The Legislative Assembly yesterday agreed to the amendments proposed by the Legislative Council after the third reading of the Infrastructure Victoria Bill 2015. Once the Governor has lent her signature to the bill, the way will be paved for the creation of Infrastructure Victoria.
Much of the rhetoric to date has centred around Infrastructure Victoria needing to be independent of Government and while the legislation sets out the boundaries of its independence, the seven member board will have a minority of three Department heads as ex officio directors and a majority of four independent directors. The explanatory memorandum for the bill explains this as follows:
The inclusion of Department Heads on the board ensures Infrastructure Victoria is able to receive input from the public sector. However, the composition of the board safeguards Infrastructure Victoria's independence by ensuring these Department Heads are a minority of board members
Infrastructure Victoria will be required to create a 30-year infrastructure strategy which assesses the current state of infrastructure in the state and identifies Victoria's infrastructure needs and priorities over the 30 year period. Furthermore the legislation requires the Government to provide a formal response to the 30-year strategy by creating and then publishing a five-year infrastructure plan within 12 months of Infrastructure Victoria releasing its 30-year strategy.
The Government's response and five-year plan must also identify the priority projects "including an explanation of how the priority projects will achieve the social, economic and environmental objectives stated in the 30-year infrastructure strategy".
Public consultation on the 30-year strategy is enshrined in law requiring Infrastructure Victoria to run a public consultation process when the initial 30-year strategy is drafted and if Infrastructure Victoria subsequently updates the plan in future. Infrastructure Victoria will furthermore be keeping tabs on the Government as the body will be required to publish a report measuring progress against the Government's five-year infrastructure plan in its Annual Report.
In commentary in the Assembly on Thursday, the Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan, gave a run down on the amendments the Government was agreeing to.
First amongst the amendments, according to the Minister, was to include clarifying statements in the legislation relation to Infrastructure Victoria needing to research the benefits and costs of infrastructure, not just the benefits.
Secondly the Minister said an amendment moved by the Greens that "requires Infrastructure Victoria to research the impact of climate change on infrastructure, including the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions" had been agreed to. The Minister furthermore said "this research area is indicative rather than prescriptive but it obviously includes the addition of the opportunity to look at the impact of climate change on infrastructure that is being considered".
Other amendments mentioned by the Minister in hansard relate to the requirement that directors sitting on Infrastructure Victoria's board have private sector experience and that Infrastructure Victoria's first 30-year infrastructure must be released by the 31st of December 2016.