The Andrews Victorian government has appointed two non-public servants to head up the inaugural board of Infrastructure Victoria, which will be balanced by the presence of three departmental secretaries.
Infrastructure expert Jim Miller has been appointed inaugural chair of Infrastructure Victoria, Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings announced on Wednesday morning.
Miller was an executive director at Macquarie Capital from 1994 to 2015, announcing that he would be finishing up as head of the Australian infrastructure, utilities and renewables team in June.
He has extensive experience in the infrastructure sector, having worked in the areas of regulated assets, transport, energy, utilities and resources and social infrastructure and is currently the deputy chair of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia. He recently led the sale of Queensland Motorways for $7 billion, a Brisbane tollroad network, while other deals included the Port of Brisbane, Victorian desalination plant and the sale of Melbourne’s ConnectEast in 2011.
The aim of the new independent body is to create a pipeline of infrastructure proposals and ensure the state’s infrastructure needs are identified and prioritised based on objective, transparent analysis and evidence.
Maria Wilton will sit as deputy chair. She is the managing director of Franklin Templeton Investments Australia, a director of the Financial Services Council of Australia and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
The board will include ex-officio positions for secretaries of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Chris Eccles, the Department of Treasury and Finance David Martine and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Adam Fennessy. These statutory members will ensure Infrastructure Victoria is able to coordinate infrastructure planning with the public service and its agencies, said the government.
The current president and vice chancellor of Monash University Professor Margaret Gardner and former CEO of Westpac New Zealand and the Bank of Melbourne Ann Sherry will also join as members of the board.
Infrastructure Victoria will be required to publicly release a 30-year infrastructure strategy detailing short, medium and long-term needs and priorities by the end of next year. The government will develop a five-year infrastructure plan outlining its priority projects and funding commitments, and Infrastructure Victoria will assess the government’s progress against this plan.
The expert body will also independently assess the economic, environmental and social merits of major projects, and publish research on a range of infrastructure issues.
Responding to questions about whether the value of such a body would be dependent on the goodwill of government to accept its advice, the Special Minister of State argued:
“What my interest in establishing Infrastructure Victoria on behalf of the Andrews government has been [is] to make sure it’s independent, make sure it has great rigour, great analytical capability and a great source of advice,” explained Jennings.
“And if it does that, then I think that that will create a normative pressure on governments to comply with the wisdom of the advice that’s received.”
Miller stated that one of the first pieces of work the body would begin with is to look at best practice in constructing consistent benefit-cost ratios to minimise different approaches returning conflicting numbers.
He indicated Infrastructure Victoria would also be considering how social impacts fit into benefit-cost ratios, stating that the authority would look at the mathematics, “but also have that overlay of social and environmental.”
Part of this would be “to talk to the community and say, ‘some things are going to cost more, or the ratios may not be as good, but does that mean that they’re a bad project? And a lot of the time the answer is no, they’re not a bad project,” he said.
Infrastructure Victoria will operate alongside Major Projects Victoria, which oversees the delivery of significant projects, and will eventually be joined by Projects Victoria, which will look at project delivery across the public service.