28/05/15

Committee Communiqué

Port of Melbourne Lease

The Port of Melbourne Lease Transaction Bill has been introduced into Parliament by the Andrews Government. At a small stakeholder briefing held yesterday, Treasurer Tim Pallas noted  that the Bill will enable the government to lease the commercial operations of the port for 50 years. This includes all port infrastructure within the Port of Melbourne boundary, all wharves owned by the Port of Melbourne Corporation except Station Pier and West Finger Pier, and the rights to use, maintain and charge port users for the use of the channel by commercial vessels. Included in the lease is also the option to develop a third international container terminal and expanded automotive facilities as part of the $1.6 billion Port Capacity Project. Amidst concerns over price hikes under a commercial operator, the government also announced that price monitoring arrangements overseen by the Essential Services Commission will be strengthened so that the leaseholder is required to set prices in line with clearly established pricing principles. The Treasurer indicated that funds from the lease will go into the Victorian Transport Fund to be used for level crossing removals, the Melbourne Metro project and the West Gate Distributor. The lease will also make Victoria eligible for a 15 per cent asset recycling payment from the Federal Government.

Australia slips in global competitive rankings

According to the recently released World Competitiveness Yearbook compiled by Switzerland-based company IMD, Australia's global competitiveness ranking has slipped to 18th from 17th a year ago. This continues a downturn that started in 2009, when Australia was ranked 5th. According to the IMD report, Australia's ranking on infrastructure has worsened from 18th in 2014 and 14th in 2011, to 19th this year. Economic performance has also fallen from 24th to 28th over the last year, and the efficiency of government has decreased from 9th to 14th as a result of the growing budget deficit and increasing government debt. IMD also reported an increase in the threat of research and development being moved offshore (up from 39 to 54). Globally, the US retained the number one ranking for competitiveness followed by Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland and Canada. Meanwhile New Zealand is starting to show the results of the introduction of some tough new economic measures as they jumped ahead of Australia for the first time in 18 years, moving up from 20th to 17th .

Infrastructure Australia audit

Following a comprehensive nationwide audit of the functioning of transport, water, energy and telecommunications systems, Infrastructure Australia (IA) have released their Australian Infrastructure Audit. According to the audit, our transport networks require serious attention to cope with a national population projected to grow from 22.3 million in 2011, to 30.5 million in 2031. Without the right investment in infrastructure, the national cost to the economy of road congestion is predicted to quadruple to $53 billion by 2031. Currently, Greater Melbourne ranks second among Australia's top regions for the Direct Economic Contribution of its infrastructure, growing from $36 billion in 2011 to $71 billion in 2031. According to IA however, this contribution is under threat and the cost of delaying upgrades to the transport network in and around the Melbourne-Geelong conurbation is projected to grow rapidly from $3 billion in 2011, to around $9 billion in 2031. The purpose of the Australian Infrastructure Audit report is to provide a broad evidence base to have a national conversation around in order for IA to develop its first Fifteen Year Infrastructure Plan.
View CfM’s briefing note of key findings and Infrastructure Australia's Australian Infrastructure Audit report.

Property now BIG business

According to an AEC Group report commissioned by the Property Council of Australia, property is now Australia’s biggest industry. The Property Industry, which includes property-related financial, professional and construction services, contributed $182.5 billion to the economy last financial year. This makes it larger than the mining ($140.9 billion), home ownership (147.1 billion), and financial services industries. In addition to the direct contribution the property industry makes, the report indicates a further $279.7 billion worth of activity is generated through flow-on demand for goods and services, and 1.54 million jobs are created. The industry last year paid $72.1 billion in combined Australian and State Government tax revenues and local government rates, fees and charges revenue. This adds up to 16 per cent of all taxes paid to the three levels of government in Australia. According to the Property Council, as we transition from the mining boom, a strong property industry is going to be very important for our economy.

Self-healing concrete

The world’s first building made using ‘self-healing’ concrete has been completed in the Netherlands. It sounds like something from a Sci-Fi film, but in the case of self-healing concrete, fact is indeed stranger than fiction. Made of ‘biocement’, a lifeguard station built on a Dutch lake can self-heal cracks in the concrete it is made of when they form. Biocement is made from traditional aggregate and cement that is mixed with biodegradable plastic capsules made from bacteria and calcium lactate. When a crack in the set concrete forms and moisture seeps in, the bacteria germinate and feed on the calcium to produce hard limestone calcite which self-fills the crack. The Dutch biocement creators hope this concrete could be the start of a new age of biological buildings where nature, in this case limestone-producing bacteria, supplies a lot of functionality for free. 

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