Lean on NSW for infrastructure expertise, states urged

The Productivity Commission says projects fail not for lack of engineering skill but economic ability. If they can’t own expertise, smaller states should rent from Victoria and NSW.

The sacrosanct pecking order of public service infrastructure expertise — which puts engineers at the top — is failing Australians, the Productivity Commission has cautioned.

Commission chair Peter Harris was invited to explain his public infrastructure report, released last month, to federal politicians in Canberra today. He ended up giving some frank advice to state public services: even if you’re about to lose the furniture, keep your economic analysts — or at least rent good ones.

“We haven’t seen that many failures of engineering in infrastructure, just the occasional bit of bridge that falls down in Canberra,” Harris told the public hearing on infrastructure planning and procurement this morning.

“Where we do see failure is in the inability to link the economics of the project to the commerce of the project. Something that might appear to be great economics, some of the larger tunnels in urban road transports for example, turn out to be very poor commerce in the sense that people aren’t prepared to pay for them.”

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