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Eddington backs plan to overhaul Sydney transport

FIXING Sydney's rail network and making its ports work better are infrastructure priorities for NSW, according to the head of Infrastructure Australia.

FIXING Sydney's rail network and making its ports work better are infrastructure priorities for NSW, according to the head of Infrastructure Australia.

"Getting Sydney to work properly is critical to the national economy," the Infrastructure Australia chairman, Sir Rod Eddington, said yesterday, two days after the NSW government submitted its list of priorities to the taskforce.

"It looks like their priorities are ... making the city work better, which is around the rail network, in part, and roads, and making the port work better.

"I haven't had a chance to review it any detail," Sir Rod said, but "clearly there was plenty that needed doing in NSW".

"I'm hopeful that what we'll now see in NSW is a plan for the state's economy and community, and from that, a sense of what the investment infrastructure priorities should be."

Sir Rod said Sydney faced a number of infrastructure problems.

"One of them is their urban rail network," he said.

"If you look at many of the big cities in the world they've got underground rail networks in the urban city, so clearly NSW is beginning to think about their rail network, not necessarily below ground," he said.

Another was the port in Botany Bay, which the government committed to privatising on a long-term lease. But it could not be privatised without thinking about the road and rail infrastructure as well as the port, Sir Rod said.

"That's the sort of holistic view you need to take if you're going to make the right decisions."

Sir Rod said infrastructure was a prerequisite to a well functioning economy and community but would not enhance productivity if it did not have economic relevance.

"Building bridges over puddles and roads to nowhere simply creates debt, which ultimately has to be paid," he said.

There needed to be an evidence-based analysis of what infrastructure was needed and why.

"But what's also clear is that if you don't build that infrastructure, the economy will suffer.

"Having the right infrastructure and not having the skills in the community to take advantage of it is as bad as not having the right infrastructure."

Sir Rod said he did not think it would be wise to mandate that superannuation funds invest a proportion of their portfolio in infrastructure projects.

"That's recipe for disaster," he said.

"The trustees of our superannuation funds are required to get us the best return possible. To force them into specific asset classes, in my view, would absolve them of that responsibility."

Sir Rod said funding mechanisms had to be simple.

"Getting a proper bond market up in Australia is an important piece of the jigsaw. It's a missing link in the Australian financial services dimension ... and infrastructure bonds may be a part of that."

NEWS

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