Browsing articles in "Ministerial Media Releases"
Mar 20, 2008

Big Rise in Compensation for the victims of oil spills

Big Rise in Compensation for the victims of oil spills

MEDIA RELEASE – The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

20 March 2008

The Rudd Labor Government will make sure oil and shipping companies responsible for oil spills within Australian waters are held financially accountable for the damage caused to our coastal ecosystems and communities.

After years of inaction by the previous government, we are moving quickly to ratify two major international maritime treaties by introducing into the Parliament today the Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage) Bill 2008 and foreshadowing further legislative action in the upcoming winter session.

Every year some 3,500 cargo vessels as well as more than 200 oil tankers and chemical carriers navigate through Australian waters, including near environmental icons such as Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef.

The Government must and will do more to protect our nation’s fragile environmental assets for current and future generations.

Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage) Bill 2008

This legislation will place into Australian law the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001 – a multilateral agreement requiring ship owners to take out insurance to cover their liabilities in the event their vessels spill fuel (bunker) oil.

Bunker oil is used to drive ships’ engines and has been historically the most persistent form of oil pollution. It is very difficult to clean up and can have a potentially devastating impact on coastal communities and livelihoods as well as marine and coastal wildlife.

While Australia legislated in 2001 to require ships entering Australian ports to have documentation on board demonstrating they have insurance coverage, they can only be held accountable for spills IF the shipowner is found to be at fault.

If our new legislation isn’t passed by the Parliament then clean up and compensation costs will continue, in most cases, to be borne by the Australian taxpayer.

Ratification of the Convention will help strengthen the Government’s approach to marine pollution within a consistent framework of strict liability and compulsory insurance.

This legislation will mean that ships entering Australian waters will be strictly liable for bunker oil spills and will have to carry compulsory insurance to cover any pollution damage, including the cost of clean-up and the economic losses incurred by innocent third parties.

In addition, the ship’s insurer will be liable if there is any difficulty in recovering damages from the ship owner.

The maximum amount of compensation available depends on the size of the ship involved. For example, for a typical container ship with a gross tonnage of 35,000, the maximum compensation payable for one particular incident is about $24 million.

This Convention will allow governments to go further in cost recovery and compensation payments than is normally allowed in domestic legislation.

Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill 2008

In addition to the legislation being introduced today, the Rudd Labor Government also intends to introduce further legislation in the forthcoming winter sittings of Parliament to strengthen the existing compensation regime that applies to oil spills from oil tankers.

The legislation will increase the existing maximum compensation level from approximately $360 million to about $1.33 billion.

This will ensure that should a major oil spill occur on the Australian coastline, the organisations responsible will provide appropriate levels of compensation.

These two pieces of legislation will strengthen Australia’s maritime environment protection framework and align it with international best practice.

Mar 20, 2008

Round 2 open for Airstrip upgrades in remote Australia

Round 2 open for Airstrip upgrades in remote Australia

MEDIA RELEASE – The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

20 March 2008

The Australian Government is calling for applications under the second round of its $22 million Remote Aerodrome Safety Program (RASP).

The first round generated widespread interest amongst remote and isolated communities, with a total of 25 aerodromes across the country receiving around $1 million to help improve their safety and accessibility.

I can now confirm that a further $5 million will be made available for: 

  •  Repairing and upgrading runway surfaces; 
  •  Safety equipment such as runway lighting and navigation aids; and
  • Infrastructure such as animal proof fences.

The scheme does not cover works that involve terminals, hangars, buildings or on-airport commercial developments.

Through RASP, the Australian Government is helping to maintain access to air services to the nation’s remote and isolated communities such as essential supplies, mail, passenger transport and medical care like that provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

This is particularly important where road access is unavailable, unreliable or disrupted for extended periods due to the wet season.

A key feature of the program is the participation of state, territory and local governments.

I look forward to continuing this partnership in Round 2 of the program to deliver on the urgent needs of communities in remote Australia.

Project applications will be assessed through a cooperative process including relevant Australian Government agencies and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Applications must be submitted by Thursday, 24 April 2008.

Application forms, guidelines and further information are available from my Department’s website:

Mar 7, 2008

More Seats on Routes between Australia and Malaysia

More Seats on Routes between Australia and Malaysia

MEDIA RELEASE – The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

7 March 2008

More flights and lower fares between Australia and Malaysia may be possible in the future following the signing of a new air services agreement.

Senior officials from my Department have met with their Malaysian counterparts and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which expands the number of seats on the routes between our two countries.

Under the MOU, Malaysian and Australian carriers will be able to operate an additional 5,000 seats per week to our major gateway airports of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth from March 2008, with an additional 3,500 seats to be made available from March 2009.

The previous arrangement restricted capacity to these airports to 15,000 seats per week for Malaysian carriers and 20,600 seats per week for Australian carriers.

In addition, the new one-off arrangement provides unlimited access to and from airports other than the four major gateway airports.

The MOU reflects the strong bilateral relationship between our two countries.

The new arrangement will give Australian airlines the opportunity to significantly expand their current levels of services and to compete effectively in the Asian market.

It will allow Malaysian airlines such as AirAsia X to proceed with their planned expansion into Australia, with Australian travellers expected to reap the benefits of lower fares.

AirAsia X currently operates four services per week into the Gold Coast and is looking to expand its operations to other airports including Avalon. Ultimately Australian travellers, trade and tourism will benefit from the increased competition and greater choice when travelling to Malaysia, and onto other parts of Asia and Europe.

Any new airlines wishing to take up the commercial opportunities available under the new arrangements will need to obtain relevant regulatory approvals before commencing operations, including meeting Australia’s stringent aviation safety and security requirements.

The new agreement becomes effective immediately, pending formal approval of the new treaty by the respective Governments.

This new agreement with Malaysia follows last month’s historic ‘open skies’ agreement with the United States.

Feb 29, 2008

Road Safety and Productivity Package

Road Safety and Productivity Package

MEDIA RELEASE – The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

29 February 2008

New ‘black box’ technology that makes it more difficult for truckies to drive for too long or at high speeds are amongst the measures contained in the Rudd Labor Government’s $70 million plan to tackle the ongoing loss of life on Australian roads.

Upon becoming Infrastructure and Transport Minister, I was shocked to learn that the National Road Safety Strategy target of a 40 percent reduction in road deaths by 2010 was unlikely to be achieved.

This is simply not good enough and should be a call to action for all governments, industry, as well as the broader community.

The plan I’m announcing today demonstrates my determination to work with the states and territories, as well as industry to substantially cut the number of speed and fatigue related road fatalities.

Significantly, about one in five road deaths involve heavy vehicles, with speed a factor in around 30 per cent of these crashes and driver fatigue in up to 60 per cent.

Action to improve speed and fatigue enforcement is the key to achieving a substantial reduction in road deaths.

Accordingly, the Rudd Labor Government’s $70 million, four year Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Plan will fund:

  •  Trials of technologies that electronically monitor a truck driver’s work hours and vehicle speed – one using an onboard ‘black box’ or electronic log, and one which makes use of the Global Positioning System (GPS);
  • The construction of more heavy vehicle rest stops and parking areas along our highways and on the outskirts of our major cities; and
  • Upgrades to freight routes so they can carry bigger loads.

It is our intention to directly involve the trucking industry in the process of putting the available funds to the best possible use.

At the same time we will work with the states and territories to investigate the introduction of mandatory, periodic health checks for heavy vehicle drivers,  as well as undertake further work on new national standards for random drug and alcohol testing.

At present, the small minority of truck drivers that don’t follow the rules threaten the safety of all road users – including themselves – and leave responsible truck drivers at a competitive disadvantage.

As well as improving road safety, our Plan will help lift national productivity by funding upgrades to the road network such as the strengthening of bridges.

This targeted investment in the road network will open more roads to heavy vehicles, freeing up the movement of freight across the country and easing congestion.

This much greater investment in road safety and transport productivity has been made possible by today’s agreement amongst the nation’s transport ministers to overhaul and introduce fairer heavy vehicle charges.

Under the new regime recommended by the National Transport Commission (NTC), registration fees for 25 percent of the nation’s 365,000 heavy vehicles will be cut, while the fees on 69 per cent of the fleet will rise by between one and ten percent.

While larger increases are proposed for the six percent of heavy vehicles that currently don’t pay their fair share, they will be phased-in over three years to minimise the impact on the industry.

The component of the heavy vehicle charge collected by the Commonwealth from fuel used by trucks and buses – the Road User Charge – will be increased by 1.367 cents per litre and indexed to cover future road costs.

After discussions with the industry, as well as my state and territory colleagues, it has been decided that the increase to the Road User Charge will take effect from 1 January 2009 – not 1 July 2008 as recommended by the NTC.

It is important that heavy vehicles pay their fair share of road construction costs as well as for the damage they do to the road network – a principle embraced by successive governments as well as the transport industry.

At present this is not happening.

In December 2006, the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Road and Rail Infrastructure concluded the existing charges are insufficient and that the heaviest vehicles are not paying for the damage they cause, while lighter trucks are paying too much.

The increase in the Road User Charge will ensure all heavy vehicles types pay their fair share and will have only a marginal impact on a vehicle’s operating costs.

I also note that the Charge has not been increased for seven years.

We have carefully considered the proposed changes taking into account industry and stakeholder feedback, received during the consultation period that followed the release of the draft Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) last July.

While a 2010 national target of 5.6 deaths per 100,000 was agreed to by the previous government, the eventual figure is likely to be much higher with the current rate sitting at 7.7.

The annual economic cost of road accidents – in terms of loss of life, injury and damage to public and private infrastructure – is estimated at $18 billion and rising.

Jan 21, 2008

Rudd Government to dramatically overhaul national infrastructure policy

Rudd Government to dramatically overhaul national infrastructure policy

Kevin Rudd – Prime Minister

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport

Regional Development and Local Government

21 January 2008

Federal Cabinet today formally approved the establishment of Infrastructure Australia, a key driver in the Rudd Government’s plan to fight inflation.

Infrastructure Australia will help fight inflation by boosting the economy’s productive capacity, unlocking infrastructure bottlenecks like clogged ports and congested roads.

Infrastructure Australia represents a dramatic shift in national economic policy, bringing national leadership to infrastructure development for the first time since Federation.

Legislation establishing Infrastructure Australia will be introduced during the first session of the new Parliament.

The Rudd Government will develop a strategic blueprint for Australia’s infrastructure needs and ensure future projects are determined by economic, social, and environmental needs – not short-term political interests.

Infrastructure Australia will be a statutory advisory council with twelve members drawn from industry, government and local government. This will include five from the private sector, one of whom will be the chair. Infrastructure Australia will:

  • Conduct audits to determine the adequacy, capacity and condition of nationally significant infrastructure, including transport, water, communications and energy.
  • Develop an Infrastructure Priority List to guide billions of dollars of public and private investment.
  • Provide advice to governments, investors and owners of infrastructure on regulatory reforms that can improve the utilisation of our infrastructure networks.

Infrastructure Australia’s immediate task will be to audit the nation’s infrastructure shortfalls and produce an Infrastructure Priority List to guide billions of dollars of public and private investment.

The first Infrastructure Priority List will be completed within 12 months. In developing the List, Infrastructure Australia will assess projects in terms of specific goals, such as:

  • Meeting water and energy needs;
  • Saving time for commuters battling traffic congestion in our major cities
  • Efficiently moving freight from regional areas to our ports.
  • Meeting the challenge of climate change

Infrastructure Australia will also review the extent to which governments can better facilitate infrastructure investment, including through public-private partnerships as well as better planning and approval processes.

The task ahead for Infrastructure Australia is considerable.

The OECD ranks Australia 20th out 25 countries when it comes to investment in public infrastructure as a proportion of national income.

For 11 years the Howard-Costello Government failed to act on Australia’s infrastructure needs.

The Rudd Government is committed to investing in Australia’s future and addressing our nation’s long-term infrastructure bottlenecks.