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Infrastructure improvements needed to make most of Asian Century

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Former Treasury secretary Ken Henry has said that Australia may not be able to take full benefit of the ‘Asian Century’ unless our infrastructure is improved.

Dr Henry, chairman of the SMART infrastructure group at the University of Wollongong, told the Australian that he is concerned about the nation’s port, road and rail links as well as the ability of services and people to move freely between Australia and Asia.

"We do not have the infrastructure requirements for an economy and a society that is well connected with Asia," he told The Australian.

"There is enormous potential in the Asian century and we simply don't have the infrastructure assets, the infrastructure services, to ensure that in the commercial space – but also the social space – we make the most of those connections.”

In addition, Dr Henry questioned whether more exports could be shipped to Asia from Darwin instead of from Queensland via the Great Barrier Reef.

"I don't think the question has ever been asked in the right places. And really these questions should have been asked 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago would have been fine," he told The Australian.

"Maybe someone should have said, 'Why don't we explore the possibilities west and north out through the Port of Darwin?’ And think about what that would do for the Northern Territory”.

Dr Henry suggested a model currently used in Britain could be a good way to fund some Australian infrastructure projects. Under the system known as ‘shadow tolling’, government pays an operator shadow tolls based on an assumed level of patronage.

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