Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (14:03): I rise in support of the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment Bill 2019, which is essentially about making sure that Victoria continues its role as the leader in infrastructure delivery. The proposed bill addresses the issues that often arise between utilities and project proponents in the identification of utilities that are affected by declared major project development.
Utilities such as power, gas and water are the framework of the growth of our cities, suburbs and towns. The bill identifies these and other services under the authority of the Victorian legislation. The bill enables a streamlining of negotiations, which are often drawn out and sometimes result in the Victorian taxpayer paying a premium to utility owners, some of which are owned by or managed by overseas entities.
The bill is about sensible project planning. It recognises and responds to the needs of early identification and intervention. It recognises the need to provide utility owners, their customers and those delivering the declared infrastructure with certainty and resilient planning. The bill enables a more articulate approach to resolving disputes early, and in doing so it opens the way for more resilient project planning and execution.
Victoria has done more public-private partnerships to deliver major infrastructure projects than the other states. We have seen landmark projects that have fostered innovation and created many benefits from competitive bidding, world-class design and smart project planning. Smart project planning that is not rushed and smart project planning that is carefully considered are the critical success factors in major transport projects.
Just as we must ensure that there is additional provision for public transport to offset the impacts of construction disruptions, we also need to make sure there is a certainty and early planning in the way utilities are managed, altered and/or relocated in a major project. The bill reduces the potential for negotiations to be drawn out. It provides mechanisms for disputes to be resolved without the unnecessary delays that ultimately create costs for utility customers and the Victorian public.
As a proponent of most major transport infrastructure projects, the government on behalf of Victorians can enable better outcomes for major projects. As an example, this bill could help ensure the early delivery of the dedicated busway as part of the north-east link project. That is smart planning, and it would be disastrous if such an important element of the project that would help to reduce congestion during construction and promote alternative transport was held up because of issues and delays in managing utilities.
Like the need to ensure Victoria leads with smart project planning, the bill is about changing those project processes that were introduced a decade ago and are now well behind the best practice approaches used in major infrastructure delivery. It is about swapping the lawyers picnics—drawn out delays and unnecessary costs—for sensible, fair and efficient processes. Most of all it is about helping to ensure our major declared projects benefit from smart planning.