a commitment to existing infrastructure maintenance and renewal.

Lise Sperling has recently been appointed AfPA Head of Federal Advocacy and Government Relations focused on advocacy efforts with the Federal Government and oversight of government advocacy campaigns in partnership with State Executives.

AfPA’s key recommendations to the Federal Government’s pre-budget submission process seek to address the deteriorating condition of Australia’s roads (especially regional and rural systems) and call for longer-term funding commitments and better fiscal coordination to ensure the best outcomes for Australian communities and value for money. 


 

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Sperling says currently, much of the spending is decided year by year which often leaves industry struggling to plan, resource and meet the increasing demands to support urban, regional and remote areas.

As a part of this submission, AfPA has identified another key issue that is impacting many sectors and industries nationally, stating that “Australia must take the opportunity to invest in a more skilled workforce, one which is capable of applying ‘band-aid’ fixes to urgent road issues as well as longer-term pipelines of maintenance funding. Both streams will require skilled workers who are ready to respond nimbly to road damage and capable of thinking innovatively and sustainably for longer-term road benefits.”

She says that recent events, including ongoing weather instability and the COVID-19 Pandemic, have exposed major shortfalls within our industry – specifically, the availability of trained and skilled workers. 

According to AfPA, this shortage inhibits the ability to sustain key infrastructure: “The challenge for our industry, however, is that the work we are completing is not just new projects but often urgent repairs on damaged roads that save lives. The inability of skilled labour to be brought to Australia from overseas has exacerbated this issue even further, resulting in delayed work and unfulfilled critical repairs.”

In order to address these issues, AfPA has made the following recommendations. 

That the Federal Government continues to support and nurture rural and regional communities which continue to be disproportionately affected by road maintenance backlogs and damage.

That the Federal Government works toward addressing the high proportion of sealed roads and unsealed roads that are in poor condition, function and capacity and close to reaching the end of their useful life. AfPA is also hoping that the Federal Government can focus on sustainable pipelines of road maintenance and innovative repair methods to protect Australia’s assets against weather instability.

AfPA is also calling for the Federal Government to ensure collaboration and communication between all levels of government and industry remain the foundation under which all infrastructure investment is built and establish of better pathways via Immigration Laws to access lower skilled visa entry for labourers interested in working in Australia.

Calls have also been made for the Federal Government to develop a skilled workforce at home by providing access to secondary and tertiary funded (or other) programs to incite interest in roads construction at the grassroots level. 

And lastly, AfPA is hoping that the Federal Government can assist its organisation and the broader industry with building recognised training programs for school leavers or young job seekers, and maintain current enterprise agreement schemes negotiated with partner sector unions to reduce further inflationary pressures and support the efficient delivery of Australia’s roads.

AfPA welcomed the opportunity to make a submission for the Federal Budget, saying it’s committed to working with all levels of Government towards building a stronger infrastructure future to support the current and future needs of the nation. 

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