OPENING ADDRESS TO INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT FORUM’S TASKFORCE
27 January 2009
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,
Regional Development and Local Government,
Leader of the House,
Federal Member for Grayndler
Before I begin, I would like to thank Jack Short for the invitation to speak today, and to thank you for choosing Sydney as the venue for this important seminar.
This is the first time the International Transport Forum (ITF)* have held a meeting in Australia.
As Australia’s first Federal Minister for Infrastructure, I am honoured to be able to be here this morning to welcome you and to open proceedings for what I am sure will be very stimulating and productive discussions.
These discussions which will provide valuable input into the May 2009 Forum in Leipzig.
Australia has a long standing relationship with your organisation – first as an Associate Member of your predecessor, the European Conference of Ministers of Transport, and more recently as a full member of the ITF.
Your topic over the next two days, Transport and Globalisation, is one which resonates strongly in Australia.
Mainland Australia with an area of 7.69 million square kilometres is the Earth’s largest island.
The east-west road journey from Sydney to Perth is a distance of 3,972 kms – roughly comparable to a trip between New York and Los Angeles, or from Dublin to Cairo.
The more frequently travelled north-south journey from Brisbane to Sydney, is 1,246 kms, around the same distance as the journey from Berlin to Rome.
Not only do we battle with the tyranny of distance for domestic travel and freight movement, we are heavily dependent on air and sea routes to connect us with the global community.
To a large degree, Australia has overcome the challenges of dealing with distance through innovative planning, continuous upgrading of transport policies, and a wide range of intelligent transport technologies that have streamlined logistics.
The Rudd Government recognises that efficient transport systems, supported by appropriate infrastructure, are the life blood that keeps our domestic and international supply chain functioning.
They are also vital to the environmental and economic sustainability and social well being of our communities.
In common with many other countries, our transport, energy, water and communications infrastructure, is ageing.
It has suffered from more than a decade of under investment and neglect, and, as a result, has not kept pace with industry and community needs.
That is why, on coming to office just over a year ago, the Rudd Government made infrastructure investment a key national priority.
This recognised that unless we took action, unless we adopted a fresh approach – a national approach – to issues such as infrastructure maintenance and development, urban congestion, climate change, transport harmonisation and safety and security regulations – our future prosperity would suffer.
To meet these challenges we embarked on a bold, multi-pronged and innovative strategy.
As a first step, we established a new independent statutory advisory body, Infrastructure Australia.
This body was charged with creating a priority list for the nation’s transport, energy, communications and water infrastructure needs.
An interim priority list was provided to the Government in December, with the final list to be provided to the Council of Australian Governments in coming months.
The development of the priority list marks a new, innovative approach to infrastructure investment as it has been developed by representatives of all spheres of government and the private sector.
It will provide a pipeline of projects that both Governments and the private sector can utilise when making investment decisions.
The establishment of the Building Australia Fund in last year’s budget, with an initial injection of $12.6 billion, indicated our strong commitment to investing in our infrastructure and leveraging private sector funds to stimulate the infrastructure sector, and the economy more broadly.
Partnerships between the private and public sectors will play an important role in delivering infrastructure projects.
For this reason, one of Infrastructure Australia’s first tasks was to develop streamlined, best practice guidelines for public-private partnerships.
These were adopted by COAG ahead of schedule last November.
In addition, in our first Budget, delivered in May last year, we committed $3.2 billion in nation building roads and rail projects and $75 million to enable the states to undertake a series of extensive studies into landmark projects to ease urban congestion by developing better road and rail access to our vital import/export hubs.
We built on this in December with the announcement of $1.2 billion in rail infrastructure investment, the bring forward of $711 million in road spending to this financial year and next, and the more than doubling of funding for the Black Spots program, as part of our $4.7 billion nation building package to strengthen the Australian economy and create Australian jobs.
The Government will make further announcements about nation building projects, funded from the Building Australia Fund, and subject to the Infrastructure Australia priority list, early this year.
The Government has also made it clear that infrastructure investment alone is not enough – it must be accompanied by reforms to streamline regulation and maximise the efficiency of the industry.
That is why we are also working with state and territory transport ministers towards establishing Australia’s first National Transport Strategy, including streamlining regulation for road, rail, heavy vehicles and the maritime sector.
We are making good progress towards achieving this goal.
The Government also recognises the critical importance of Australia’s aviation industry.
As I said earlier, we are dependent on maritime and aviation routes to keep us connected to the global community.
We understand, clearly and fundamentally, that the aviation industry faces a number of global challenges, not least of which are unpredictable economic challenges as a result of the global financial crisis, fluctuating fuel prices, slowing traffic growth and aviation emissions.
Australia’s airlines cannot expect to be isolated from global events.
On a positive note, we have signed “Open Skies” agreements with the United States, Malaysia, Thailand and South Africa.
These agreements are among the most liberal bilateral agreements in the world, including ‘stand alone’ or ‘seventh freedom’ cargo only services which will provide great opportunities for increasing trade and commercial links.
Negotiations are also underway on a comprehensive air services agreement with the European Union to replace the current bilateral agreements with EU Member States and I had a positive bilateral meeting with EC Vice President and Transport Commissioner Tajani in Tokyo two weeks ago.
In tandem with these agreements, we are working towards Australia’s first National Aviation Policy which I expect to be finalised later this year.
Following consideration of submissions from all stakeholders, I was pleased to launch the National Aviation Policy Green Paper in December last year.
This is the first step towards a comprehensive, long term plan for an industry which underpins economic growth, supports more than half a million jobs and contributes $6.4 billion to Australia’s economy.
The Green Paper also proposes measures which seek to balance the need for additional aviation infrastructure with the effects that expansion can have on the environment and the communities living close to airports.
In preparing for future challenges in the transport sector, climate change cannot be ignored.
I have recently returned from Japan where I attended the Ministerial Conference on Global Environment and Energy.
While there, I held a number of discussions with my counterparts on how Australia is preparing to meet these challenges.
I would like to take a few moments to share with you snapshot of Australia’s approach.
One of the first actions the Rudd Government took on coming to office was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
This was a landmark moment for our country.
It signalled to the rest of the world that Australia is serious about playing a part in a global solution on climate change.
In Australia, the transport sector contributes around 14 percent of our total emissions, and is the second fastest growing source of emissions.
Accordingly transport – minus international aviation and maritime, which are being dealt with at the multilateral level through the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation – has been included in Australia’s new Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme which we will introduce in 2010.
This scheme will make industries pay for the carbon pollution they generate.
Introducing a cost for carbon will act as a powerful incentive for industry, to reduce their emissions and encourage them to invest in new, clean and renewable technology.
It will also result in the pursuit of the most cost-effective carbon reductions.
The Australian Government is also using the APEC forum to work with our Asia Pacific neighbours to find ways to minimise aviation’s carbon footprint.
I’m pleased to say this has led to a new APEC Aviation Emissions Taskforce.
We are also pushing ahead with a number of practical measures to reduce emissions from aircraft.
For example, we are working with air traffic service providers in New Zealand and the United States to put in place more efficient flight paths across the Pacific, with the aim of cutting emissions from aircraft that fly between these three countries.
GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS
We are living in turbulent and unpredictable times and climate change is not our only major global challenge.
Clearly, the global financial crisis and its impact on Australia as a member of the global village – a global village created to a large degree by advances in transport where distance is no longer a barrier – is a major concern for the Rudd Government, as it is for all governments and all nations.
We have been battered but we are not beaten.
While many of the global difficulties are outside Australia’s control, we have strong financial management and what we are doing is investing in those things that are going to help keep us strong.
As I have already outlined, we are investing in the critical infrastructure projects across Australia that are driving our economy forward and boosting our nation’s productivity.
We have further indicated our commitment to taking further action to stimulate the economy as required.
As a group of countries joined by our commitment to create competitive transport services that operate securely and sustainably, we must resist pressure to respond to the current crisis by increasing protectionism or delaying action on other important challenges, such as climate change.
Strong, coordinated action will secure our recovery.
Efficient transport infrastructure systems have a pivotal role to play in this.
In closing today I would like to make a call for action.
We all agree that efficient transport is a cornerstone of our global economy.
You will meet in Leipzig in May to focus on the challenges and opportunities for the transport sector in the global economy.
It is critical that the forum translates the valuable research, debate and discussion stemming from this and coming seminars and meetings into sound, practical actions that governments can adopt, adapt and put into practice.
We must think globally and act locally.
We need to work together to forge solutions. We need smart research to inform smart industry practice and smart policies.
I trust that the progress over the next two days of meetings will bring credit to the combined efforts of all those involved in achieving this inaugural International Transport Forum assembly in Australia.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.