Major infrastructure investment to create jobs

Infrastructure bridge construction

The current pandemic has created a significant increase in Australia’s unemployment rate, seeing many laid off as businesses across the country have been forced to downsize or close down. However, as restrictions begin to ease and a tentative light at the end of the tunnel begins to emerge, the government is now looking at ways to stimulate job growth and provide new opportunities for employees looking for work.

One such scheme is the JobMaker plan, which will see the Federal Government fast-track investment in some of the country’s most critical infrastructure projects, including the Inland Rail, the Marinus Link, the Olympic Dam extension, NSW emergency town water projects, and road, rail and iron ore projects in Western Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the JobKeeper plan, saying its purpose would be to get Australian businesses “out of ICU” after coronavirus restrictions led to many taking significant hits to their bottom lines and relying on the Government’s JobKeeper scheme to stay afloat.

The $1.5 billion package will be allocated to priority projects as identified by states and territories, with $1 billion of this dedicated to projects that are ‘shovel-ready’, and $500 million reserved for road safety works targeting metropolitan, regional and rural areas across the country.

Investment will not only be directed to transport infrastructure, but also to water infrastructure to secure supply and underpin agricultural expansion, telecommunications services, the electrical infrastructure required to remove bottlenecks in Australia’s electricity grid, and advance manufacturing, particularly in regional areas.


Infrastructure key to economic rebound

The Federal Government’s announcement has made it clear that investment in these major infrastructure projects is at the centrepiece of its plan for Australia’s economic recovery post COVID-19. In fact, by the end of the 2019-2020 financial year, the government will have invested more than $24 billion into infrastructure across key government portfolios.

This reliance on infrastructure for economic growth and stability however, came well before the pandemic hit Australia’s shores. Since November 2019, the government has worked with state, territory and local governments to bring forward or inject additional investment totalling nearly $7.8 billion. Such investment includes $1.75 billion in additional funding for Sydney Metro Western Sydney Airport (fast-tracking a nearly $11 billion project that will support 14,000 jobs in Western Sydney), $500 million in new funding to undertake local road and community infrastructure upgrades, and $4.2 billion for joint priority projects with the states and territories.


Fast-tracking the system

It has already been identified that assessment and approval times for major projects has been a big hurdle for the Australian infrastructure sector. In fact, according to departmental estimates, delays associated with these approvals cost industry over $300 million just in 2019 alone. Since this economic impact of delays has been highlighted, the Commonwealth has taken steps to cut project approval times under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. At the end of 2019, approval decisions took 90 days on average, while today they take just 40. However Mr Morrison says the goal is to reduce these times by a further 25 percent by the end of 2020.


Job creation

As well as stimulating the economy, the ultimate goal of the JobMaker plan is to provide Australians with access to work, with the plan set to support the creation of 66,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Under the new bilateral model that will be established to speed up decision-making between the federal, states and territories, these jobs will be accessible earlier. By targeting a 50 percent reduction in Commonwealth assessment and approval times for major projects, it is estimated they will drop from an average of 3.5 years to 21 months.

This new model is already underway, with the NSW government on track to complete Commonwealth assessment and approval for Snowy 2.0 – a major pumped-hydro expansion of the existing Snowy Scheme – in under two years, unlocking over 2,000 regional jobs.

If you are looking for quality employees in the engineering sector, or else are seeking work, contact us today and speak with one of our specialist consultants today.

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