Feb 22, 2011

Speech to Australian Logistics Council Forum

Speech to Australian Logistics Council Forum

Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure & Transport

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

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.

However, over the past decade we’ve slipped down the global rankings to the point where our average productivity growth has sunk below that of the US, UK and Japan.

It has plunged from 2 per cent in the 1990s to just 1.4 per cent today.

This is the lowest average in half a century.

If we could turn this around and raise productivity to average two per cent over the next 40 years, then living standards would be 15 per cent higher, or around $16,000 for every Australian.

Central to achieving this, of course, is a first-class infrastructure and transport system.

That is why, when the Government was elected in 2007, one of our priorities was to address the 11 years of neglect by the former Howard Coalition Government where we were ranked 20th out of 25 OECD nations when it came to investing in public infrastructure as a proportion of national income.

Our first step to reverse this parlous position was to get the policy right.

We did this by:

  • Forming a new Department of Infrastructure
  • Appointing the nation’s first Infrastructure Minister
  • Creating Infrastructure Australia (an idea that has since been copied by State and international governments)
  • Having Infrastructure Australia audit our infrastructure needs and publish the first list of nationally significant projects
  • Setting up the Building Australia Fund to support infrastructure investment
  • Issuing our first major Public Private Partnerships policy, to make it easier and cheaper for the private sector to partner with governments
  • Developing a strategy to revitalise Australian shipping
  • Developing national ports and freight strategies, and
  • Reaching agreement through COAG for the implementation of National Regulators for maritime, rail and heavy vehicles.

So, an extremely busy and productive first term.

We are tending to the nation’s immediate infrastructure needs with our $37 billion Nation Building Program to improve our roads, rail and ports. This is the largest ever infrastructure investment program and includes 158 major projects.

We have doubled the roads budget.

We have increased rail by more than 10 times.

We have rebuilt one third of the interstate rail freight network.

We have delivered the heavy vehicle productivity and safety package.

So much achieved, but so much more to be done.

This first term agenda has provided the foundation stones for building our second term productivity agenda.

Our productivity agenda will include a clear focus on the nation’s transport and logistics industry, the lifeblood of our nation’s economy.

Your sector generates up to 14.5% of Australia’s GDP and employs in excess of a million people across 165,000 companies.

Efficiencies in this sector result in cheaper costs for consumers and national productivity gains.

What we will be delivering over the next three years is a comprehensive plan for Australia’s transport and landside and portside infrastructure.

This agenda has four elements:

  • The National Ports Strategy
  • The National Freight Network Strategy
  • The National Transport Reforms that will establish national regulators for heavy vehicles, rail and maritime safety, and
  • The shipping reforms.

Draft national freight strategy

Today I am releasing for public feedback the draft National Freight Strategy, a blue print for a truly national, integrated and multimodal system capable of moving goods from point A to point B quickly, reliably and efficiently.

Based on the identified weaknesses with Australia’s existing infrastructure and regulatory regime, the draft Strategy proposes the following actions:

One national, integrated system, which will identify the existing and yet-to-be built roads, rail lines, intermodals, ports and airports which will link together to form a workable, truly national freight network.

As part of this process, consideration would be given to opening up more roads to bigger vehicles, establishing dedicated freight routes and separating passenger trains from freight trains.

Effective local planning is needed to protect the network’s land corridors from urban encroachment and make sure they are not lost to other activities.

In the longer term, such preservation efforts will save money, ensure the timely delivery of new or upgraded infrastructure and minimise conflict within the local community.

We need long term, targeted funding to put in place a long term capital works program which prioritise projects of greatest strategic importance and draws on the financial resources of both the public and private sectors.

The strategy also highlights the benefits and cost-effectiveness of using new technology to get the most out of existing infrastructure.

We need to reform the way our $61 billion transport industry is regulated, with the ultimate goal of replacing the existing state based arrangements with one set of nationwide laws.

Based on our work to date, national regulators for maritime safety, rail safety and heavy vehicles will be in place by the beginning of 2013.

I’d like to see greater accountability with better data collection and benchmarks to monitor performance and make international comparisons.

I urge all of you to take part in its development in coming months. Submissions close at the end of April.

We are also investing in the National Broadband Network.

Universal, high speed broadband will be a platform for ‘smart infrastructure’ that will transform the way we work, the way we deliver transport services, and the way we use our infrastructure networks.

Smart technologies will turbocharge our economy and assist in managing urban congestion.

The National Freight Strategy builds on the Government’s National Ports Strategy.

Two weeks ago COAG agreed to finalise the National Ports Strategy and its implementation arrangements by August this year.

Since European settlement Australia’s pattern of industry and population has grown around its ports.

The interaction between them, their surrounding communities and the national economy is becoming ever more complex.

Our strategy is not a federal takeover of ports or any other existing state function.

It is a guiding strategy.

It is a national effort to lift the performance of our ports.

And it is the cornerstone of a more productive national freight system.

Its focus is:

  1. Transparent, coordinated planning of port infrastructure and land transport linkages
  2. Planning that includes areas around ports, protecting the option for port expansion and integrating transport investment plans
  3. Streamlined planning and environmental approval processes, and
  4. Measuring performance so that we can get valid national and international comparisons.

The Gillard Government’s productivity agenda is not merely about building road and rail.

It is also about instituting legislative and regulatory reforms that reduce the burden of red tape.

For the 110 years since Federation, we have suffered the inefficiencies of competing jurisdictions.

I probably don’t need to remind any of you here today that here are 23 regulators for maritime, rail and heavy vehicles – in a country of 22 million people.

The Gillard Government’s commitment to delivering a seamless national economy is about addressing these often farcical arrangements that cost our productivity and our national growth.

According to a 2006 Productivity Commission study, creating a seamless national economy will increase Australia’s gross domestic product by two per cent and increase annual GDP by as much as $2.4 billion.

That is why we are committed to creating single national regulators for heavy vehicles, rail and maritime safety.

Of course, you would all be aware that we are also looking at a package of reforms to our shipping sector.

Other developed countries have embarked on successful programs to rebuild their shipping industries.

There are considerable economic, security and environmental benefits that come from a competitive shipping sector.

Without reform to this important transport sector, the Gillard Government believes Australia risks becoming nothing more than a customer of others.

In November last year the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced that 2011 will be a year of delivery and decision for the Government.

This is certainly true in the case of my portfolio of Infrastructure and Transport.

For the first time, we are providing the Australian people with comprehensive set of plans to overhaul our transport and logistics infrastructure.

With our $37 billion National Building Program – that is tackling bottlenecks and building much needed new road and rail right across the country – we are preparing this country for the future.

I look forward to your help as we achieve this goal together.