Flying the Malaysian flag Down Under

KUALA LUMPUR: The recently concluded 2024 Asean-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne put in focus areas where Malaysia can collaborate with Australia as the region marks the 50th anniversary since Australia became Asean's first dialogue partner.

Malaysia has a long-established economic and social tie with Australia, with the country ranking as Australia's second-largest trading partner within Asean, said Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at the summit.

Malaysia's major exports to Australia would be its petroleum products, and other manufactured goods, though not many know that Malaysia is also now a substantial exporter of its expertise in construction.

According to the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), Malaysia’s total exports of construction services in 2022 - not just to Australia - was valued at RM6.1bil, while imports valued at RM4.8bil.

When it comes to Australia, there is a huge upside in exporting Malaysia's expertise there, given the Australian government's aim to spend up to AUD$120bil (RM375bil) over 10 years through its Infrastructure Investment Programme.

Matrade ascribed the strengths of the Malaysian construction sector to the capabilities of Malaysian companies to design and build all manners of buildings and infrastructure, ranging from buildings to highways to bridges to railways, all the way to water treatment and power plants, along with the usual luxury residences.

For example, Gamuda Bhd extended its reach to Australia by setting up its Australian unit in March 2019 to expand and diversify its construction business in the region.

The setting up of Gamuda Australia is now considered the company’s second largest base in the region, with the Australian unit ready to bid for projects focusing on infrastructure from tunnelling to roads and clean energy through its offices in Sydney and Melbourne.

Gamuda's competency in underground work now recognised down under

In a recent media familiarisation trip to Sydney, Gamuda Australia showed how the new local hires are complementing the skills and experience of the Malaysian team members, many of whom attended university and/or have a family based in Australia.

A key part of Gamuda’s strategy in Australia is partnering with local and international businesses to deliver infrastructure projects, and its biggest win to date would be securing a piece of the pie from the massive Sydney Metro West - Western Tunnelling Package by partnering with Laing O'Rourke in a Consortium to deliver an iconic public transport project in Sydney for the New South Wales government.

The Western Tunnelling Package scope includes 9km of twin metro rail tunnels from Sydney Olympic Park to Westmead.

In another win in New South Wales, Gamuda Australia was awarded a major road transport project to deliver the final piece of the Pacific Highway upgrade project, the Coffs Harbour Bypass, with its joint venture partner Ferrovial Construction.

Gamuda Australia is also involved in the ongoing extension of the M1 Pacific Motorway to the Pacific Highway at Raymond Terrace, a project jointly funded by the Australian federal government and New South Wales.

“We are strengthening our presence in the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Additionally, we are expanding into the United Kingdom,” said Justin Chin Jing Ho, managing director of Gamuda Engineering.

“In Australia, our strategy is bringing global expertise with local delivery. We create a win-win situation by hiring locally and partnering with businesses that understand this unique market. Gamuda gains valuable local insights and the community benefits from new opportunities. This collaborative model is a proven path to success,” added Chin.

Since commencing operations in Australia, one of Gamuda’s key focuses has been creating new job opportunities and providing industry-specific training for local people.

For example, Gamuda Australia has set up the state-of-the-art Training and Infrastructure Academy at Clyde, and this has given opportunities for the wider communities, from First Nations People to young Australians, including women, to have a fair shake at what is generally a male-dominated sector.

"We are so proud to see a diverse range of participants benefit from specialised training and go on to secure fulfilling roles on the Sydney Metro West - Western Tunnelling Package," said Chin, who added that over the long term, Gamuda’s vision is to become a leader in the Australian infrastructure and construction sector by offering innovative solutions for large-scale public infrastructure projects and private investment opportunities.

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