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My latest column for The CEO Magazine looks at Malcolm Turnbull’s recent Snowy announcement and asks: isn’t there a better way to make infrastructure decisions?
The particular process I’d like to see around the Snowy announcement is an independent and structured assessment of its benefits and costs.
More broadly, the column takes up a theme that Nick Gruen has pursued frequently over the years, at the Business Council, at Troppo and elsewhere: given the complicated decisions we must make, there’s a good case that we will benefit from independent bodies advising on matters like infrastructure, economic regulation and fiscal policy.
The One model here is the Reserve Bank of Australia, which not only independently advises but independently implements. Not every independent body needs to loom as large as the RBA. The argument rather is that all these bodies should be empowered to do broad, deep and honest reviews of major proposals. They will also need to have some of the sort of respect the Reserve Bank has earned.
We have bodies for regulation (the Productivity Commission) and infrastructure (Infrastructure Australia) that could eventually become equivalents of the RBA. But they’re a long way from being there right now, and governments don’t seem inclined to help them.
Announcements like the Snowy proposal and the apparent arrangements around it aren’t helping either, by ignoring arrangements for proper review. But such events do underline how unsatisfactory are our current arrangements.