The Australian construction industry is valued at ~US$112 billion annually and accounts for around 9% of GDP.
In February 2021, Infrastructure Australia (IA) released its infrastructure priority list adding a record 44 new infrastructure proposals. The list can be found at www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au. IA has responsibility to strategically audit Australia’s nationally significant infrastructure and develop 15-year rolling plans that specify national and state level priorities.
In August 2019, IA published its audit covering transport, energy, water, telecommunications, and social infrastructure. The main challenges identified at the time included:
- Population growth which has placed increased pressure on ageing assets, rising road congestion, crowding on public transport and greater demands on social and infrastructure such as health, education, and green space.
- A large rise in network costs driving energy bills 35% higher over the past decade.
- The rollout of The National Broadband Network.
- Water security particularly in regional areas due to long-term drought.
- Crises since 2020 include drought and flood events, bushfires, and COVID-19.
In response to the challenges identified, Australia’s high-priority infrastructure projects broadly fall within the following five areas: town and city water security; national water security; coastal inundation protection; national waste and recycling management; and national road maintenance.
In July 2020, the Australian federal government announced a US$1 billion funding package targeting “shovel-ready” smaller-scale projects in all states to stimulate job creation. The priority list of 15 projects for “fast-track approval” includes: the inland rail project from Melbourne to Brisbane; the Marinus undersea electricity link between Tasmania and Victoria; the Olympic Dam extension in South Australia; emergency town water projects in NSW; and road, rail, and iron ore projects in Western Australia. Work has begun on accelerating infrastructure projects worth more than US$72 billion in public and private investment.
Australia has several home-grown EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) groups, which are particularly well-established in the mining-related engineering construction sector, but some of whom also have considerable overseas project experience. Major UK and U.S. EPC companies that have long had a presence in the market include Bechtel, Fluor, Balfour & Beatty, and Laing O’Rourke. More recent market entrants have set up operations in-country either directly e.g., Bouygues (France), POSCO (Korea), or through acquisition e.g., ACS (Spain), which now owns the CIMIC Group (formerly known as Leighton Holdings and includes CPB Contractors, John Holland, Thiess, and UGL).
American companies offering engineering, consulting, or technology solutions that could fit into any of Australia’s priority areas are encouraged to contact the U.S. Commercial Service for assistance. While some foreign engineering companies have entered the market through acquisitions, there are also opportunities to collaborate and partner with local firms on specific projects. The U.S. Commercial Service has been engaging with both American and Australian engineering firms and is in a good position to offer introductions to potential partners in Australia, especially for those partners looking to address infrastructure capability gaps.
Key sub-sectors in this industry include road and rail construction and commercial construction.
The Infrastructure Priority List (IPL) is a prioritized list of nationally significant investments, detailing major proposals to boost the Australian economy. The 2021 list identifies a record 163 major infrastructure proposals broken down into Priority Projects, High Priority Initiatives, and Priority Initiatives. In May 2021, the Australian Government announced an additional ~US$11.3 billion for infrastructure projects in its Federal Budget. The full IPL list can be viewed here.
Information on major construction projects in Australia is available through Projectory, a subscription-based service which covers the resource-related, infrastructure, defense, petrochemical, and utilities sectors.