Interview to Arabella Rothwell | Investment Director, Victorian Government Trade and Investment Office London
The Victorian Government is actually developing a big number of infrastructure projects, which are the most important at the moment?
Victoria has more than doubled its infrastructure investment to an average of $10.6 billion over the four years to 2021-22 compared to the long run average. Victoria is currently in a transport construction boom with 119 major road and rail projects being delivered. The key projects currently underway include:
The major upcoming projects include:
There are a number of other significant projects including a new $1.5 Billion Footscray Hospital, $1.75 billion Regional Rail Revival package and major upgrades to some of our busiest freeways including the M80, CityLink, Tullamarine and Monash.
Which are the benefits that this infrastructure projects, known as “Victoria´s Big Build”, will give the inhabitants and the economy?
Victoria’s population is growing by 110,000+ people each year, the highest rate of growth in the nation. Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne, is expected to overtake Sydney as Australia’s largest capital city by as early as 2030.
Currently there are 23 million trips across all forms of transport a day in Melbourne, this could be more than 38 million a day by 2050. To help support Victoria’s growing population, drive jobs growth and deliver long-term economic benefits, the Government is investing strongly in infrastructure. This investment will help boost network capacity, move more people and freight, improve passenger services and relieve congestion. For example, the new North East Link project is expected to slash travel times between Melbourne’s north and south-east by up to 35 minutes.
Our Big Build is not only helping people get home earlier and safer, it is driving our economy forward. This massive overhaul of our transport network is creating tens of thousands of jobs across all types of sectors, from construction and engineering, to human resources and administration. Public investment in major infrastructure projects, also encourages private investment. We recognise investment in modern and reliable transport is also key to maintaining our prosperity and world- famous liveability.
Some Spanish companies, mostly construction and engineering, had developed a big number of projects in Australia. In the Victorian experience some so outstanding as the solar and wind farms, as some railway projects. Can you tell us your perception about the Spanish companies?
Spain has some of the world’s best road and rail systems, and Spanish companies participate in some of the world’s largest infrastructure projects. Spanish companies are renowned for their world-class engineering, design and construction skills. Australia’s large infrastructure pipeline is creating significant opportunities for global players and Spanish companies have been particularly successful in recent tenders. These projects require the technical skills and expertise that Spanish companies can provide.
For example, Victoria has set ambitious renewable energy generation targets of 40% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. In 2017 to meet our renewable energy targets the Government held a competitive reverse auction scheme for new renewable energy projects. Three of the six selected projects were by Spanish companies. Spanish companies including Acciona, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, Naturgy and X-Elio, have been major contributors in supporting Victoria to reach our renewable energy targets.
In your opinion and based on your experience in the Victorian Government office in London, what should the companies interested in investing in Australia have to know before?
My main advice is to talk to government organisations such as Invest Victoria, we provide free and confidential support to companies looking to invest. We act as a point of entry to the market and make the process smoother and more straightforward for companies with a range of support including relevant introduction, assistance navigating the regulatory environment and help finding office space.
I would recommend talking to other Spanish companies who have gone before you to learn from their experience. Organisations such as the Spanish-Australia Chamber of Commerce (La Camara) can be a great resource to connect you.
Feedback we sometimes receive from companies is that Australia is seen as business-friendly, however some Spanish companies comment that the visa processing can be complex and time consuming. We would recommend engaging a migration specialist as early as possible to assist with the process.
Which of the aspects of this program you have find more interesting?
Victoria is set to release its Circular Economy policy in the next couple of months. It was great to learn about best practice approaches in Spain and also see what expertise and innovation we could potentially utilise in Victoria.
The two highlights for me from the trip were the visit to Ecoembese and the visits to Toledo Eco Park and Valdemingómez Technological Park. Ecoembese is an impressive organisation that has been able to bring a coordinated approach to recycling in Spain. I was particularly impressed in their work with entrepreneurs and start ups to discover new innovative approaches to tackle some of the challenges related to waste management.
At EcoParque de Toledo y and Valdemingómez Technological Park it was interesting to see the sites implementing a range of innovative processes to recycle and reuse waste sent to the sites. For example, at Toledo Eco Park they used biofuels produced from the landfill to power their waste recovery fleet.
The SACF brings together companies and institutions to foster the relation between Spain and Australia. How do you think that relation can be strength?
I think the European Union-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will be a great first step in strengthening the relationship between Australia and Spain. It will greatly assist with the flow of goods, services and people. I think it would be great to see more research and innovation partnerships between Australia and Spain flow from the FTA. One success story is the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) which set up an office in Barcelona in 2013. RMIT has established agreements with leading local Spanish universities, participated in successful European research projects and establish collaboration with innovative companies across Europe, including Ferrovial and SICE.