Speech to 2011 Australian Trucking Convention – Working with the Trucking Industry to Raise Productivity
National Convention Centre, Canberra
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
Minister for Infrastructure & Transport
Leader of the House
Member for Grayndler
26 May 2011
Thank you for the warm welcome – and good afternoon everyone.
Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal people – the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.
I also want to acknowledge:
- ATA board members and councillors
- Arne Knaben, president and CEO of Volvo Group Australia and the representatives of the other ATA Foundation Sponsors; and finally,
- the founders of the ATA, who have gathered here this year to mark the association’s 20th anniversary.
It is a measure of your commitment to the industry’s safety and professionalism that you have stayed involved for all these years.
I’d like to start by thanking you for this chance to bring you up to date on the Australian Government’s land transport reforms.
An agenda with two big aims:
- delivering higher productivity in our vital freight sector
- improving safety for the men and women who work with heavy vehicles.
This is an important gathering — the peak national forum for the freight and trucking industry.
You are the people who keep this country moving.
You are the people who keep our towns and cities connected.
You are the people who move goods from the farm gate to the factories, to the shops and the ports.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the future prosperity of this country rests squarely on the shoulders of your industry.
Because it is your industry that will be called on to meet and service the growth in interstate and international trade.
Our international trade alone is scheduled to double by 2030, and triple by 2050.
In the 1990s, thanks to the reforms of the Hawke-Keating governments, Australia was near the top of the world when it came to productivity growth.
Since then, Australia’s productivity growth has dropped from 2 per cent in the 1990s to just 1.4 per cent today.
This is the lowest average in half a century.
The Gillard Government is absolutely clear that a key to reversing this, are improvements to our infrastructure and transport systems.
That’s why right now we have underway an enormous reform agenda, with a record investment of $27 billion in this nation’s roads.
We know that higher productivity can be achieved:
- by reducing costs and red tape through the introduction of single national regulators.
- by making our roads safer with betters conditions for drivers
- and by replacing Australia’s ageing truck fleet with newer, cleaner more fuel-efficient vehicles.
OUR INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT AGENDA
Let us look at the ways this Government is supporting your sector.
And I must say it’s an exciting and busy time to be the Federal Transport Minister.
We are tending to the nation’s immediate transport infrastructure needs with our giant Nation Building Program which we announced in 2008 to improve our roads, rail and ports.
It is the largest transport infrastructure investment in Australian history.
In total, there are 158 major road and rail projects underway in every State and Territory in the country.
We have also addressed more than 600 black spots and dangerous rail crossings.
I am particularly proud that the Budget provides more than $1 billion additional funding for the Pacific Highway bringing our total commitment to $4.1 billion.
This is three times more than the Coalition Government spent during its time in office.
It’s now 22 years since 57 people died in two terrible bus crashes on the Pacific Highway.
It’s a sad reflection on governments of all persuasions that despite coronial inquiries urging that duplication of this highway, it is still not done.
The Gillard Government is committed to completing this work by 2016 and talks are underway with the NSW Government to make this happen.
And in the recent Budget, we announced that five projects along Queensland’s Bruce Highway that we thought would have to be deferred to free-up skilled workers and funds for the urgent repair task after the floods, would now proceed as originally scheduled.
So you can see, it’s a busy time in my portfolio.
The stark facts are that when Labor came to office in 2007 infrastructure development and nation building was not on the agenda.
Australia ranked 20th out of 25 OECD countries when it came to investing in public infrastructure as a proportion of national income.
This lack of investment was cutting almost one percent off annual growth.
Put simply, many of our roads and rail networks were not capable of meeting the demands of the rapidly growing Australian economy.
In three years, we have turned this around by lifting expenditure on public infrastructure as a proportion of national income by more than 30 percent.
We know there’s still a lot of work to be done.
And we always said it would take more than one or two parliamentary terms to put right a decade of neglect.
That’s why during the course of our second term we are building on our program of reform and investment.
We are now finalising the implementation plan for the first ever National Ports Strategy which the Prime Minister and I launched in January.
We have released the draft of the first ever National Freight Strategy.
These are long term blueprints which will guide future public and private investment in our roads, railways and ports.
They include plans for Australia’s first truly national, integrated freight system, linked by a series of intermodals.
So, faster, smoother movement of freight around our nation, saving the transport industry time and money.
SMART MOTORWAYS AND NATIONAL REGULATORS
The Gillard Government’s productivity agenda is not merely about new infrastructure.
It’s about getting more out of our assets through use of smart infrastructure and better regulation.
In the Budget we announced $61 million to invest in Smart Motorways, where data sensors on our major highways can improve real time vehicle movements.
The technology improves the speed and flow of traffic, reducing the stop-start behaviour of congested roads, reducing accidents and harmful emissions.
We are also tackling something that has beset the transport industry since Federation.
I probably don’t need to remind any of you here today about the multitude of transport safety laws in Australia.
They differ with each State and Territory – and just to improve matters – the Commonwealth has some too!
So, competing and sometimes contradictory rules requiring mounds of red-tape and excessive compliance costs.
Just a couple of examples – fatigue rules vary greatly, depending which state you’re driving through on any given day.
And on some roads, B-doubles are fine, but drive across the border on the same road and you’re breaking the law.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics estimates that transport regulatory reform will deliver up to $30 billion in economic benefit and productivity over the next 20 years.
That is why we are working towards the introduction in 2013 of single national safety regulators – three in total – one for heavy vehicles, one for rail safety and one for maritime safety.
I note that Richard Hancock, the head of the NHVR Project Office who addressed you earlier this afternoon has described this reform as a victory for common sense.
A single regulator for heavy vehicles that has taken only 110 years to achieve!
Ministers will vote on the new national laws in November and the Bill will be introduced into the Queensland Parliament by the end of the year, providing the model for the other states to follow.
I call on all of you here today to help back in this important reform.
We cannot allow state governments to delay – together we need to remind them why businesses and truck drivers deserve reform.
A GREENER TRUCK FLEET
Let’s turn now to the health of our national fleet.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that the average Australian truck is more than 14 years old.
In Western Europe, North America or Japan, this figure is around eight years.
Because of their age, almost half our trucks are not subject to modern emissions standards.
The Truck Industry Council estimates they emit on average the same particulate matter as 60 new Euro 5 trucks – let me repeat that – 60 modern trucks.
Climate change is affecting all of us.
Every industry needs to get its own house in order for the good of the country, for the good of our planet.
HEAVY VEHICLE REST AREAS
Many drivers will have noticed the work we have done to improve rest stops.
We’re spending $70 million over four years to upgrade 104 existing stops and to build 47 new ones.
Long distance truck driving is a tough and often lonely job that takes you away from your home and your family.
A safe spot to park your vehicle with toilets and washing facilities is one way this Government can help make the job a little easier.
And of course, a decent rest means a safer trip for drivers and everyone else on the road.
Finally, let’s look more closely at road safety — something I know is close to all your hearts.
Every day on average, four people are killed and 80 people are seriously injured on our roads.
Annually, this translates to 1,400 lives lost and 32,000 hospitalised due to road crashes.
These figures are staggering and there’s barely a family in the country that has not been touched in some way by a road tragedy.
The annual cost to our economy is estimated to be around $27 billion.
The Government does not believe these figures are acceptable.
We don’t believe any death on the roads is acceptable.
Just last week, my Parliamentary Secretary, Catherine King, released a strategy to address this national problem over the next decade.
It has been developed by all states and territories and puts forwards a range of practical and evidence-based steps that can help us create a genuinely safe system of road travel.
But governments cannot achieve this alone.
Road safety is a shared responsibility.
And I’d like to thank those of you here today who contributed to the public consultation process so far.
This Government will never cease in our efforts to build a stronger, fairer, more productive Australia.
And I know it’s a goal that we share with you, the transport industry.
I’ve outlined this afternoon just some of the reforms that we have underway right now.
And I hope you understand why I said at the outset that it is a great time to be the federal minister responsible for them.
Whatever area of Australia’s vital transport industry you come from, I look forward to working with you as we achieve these reforms together.
I’ll finish by saying that on the way in this afternoon, I caught a brief glimpse of some big rigs you’ve got parked out the back.
Good luck with the remainder of the week’s program — including tonight’s outback party and auction.
Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you today.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.