Mar 16, 2012

Speech to Business & Industry Forum – Over the Horizon

Goldfields – Esperance

It is most exciting to be here in the great town of Esperance.

I think the first time I became conscious of the existence of Esperance was in 1979 when you copped a serious piece of transport infrastructure falling down from the sky.

The arrival of great chunks of Skylab wasn’t exactly NASA’s finest hour.

I agree your council had every right to issue that fine of $400 for littering to the United States Government.

Well before Skylab entered your radar, I understand the Dutch passed by here in the early 1600s, the French in the late 1700s and finally that great English navigator and

cartographer Matthew Flinders in 1802.

A couple of centuries later, and Esperance is the heart of a region of enormous opportunity.

Our job is to make sure it is in the best possible position to make the most of that opportunity.

That’s why I was delighted this morning to turn the first sod on the $120 million Port Access Corridor.

It’s a 50/50 partnership between the Federal and WA Governments and is the first stage of a $300 million upgrade that will vastly improve the port’s capacity to handle the growth of trade through the region.

It will ensure that road and rail access – and port capacity – keep pace with the growing resources sector, while preserving the safety and liveability for local residents.

It will eliminate conflict between road and rail by removing two level crossings.

And there will be two new overhead bridges so that locals can easily walk and drive around the town.

PortLink

I am delighted this morning to be able to make an important announcement.

The Gillard Labor Government has agreed to allocate $2 million for something that has been at least two decades in the making – the Portlink project.

Known formally as the Portlink Inland Freight Corridor Plan, it uses Kalgoorlie as a hub and links the road and rail networks leading from Kalgoorlie  to the ports of Port Hedland, Oakajee, Fremantle and to here in Esperance.

The initial funding is for the necessary scoping studies – because it’s a complex project and we need to get it right.

What it will mean is the opening up of the remote central region of Western Australia – some of the most productive, resource rich land in Australia.

Kalgoorlie will be able to compete with Perth as a hub for the passage of minerals to our ports, significantly reducing freight costs and offering opportunities for new freight carriers to enter the market.

Perth will benefit with reduced congestion from unnecessary journeys.

Not only will existing rail lines be improved, there will be an entirely new line between the Goldfields and the Mid West and Pilbara regions.

In this way, much of the freight can move by rail, taking big trucks from the road and improving efficiency at the ports themselves.

Of course, removing big trucks from the roads improves safety and helps curb our carbon output.

It’s an intelligent project that will vastly improve this State’s freight handling capacity.

It will also mean more business for your port here at Esperance, with all the jobs and opportunities that go with that.

National Ports and Freight Strategy

The fact is your port here in Esperance and the other 41 that dot our vast coastline will collectively be required to cope with a tripling of our freight load over the next two decades.

The affect of this growth on the Australian economy will be massive.

It will mean jobs, higher productivity and better opportunities right across the country.

But those benefits will only be realised if we make the right decisions now.

When this Government was elected, we realised that productivity was being severely hindered by bottlenecks at our ports.

Opportunities – particularly those from the resources boom – were being squandered, costing us billions of dollars in lost export revenue.

The upgrade here in Esperance is a great example of putting into practice the goals of our National Ports Strategy – to enhance productivity and capacity at our ports, to

untangle congestion of the so-called ‘last mile’, and to improve the liveability for people who live nearby.

Our strategy calls on each port to develop a 50 year strategic plan including road and rail access, getting these frameworks right for the future.

The Ports Strategy goes hand-in-hand with our National Freight Strategy – both blueprints guiding investment in our national transport network.

RLCIP

Just like the development of the Port Access Corridor, this morning’s forum is also the result of a partnership.

A very positive and active partnership between the Esperance Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Esperance-Goldfields RDA and the Esperance-Goldfields Development Commission.

I am here today in my role as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

Last time I met many of you here today I was wearing two additional hats — those of Local Government and Regional Development.

In November 2008, I joined more than 400 mayors and shire presidents at Parliament House for the inaugural meeting of the Australian Council for Local Government.

Global economic fragility, climate change and neglected infrastructure networks demanded we work better together.

The Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program (RLCIP) totalled $1.1 billion and played a crucial role during the GFC keeping Australians employed on at least 6,000

projects right across Australia.

Here in the Goldfields-Esperance region, your nine shires received almost $5 million for 38 projects.

WA ACHIEVEMENTS

Through the six-year Nation Building Program the Gillard Labor Government is investing a record $3.7 billion to renew and expand Western Australia’s road and rail

infrastructure – almost twice what the former Howard Government spent over a similar period of time.

We’re also investing almost $23 million over five years in this region through Roads to Recovery, and a further $1.3 million in the Black Spot Program in Coolgardie, Leonora

and Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

We’ve also upgraded two rest areas for heavy vehicles near Coolgardie and on the Eyre Highway east of Norseman – making our highways safer by improving rest opportunities

for our truck drivers.

Let me look briefly now at the Regional Development Australia Fund – a topic of particular interest to you.

Projects from this fund are intended to build on the unique qualities and potential of each region.

This morning I visited the site for the Esperance foreshore revitalisation.

I was interested to learn it is one of three projects to have proceeded to the full application stage for Round Two of the Fund.

Finally, in this long list of good news for WA is the Regional Infrastructure Fund which is injecting $6 billion over the next ten years into communities supporting the mining industry.

CONCLUSION

As it is St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, I’ll risk an Irish pun and say that you are not on your Pat Malone.

The Federal Government is right behind you.

There is clearly great passion among you all for this energetic go-ahead region.

You are doing this the right way – with strong public/private working partnerships to tackle the challenges ahead of you.

You stand as a great example to the rest of Australia.

Thank you.