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IA calls for submissions to Infrastructure Priority List, with refreshed framework

Infrastructure Australia is calling for submissions to the February 2022 publication of the Infrastructure Priority List, having recently announced a major refresh of its Assessment Framework.

Infrastructure Australia makes investment recommendations to the Australian Government after evaluating business cases for projects worth more than $250 million.

Infrastructure Australia’s revised Assessment Framework guides the development of high-quality infrastructure proposals by providing nationally consistent assessment criteria.

On Friday, Infrastructure Australia launched its 2021 edition of the Assessment Framework, which allows for more holistic review of a proposal’s potential benefits, in addition to those that can be monetised through traditional cost-benefit analysis.

Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive, Romilly Madew said the 2021 edition was prepared in response to input from stakeholders, aligning with state and territory approaches, and building on our Infrastructure Australia’s research and experience from assessing infrastructure proposals.

“One of the clear messages we have heard from stakeholders around the country, is that they wanted the Assessment Framework to provide more support for the consideration of broader community benefits that can be delivered through major infrastructure investment,” Ms Madew said.

Among key changes, the latest edition of the Framework proposes a simpler, four-stage process that aligns with state and territory frameworks and offers a clear and transparent definition of what makes a proposal nationally significant.

The launch of the Framework follows the release of Infrastructure Australia’s new Sustainability Principles in April. It also follows the 2019 Infrastructure Audit, which found Australian governments often fail to incorporate sustainability or resilience into their infrastructure projects, but by doing so could become world leaders.

The 2021 Assessment Framework will take effect immediately for Stage 1 submissions, with Stage 2 and Stage 3 submissions expected to align with the new guidance from 1 January 2022.

Those interested to find out more about the key changes in this edition of the Assessment Framework are being encouraged to register to attend INfrastructure Australia’s upcoming webinar on the 2021 Assessment Framework.

ISCA’s response

Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) Chief Executive Officer, Ainsley Simpson said the revised Assessment Framework would help better integrate sustainability into nation-shaping infrastructure proposals.

“What and how infrastructure projects are delivered have implications for Australia’s workforce, communities, the environment and our economy – so looking at infrastructure through a holistic lens will lead to better short-term investment decisions which deliver long-term dividends,” Ms Simpson said.

“With a clear mandate to consider value beyond the traditional benefit-cost ratio, Infrastructure Australia’s revised Assessment Framework will help to reset entrenched practices which incentivise lowest cost and short-term outcomes at the expense of long-term value.

“This step will certainly be welcomed by our members. Our most progressive government members are driving sustainability outcomes using the IS Rating Scheme, with $206 billion of investment registered since 2012.”

More than 70 per cent of applicable projects on Infrastructure Australia’s 2021 High Priority and Priority List are expected, or are already, undertaking IS Ratings.

Historically, 65 per cent of those from Infrastructure Australia’s lists have delivered environmental, social, economic and governance outcomes through the IS Scheme.

The new edition of the Assessment Framework provides extra guidance on a range of broad sustainability issues across the quadruple bottom line of economic, environmental, social and governance.

“The Framework recognises that infrastructure proposals should consider societal impact, that transparent and meaningful engagement with First Nations people communities is important, and that sustainability, resilience and quality of life are interconnected. This recognition will change the way we think about infrastructure,” Ms Simpson noted.

“We believe the Assessment Framework will enhance governance practices, provide economic certainty and uplift for local contractors and suppliers, and build capacity and skills across the sector.”

The Framework acknowledges that rating tools like the IS Rating system and Green Star can be “useful” but does not require a specific sustainability assessment using these tools. However, Infrastructure Australia does acknowledge that this may become a requirement in future updates.

“Infrastructure Australia acknowledges it is taking a ‘pragmatic’ approach to sustainability rating tools in this edition of the Framework. Pragmatism will level up those early in the journey to good practice. Deep determination will help us achieve best practice across the board, and meet the aspiration of world leadership that Infrastructure Australia outlined in its 2019 Audit.

“Australia is standing on the edge of a new era of sustainable infrastructure. The enhanced Assessment Framework is a defining step to drive the collaborative leadership required for Australia to consistently deliver infrastructure with true quadruple bottom line sustainability benefits,” Ms Simpson concluded.

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