The investors are negotiating how they will fund the expansion in exchange for an extension of the concession period in which it owns and operates the road. It’s a positive experience to engage with a flexible government in the operation of a PPP asset, Frost says, and greater willingness for the public sector to share the risks of new or existing infrastructure would make the Australian market more attractive for investors. “Our clients don’t have any particular obligation to underwrite Australian infrastructure. They are there to make money for members. But if this coincides with a procurement of new infrastructure, that’s a winwin.” Sicilia at HOSTPLUS goes beyond this returns-focused, fiduciary type of thinking.
Whether governments take on more risk to attract superannuation capital or not, fund-members-as-taxpayers will pay for new infrastructure anyway, and hopefully benefit from it. “They’re the ones that are going to use the bridge, tunnel, power station and NBN network,” he says. The concept of nationbuilding is important enough to warrant a re-interpretation of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) (SIS) Act, which states the sole purpose of the superannuation system is to provide investment returns for their members. “I know the SIS Act says we should only focus on financial benefits. But by doing that, and investing smartly in infrastructure, you get all of these secondary benefits coming your way, whether you like it or not.”