The Commonwealth’s limited role in and ownership of infrastructure reflects the constitutional division of responsibilities between different levels of government and increasing market capacity to finance, provide and charge for infrastructure. The current level of Commonwealth infrastructure holdings also reflects policy decisions by successive Commonwealth Governments to reduce their direct involvement in commercial activities with a resultant shift in asset ownership to the private sector through privatisation programmes.
Accordingly, the Commonwealth provides infrastructure for its own functions and a small amount of public infrastructure. The other levels of government and the private sector are much bigger contributors. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth makes a significant contribution to State and local government infrastructure funding and has an important role in framing regulations that affect the sector.
Figure 3.1 provides a snapshot of Australia’s economic infrastructure.
Source: Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, 2013 and 2014.
Table 3.1 provides an overview of major Commonwealth infrastructure holdings as at 30 June 2013.
Fixed assets ($m)
|Australian Rail Track Corporation||Railway track and related infrastructure||4,467|
|NBN Co||Broadband infrastructure||2,496|
|Australia Post||Postal depots, sorting centres and related infrastructure||1,616|
|Airservices Australia||Air traffic control and landing infrastructure||1,023|
|Other public corporations||Various||1,199|
|General government sector|
|Department of Defence||Office buildings, Defence Force bases, training areas and ranges||23,713|
|Department of Parliamentary Services||Parliament House||2,220|
|CSIRO||Laboratories, research stations, marine research and radio telescopes||2,138|
|Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade||Embassies, consulates, overseas residences||2,134|
|Department of Finance||Domestic Commonwealth-owned office buildings, law courts and other property||1,662|
|Defence Housing Australia||Over 3,800 owned properties and over 18,300 under management||1,456|
|Department of Immigration and Citizenship||Immigration detention centres and related infrastructure||1,101|
|Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation||Lucas Heights Nuclear facility, Cyclotron||1,063|
|Australian Broadcasting Corporation||47 owned studios, carparks, offices and broadcast equipment||853|
|National Capital Authority||Scrivener Dam, Lake Burley Griffin assets, bridges, roads and tunnels||769|
|Special Broadcasting Service||Office and studio, broadcast transmitters and other equipment||97|
|Other general government sector||Various, incl. navigation buoys, Sydney Harbour Federation Trust shipyard||9,021|
|Total Commonwealth public sector||57,029|
|Snowy Hydro Ltd||Commonwealth 13 per cent shareholding, net assets value||233|
Source: National Commission of Audit calculations based on data for the Commonwealth Consolidated Financial Statements 2012-13. Snowy Hydro Ltd, 2013.
Total land, buildings and other infrastructure, plant and equipment.