Opportunities to Capitalise on Australia’s Infrastructure and Energy Project Boom, 5 November 2019

Some 55 guests gathered at the Ambassador’s Residence at the Australian Embassy in Paris on November 5 to discuss the unique opportunities of Australia’s current infrastructure and energy boom. The event, ‘Opportunities to Capitalise on Australia’s Infrastructure and Energy Project Boom’ was co-organised with the Australian Embassy in Paris and generously sponsored by ABIE corporate member, Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

Welcoming guests and esteemed panelists, H.E. Mr Brendan Berne, Ambassador of Australia to France and Honorary President of ABIE France, reiterated Australia’s commitment to invest in projects aimed at developing infrastructure and ensuring a clean energy future. The panel discussion was moderated by ABIE France Board Member, Diana Bowman (VINCI Energies) and explored a wide range of topics, challenges and opportunities in Australia’s current industry framework.

The panelists included:

  • Robert E Clarke, Partner, Corrs Chambers Westgarth
  • Jean-Philippe Trin, Deputy CEO, Bouygues Construction
  • Salim Bensmail, Managing Director for Strategy and Partnerships, John Laing Group
  • Arabella Rothwell, Investment Director UK & Europe for the Victorian Government Trade & Investment Office
  • Keirra Smith, Director, NSW Trade & Investment Commissioner – UK & Europe

The panelists presented a positive outlook of Australia’s infrastructure growth, boosting local economies while offering unique opportunities for overseas investors.

Robert E Clarke opened the discussion with a presentation of what makes Australia an attractive jurisdiction for investors and set out some of the issues that Corrs was asked to advise about in this regard. Mr. Clarke followed with a presentation of brownfield asset investment opportunities, a brief discussion of the project development pipeline and current trends in the sector.

Jean-Philippe Trin, Deputy CEO of Bouygues Construction then presented his company’s extensive activities in Australia. He went on to explain some of the features that make Australia such an attractive market for investment, along with some of the challenges currently facing contractors operating there.

John Laing Group Managing Director for Strategy & Partnerships, Salim Bensmail said that Australia’s infrastructure industry presented a wealth of opportunities, largely thanks to the country’s sustained GDP growth, strong public policy environment and a pragmatic approach to project delivery.

Investment Director UK & Europe for the Victorian Government Trade & Investment Office, Arabella Rothwell said with $70 billion of transport projects being delivered, Victoria is undergoing a period of strong economic growth. She highlighted a number of major projects in the pipeline, including the North East Link Road, Suburban Rail Loop and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link. With Melbourne predicted to become Australia’s most populous city by 2030s, Ms Rothwell said infrastructure investment opportunities were set to continue.

NSW Trade & Investment Commissioner in UK & Europe Director Keirra Smith said that a “once in a lifetime investment opportunity” was being presented in New South Wales, with plans to build an entirely new city in Western Sydney. Further citing a number of other exciting NSW projects, including the NSW Climate Change Fund and the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. With strong infrastructure spending in New South Wales, Ms Smith said Sydney is now seeking investment and the “savoir-faire” from Europe to help deliver these projects.

With a historic level of activity in the sector, panelists also touched on a number of challenges, including grid and transmission capabilities in the energy sector, authorisation issues and high labour costs. The discussion concluded with a vote of thanks by ABIE France Treasurer and President of Antipodes Finance, Stéphane Dupuy.

During the cocktail, which followed the panel discussion, guests were able to discuss the issues further and enjoy an array of fine Australian wines, supplied by South World Wines.