Jun 18, 2008

8th Bitre Transport Colloquium : Australian Transport – Building Capacity and

8th Bitre Transport Colloquium : Australian Transport – Building Capacity and Competitiveness

June 18 2008

Mural Hall, Parliament House

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Thank you for the introduction Mike. Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to be here today to welcome you all to the eighth BITRE colloquium.

The colloquium’s theme – Australian Transport: Building Capacity and Competitiveness – is particularly relevant given the ongoing challenges facing this sector.

Building capacity and competitiveness is exactly what the Rudd Labor Government is striving to do – not only in transport, which is of course crucial in a country as vast as ours – but in all aspects of infrastructure including communications, energy and water.

You will all be well aware that the Rudd Government has made investment in modern infrastructure a priority.

You will also be familiar with the initiatives already taken – the creation of Infrastructure Australia which met for the first time on June 4 – just six months after we were sworn into office.

Infrastructure Australia has three major immediate tasks.

It is charged with:

  •  providing COAG with best practice national guidelines for public private partnerships by October this year,
  • conducting a national infrastructure audit by the end of the year; and
  •  developing a blue print for fixing and modernising the nation’s infrastructure for presentation to COAG by March next year.

The establishment of the $20 billion Building Australia Fund will help turn this blueprint into reality by funding critical economic infrastructure such as roads, rail, ports and broadband capacity.

Similarly, the Major Cities Unit has been established to work closely with Infrastructure Australia to renew and invigorate the Commonwealth’s focus on cities – and more broadly, urban development.

It will identify opportunities where federal Government leadership can make a difference to the prosperity of cities and their residents.

TRANSPORT POLICY

We are also taking a national approach to transport policy. This is a three-pronged approach encompassing, land, air and sea.

Land transport

At February’s ATC meeting, state and territory transport ministers laid the groundwork for Australia’s first truly National Transport policy.

ATC met again at the end of May and Ministers will be meeting in a few weeks’ time in July to bed down key regulatory reforms which will underpin a seamless, coordinated national transport system.

We are striving towards a single national market, breaking down the red tape and lack of consistent regulation that has constrained the industry for decades.

This policy is an important step on the road to modernising our century‑old federation.

It is also important to point out that the existing road reform measures aimed at improving the efficiency of the transport sector will not be left behind under a national policy.

Rather, using the spirit of cooperation through the COAG process and the ATC, the current reforms are being energised and accelerated.

In addition, we are investing $3.2 billion in road and rail projects next financial year, including over half a billion to make an early start on our election commitments.

This investment will improve access to ports, upgrade our interstate networks and help ease urban congestion.

Aviation

You may also be aware that in April this year, the Rudd Government took the historic step of developing a long-term plan for the future of Australia’s aviation industry.

This policy statement, or White Paper, will assist in guiding the industry’s growth over the next decade and beyond.

This process has begun with industry being invited to make submissions by the end of June on an Issues Paper which outlines challenges facing the Australian aviation Industry.

The next step in the process is the release of a Green Paper in September outlining possible policy directions, settings and reforms, providing another opportunity for public input.

The process will be finalised in mid 2009 with the release of a White Paper which for the first time, will bring together all aspects of aviation policy into a single statement.

Maritime

We are also looking closely at how best to meet the challenges facing Australia’s coastal freight task.

In March I announced a House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into Australian coastal shipping.

Despite recent and expected future growth in trade, the Australian fleet has been declining.

The number of Australian registered trading vessels has dropped by around 40 per cent, from 75 to just 46 ships in the last 10 years.

The Government’s aim is for a viable coastal shipping industry in a competitive domestic transport sector.

We are honouring our election commitment to look at the issues facing the shipping industry, including cabotage, competitiveness, skill shortages, safety and security.

BITRE

As you can see, across the transport sector we are striving towards critical nation building reforms that will drive economic growth and prosperity in the years to come.

We are changing the way governments assess and implement infrastructure projects.

We are taking a fresh approach, a sustainable approach, an approach that will deliver much better outcomes than in the past.

However, to make good decisions, the Government relies on good quality data, analysis and frank and fearless advice.

In the past, too many decisions on investment in infrastructure have been made with too little attention to hard data and too little thought about integration and best return on dollars invested.

When it comes to gathering, analysing and presenting high quality data, the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics is making a significant contribution.

It is a resource which I feel has been under utilised in the past.

The Bureau is helping to inform the public debate on critical issues such as urban congestion and future aviation needs.

The Bureau’s estimate that the cost of urban congestion will reach $20 billion by 2020 if no action is taken has focussed public debate on the importance of the Commonwealth taking a role in public transport issues.

The Bureau’s research into forecast passenger growth at capital city airports has also made an important contribution, particularly in the context of the aviation white paper.

And the Bureau is making a valuable contribution to modelling on the effect of an Emissions Trading Scheme.

Today I am pleased to be releasing an additional BITRE publication.

The Australian Transport Statistics 2008 is a concise guide to basic transport facts and data:

  •  It reveals, for example, that transport specific businesses contributed 4.63 per cent of total GDP in 2006/07. This amounts to $46.2 billion, which is an increase of nearly six per cent on 2005/06.
  • It also shows that employment in the transport sector increased by six per cent to nearly half a million jobs in the twelve months to August 2007. This constituted 4.7 per cent of total employment in Australia.

Copies of this publication are available on-line and have been provided today. I encourage you to take a copy with you.

CONCLUSION

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate BITRE on their initiative in staging this gathering of minds.

I would also like to add my thanks to the speakers and delegates.

You have travelled from many parts of Australia, and some from overseas, to be here to share your knowledge and ideas and I look forward to learning the results.

I wish you all well for the positive discussion and constructive debates you will have over the coming two days.

Thank you.