Jan 7, 2011

Reforming Australia’s International Trade ‘Gateways’

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese released the National Ports Strategy today at Kwinana Port in Western Australia.

Australia’s first ever National Ports Strategy will provide a new foundation for higher productivity and faster economic growth across Australia by improving the design, planning and performance of our ports.

The volume of trade moving through our biggest ports is expected to triple over the next 20 years. It is time for the way we plan and oversee our ports to change.

The National Ports Strategy aims to bring about that change by focusing on four key outcomes:

  1. Better long term planning on the waterfront: In addition to short and medium term planning, operators will be required to publish 15 to 30 year master plans detailing the expected growth in trade activity at their ports as well as the facilities that will be required to handle that growth.
  2. Better planning around the ports: To give operators the certainty to enact their master plans and expand their port’s capacity when required, state and local planning authorities will be asked to implement “buffer” strategies to prevent urban encroachment not only on the ports within their jurisdictions but also the road and rail corridors into and out of them.
  3. A streamlined environmental approval process: So as to prevent unnecessary delay in the delivery on new port facilities, the Commonwealth will ensure that its environmental assessment process is carried out concurrently with those of the states.
  4. A greater focus on performance: For the first time in our history there will be a national data collection system, with the performance of our ports regularly measured and compared to their international counterparts.

Until now, there has been no national or coordinated approach to the development of the nation’s ports. Significantly, no other major advanced economy has been able to implement a national approach to the development of their port infrastructure.

The absence of a national coordinated approach has prevented some ports from expanding because not enough land was set aside for growth. Also, too little thought has gone into planning the road and rail links needed to support their activities.

The resulting bottlenecks at these international gateways are hurting Australia’s economic performance, causing lower productivity, slower growth and the loss of billions of dollars in export earnings.

The Federal Government commissioned Infrastructure Australia and the National Transport Commission to develop the strategy.

The strategy, which will require Governments to plan for the long term and gives industry the certainty to invest in ports, will now be submitted to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) for endorsement.

The Strategy is all about building a partnership between industry and all three levels of government to guide the long term expansion and investment in our nation’s ports and supporting transport infrastructure.

For a trading island nation like Australia the economic importance of our ports cannot be overstated. Already, they manage 10 per cent of the world’s sea trade and almost all our imports and exports flow through them.

Together with the creation of a single national maritime regulator, our reforms to Australian shipping and our unprecedented capital works program, this Strategy will provide a new foundation for higher productivity and faster economic growth.

For more information on the strategy visit www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au