$260 billion in transport infrastucture forecast up to 2031, we need greater engineering capacity, not less.
A report for the NSW Government recommends slashing thousands of jobs, including 30% of positions at Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) over the next three years. This was revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald this week, subject to a Freedom of Information Act application to access the undisclosed report.
This news is no surprise to Professionals Australia members working in transport agencies like RMS, Transport for NSW and Sydney Trains, where between 20 and 30% of jobs have already been cut in some places.
Our governments already lack essential engineering capability. This has been shown through our research with the Australian National Engineering Taskforce, and was confirmed in a 2012 Senate inquiry. Just a few weeks ago, a national survey of engineers found that 93% of you think that without more engineering capacity we will risk billions of taxpayer dollars and lost time on project delays, not to mention public safety hazards.
NSW is set to spend $53 billion between 2013 and 2016 on transport infrastructure projects. Up to 2031, the government has forecast plans for $260 billion in transport works. As our NSW Director Paul Davies wrote recently in the SMH, engineers are crucial to the efficient, safe and cost-effective delivery of these projects. Without properly skilled and experienced staff in the public service, projects will not be properly scoped and designed, and contracts cannot be effectively managed. The recent Productivity Commission’s report on public infrastructure spending conservatively estimated that this costs Australian taxpayers $1 billion every year.
There must be more attention paid to the way infrastructure dollars are spent, as economist Ross Gittins made clear in his response to the Productivity Commission report. We must value the skills and experience of professionals, including engineers, who are trained to deliver safe, high-quality, good-value assets. Despite this, the NSW government is bent on continuing its short-sighted program of reducing labour costs while ignoring the implications for increasing construction and maintenance costs.
Engineers in NSW are taking action to defend their important role in transport infrastructure development. Professionals Australia launched its campaign a few weeks ago to build the profile of engineering and to increase the investment in engineering capacity.
You can take action to support this campaign right now by signing our petition to the NSW Minister for Roads, demanding that he stop the abolition of the Professional Engineers’ Award at RMS and show some respect for NSW engineers.