Address to Roads Australia’s National Roads Summit 2010
BUILDING ROADS FOR THE FUTURE
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,
Regional Development and Local Government
Leader of the House
Member for Grayndler
Thursday, 22 April 2010
I would like to start by thanking Roads Australia for the opportunity to come and talk to you today.
It’s almost two years since I had the pleasure of launching Roads Australia – which was then a newly transformed industry body.
Since then you have expanded. I understand you now have some 70 members, many which are represented here today.
You are the people who design and build our roads.
You are the people whose trucks move goods and services from the farm gate and the factory to our domestic and export markets.
You understand that an efficient transport system is critical for our nation.
And, as we all know, good policy is never created in a vacuum.
Only by working with industry can Governments implement evidence based policy that delivers real benefits on the ground.
Or, should I say, real benefits on our roads.
Over the last two and a half years, the Rudd Labor Government has moved decisively to implement a modern transport policy agenda fit for the 21st century.
Today, I want to talk to you about some of our key areas of reform, including:
- Infrastructure investment;
- Urban congestion; and
- Smart Infrastructure.
Since taking office, we have substantially increased the Federal Government’s investment in transport infrastructure, to address a substantial backlog.
As the Global Recession began to hit, we rejected the advice of those who advocated “sit back and watch the impact before acting”.
Our Economic Stimulus Plan was decisive and helped to shield us from the worst of the global economic downturn.
The result is record investment in road, rail and port infrastructure.
We brought forward the construction of 14 road projects. We initiated four new road projects.
We allocated $1.2 billion to the Australian Rail Track Corporation for 17 new rail projects.
We invested $4.5 billion in ‘shovel ready’ urban rail projects.
We allocated $150 million to install boom gates and other safety measures at 292 high risk level crossings across the country.
And we invested an additional $150 million to help fix over 600 notorious black spots on our roads.
This means we’re are now making an unprecedented $36 billion investment in road, rail and port infrastructure over six years.
Each of these stimulus projects has created jobs and new commercial opportunities for local builders and suppliers, during the biggest global downturn since the 1930s.
Our Economic Stimulus measures have kept some 200,000 Australians in work and Australia out of recession.
We were one of only two developed countries to avoid such a fate.
What’s more, at a time when other economies were shedding jobs, the Australian economy was actually creating them.
We have representatives from companies here today who have stated publically that the government’s stimulus spending did not only ensure employment was maintained, but also increased.
In fact, there are more Australians employed today than twelve months ago and our unemployment rate is now the second lowest in the OECD.
These job statistics are nothing short of impressive and by any measure an endorsement of our decisive actions.
As well as supporting jobs and growth during the economic crisis of the past 18 months, our Economic Stimulus Plan will leave a lasting legacy.
Long after recent events fade in our collective memory, the infrastructure built and modernised through our stimulus package will still be making our communities better places to live and our economy more productive.
The Economic Stimulus measures now bring our total investment in roads to $27.7 billion.
That’s more than twice what the previous government spent over a similar period of time.
As part of this, the Rudd Labor Government has set a goal for a first class Network 1.
The N1 is the key north south road freight corridor stretching along the eastern seaboard from Melbourne to Cairns.
It includes the Western Ring Road, the Hume, Pacific and Bruce Highways and key feeder roads; such as the Ipswich Motorway and the new Hunter Expressway.
This is Australia’s busiest road network and our most important freight route.
All these roads are beneficiaries from funding brought forward or allocated as part of our Economic Stimulus Plan.
We’re investing a record $3.1 billion to improve the Pacific Highway.
Construction is charging ahead on the Bulahdelah Bypass and the Banora Point upgrade and construction will start this year on the Kempsey Bypass.
These projects were all priorities in the Economic Stimulus Plan.
Right now, work is underway on more than 100 km of the Pacific Highway, with over 1,000 workers on North Coast sites.
Further south in NSW, we’re investing some $900 million in the Hume Highway.
With only three more projects to be completed, the Hume Highway has never been so close to its full duplication.
The Woomargama and Tarcutta Bypasses are now underway, thanks to funding brought forward through the Economic Stimulus Plan.
And construction on the last missing bypass around Holbrook is expected to get underway later this year.
North of Brisbane, the Rudd Government is investing $2.6 billion in the upgrade of the Bruce Highway.
This investment includes the long overdue Cooroy to Curra upgrade which was funded as part of our Economic Stimulus Plan.
Further south in Queensland, we’re investing $455 million to upgrade the Pacific Motorway. Work is now well underway on the section between Springwood South and Daisy Hill.
Again, it started ahead of schedule thanks to funding brought forward through our Economic Stimulus Plan.
We have also accelerated construction work on the N1s key feeder routes, like the Ipswich Motorway where we’re investing over $2.5 billion.
Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of being in Ipswich to open the first section of the upgrade between Wacol and Darra.
It is not often you can say that you:
- approved the funding for a project;
- turned the first sod; and
- cut the ribbon to open the new infrastructure.
That’s what I got to do on Sunday thanks to the hard work by the SAFELINK alliance, lead by Queensland Main Roads and Leighton Contractors.
Due to the funding brought forward as part of the Economic Stimulus Plan, this project was completed eight months ahead of schedule.
The delivery of this section of the Ipswich Motorway will help reduce congestion and improve travel times for the people of south east Queensland.
And it’s important that we single out what the key outcome of our Nation Building Program is.
It’s undertaken with one main objective in mind, and that is to help raise this nation’s productivity.
And our investment is providing a platform for future economic prosperity.
STREAMLINING THE PPP PROCESS
Our investment is substantial, but there is more to do.
That’s why it is critical that governments work with the private sector to leverage the opportunities at hand.
One of the most effective ways to encourage greater private sector involvement in the infrastructure sector is by making the PPP process simpler and easier.
The Government has tasked Infrastructure Australia to lead its efforts to streamline the PPP process in the area of infrastructure.
This starts by making sure the same PPP Guidelines apply in every State and Territory in Australia.
IA developed, and all governments across Australia have now endorsed, nationally-consistent, best practice guidelines for the use of PPPs.
Australian governments must now consider PPPs as a procurement option in infrastructure projects that are valued at $50 million or more.
The IA website now provides a pipeline of projects that are being delivered, or are in the process of being procured via PPP.
The website also lists projects that have been identified as potential candidates for PPPs, giving potential investors a timeframe for possible release to the market.
This sort of transparency gives potential investors, near and far, an insight into infrastructure development activity in Australia and shows we are serious about nation building.
It’s also encouraging that we’re now seeing a next generation of road PPPs starting to roll out.
We’re seeing the rise of the availability payment model for roads.
And the Peninsula Link in Victoria is one good example of how the private sector can work with governments on alternative funding models.
I would now like to turn to the task of tackling urban congestion.
It requires a comprehensive response with Governments and the private sector working together with the community.
Some of you might have seen the State of Australian Cities Report 2010 that I released earlier this year.
This report has been developed by the Major Cities Unit.
It is the most comprehensive document of its kind produced.
It brings together in one place a diverse range of data about how productive, sustainable and liveable our cities are.
The report’s findings are stark.
In the absence of real action, the annual cost of urban congestion is predicted to double to more than $20 billion by the end of the decade.
Already our urban roads are used by more than 9.5 million motorbikes, cars, buses and trucks every year.
And the reality is that our cities will not become less congested by simply building more roads.
Effective transport solutions don’t come about by pitting one mode of transport against another.
We can’t have a plan for moving freight without having a plan for moving people.
Nor can you separate the planning for regional areas from urban areas.
It’s not a competition between road and rail or regional and urban Australia.
But rather, it’s about creating the right solution for each specific task in a way that builds a better overall system.
What we need is appropriate plans for complementary transport modes dealing with the task at hand across the country.
And the Government is putting in place practical policies to do just that.
We’re developing a new policy framework for our cities through the Major Cities Unit.
And we have tasked Infrastructure Australia to develop a National Freight Strategy.
We also need to be smarter and increase the efficiency of existing infrastructure.
Which brings me to one of the 21st century’s buzz terms – Smart Infrastructure.
The expression ‘smart infrastructure’ means different things to different people.
Recently, it was described by a reasonably reputable media outlet as ‘gobbledegook’.
To me, Smart Infrastructure is shorthand for innovative, technology-based, adaptive infrastructure.
Some of you would be aware that the Government’s Smart Infrastructure Inquiry is now underway and taking submissions.
Information technology has enormous potential to help tackle infrastructure bottlenecks and ease urban congestion.
We are now beginning to see practical, every day examples of smart infrastructure right across the country.
Traffic signals that prioritise bus flow.
Advanced technologies that allows for variable speed limits and lane management systems.
It’s fair to say that even first generation applications are proving their mettle, and improving our management of congested cities.
We know from our personal experience that technology often moves faster than our imagination.
20 years from now the type of vehicles on our roads will be different.
The way our roads function will be different.
Integration between transport modes will be different.
We can’t say with certainty today what those changes will be.
But we can say with certainty that there will be change.
By embracing this change with innovative, technology based, adaptive solutions, we will reap significant benefits for productivity and the living standards in our country.
I would encourage you, the infrastructure industry of Australia, to engage in the Smart Infrastructure Inquiry.
We need to hear your views of what’s happening on the front line in terms of innovation, progress, and technology.
While I’m on the topic of asking for your involvement, I would also like to give a quick plug for the inaugural Australian Smart Infrastructure Awards.
Nominations are now open for excellence in design, delivery, and use of infrastructure in any of Infrastructure Australia’s national priority areas, including rail freight, water and urban development.
Nominations close on 14 May so you still have some four weeks to put your best bid forward – you can find more details about this on my Department’s website.
So, to conclude I want to quickly recap what the Rudd Labor Government is doing to drive a transport agenda fit for the 21st century.
We are investing a record $36 billion in road, rail and ports right across the country to build new and upgrade existing infrastructure.
And we are working with industry and private sector to leverage opportunities, both in the area of investment and innovation.
Together with all layers of government – and importantly, you, our industry stakeholders – we need and will continue driving this important reform agenda.
I look forward to continuing this dialogue with you here today and into the future.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.