The Pavilion, Newcastle Jockey Club
Thank you for the invitation John Beer (National President, ALRTA) to address the Australian Livestock and Rural Transport Association National Conference.
You represent the life blood of Australia’s freight network.
There are approximately 597,000 registered trucks in Australia.
That fleet travels a combined 16.1 billion kilometres per year.
Delivering more than 70 per cent of Australia’s domestic freight.
More important than the vehicles you drive are the people who drive them and all those who work in related jobs that your industry creates.
The Australian road transport industry employs more than 220,000 people.
You are the vital link between our factories and our cities, between our farms and mines and our ports.
This importance is reflected in the issues to be discussed at this Conference for the next two days.
Indeed, looking at this Conference’s program I couldn’t help but note how much of it deals with the very agenda that I have been pursuing as Infrastructure and Transport Minister since 2007.
Whether it is the establishment of the national heavy vehicle regulator, the national port and freight strategies, road safety, chain of responsibility, fatigue management, the heavy vehicle investment and charges board or the heavy vehicle safety and productivity program.
The one thing that these policies have in common, other than trying to make your job a little easier and a lot safer, is that they have all been delivered.
The past 5 years will be looked back on as one of the most remarkable periods of reform in Australia’s heavy vehicle history.
I would like to quickly take you through what all this means to the members of your Association
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator opened its doors on 21 January this year.
The second law, the one that gives the heavy vehicle regulator its powers, was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 14 February.
Just last Monday, the regulations were adopted unanimously by the Nation’s Transport Ministers in a special SCOTI teleconference.
This reform makes a practical difference for our nation’s truck drivers and heavy vehicle industry.
Combined with the national rail safety and maritime regulators, this reform reduces the number of transport regulators from 23 to three, with projected economic benefits of $30 billion over the next 20 years.
It means that interstate drivers will no longer have to carry around multiple folders holding all the permits, records and all the other reams of paperwork that are required by each and every state.
It will no longer be necessary for each State’s legal approvals to be carried.
There will be a single national approval for each type of truck to operate nationwide.
No more will heavy vehicle drivers have to deal with different weight regulations in different states.
No more will a B-Double livestock transporter be allowed to carry 66 cattle while in Queensland but only 60 in New South Wales; necessitating either lower productivity in Queensland or the unloading of 6 cattle at the QLD/NSW border.
These reforms are about making a real difference for the working men and women of our transport industry.
National Ports and Freight Strategies
I also want to outline the significance of Infrastructure Australia’s development of the national ports and national freight strategies.
These are long term blueprints which will guide future public and private investment in our roads, railways and ports.
What this will provide for the people of Australia is:
- a freeing up of bottlenecks at our ports
- planning certainty for long-term expansion at and around our ports, and
- the first truly national, integrated freight system, linked by a series of intermodals.
These intermodals – or freight transfer points – mean that goods going to or coming from our ports, or from interstate via the national road and rail network, will be redirected to their ultimate destination in the fastest time, with the minimum of handling.
So faster, smoother movement of freight around our nation, reducing freight bottlenecks and saving the transport industry and you time and money.
Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program
Then there is the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program.
This program is the first Commonwealth dedicated program of its kind and I am proud to have started it in 2008 and to ensure it continues to improve safety for our truck drivers.
In last year’s budget we announced a $140 million extension to this program to allow the continued construction of rest areas, parking and decoupling bays, road enhancement projects and technology trials and projects aimed squarely at improving safety and productivity.
This additional funding brings the total program to $220 million and builds on the 236 projects already delivered including 95 new or upgraded rest areas and 45 new or upgraded parking/decoupling bays.
We did this because we know that fatigue is a killer on the road and by delivering modern rest areas truck drivers can take a break, meaning everyone on the road is safer–in crashes involving trucks a car will come off worse.
Your Association remains a strong and persistent advocate for this program.
As a direct consequence of ALRTA’s representations, in September last year I announced an additional $10 million for the program.
This $10 million was for the sole purpose of improving livestock transport facilities.
My Department has now completed discussions with the councils and companies that made livestock project submissions and I can announce that 47 livestock projects have been successful.
These projects will build or improve the safety and condition of 119 ramps, 42 loading pens, the lighting in 16 saleyards, install or upgrade truck wash points, internal roadways and install saleyard security gates.
I can also announce that we have completed discussions with the State and Territory Governments that will see 58 projects funded, including the building or improvement of 50 rest areas.
The combined value of the livestock projects and road projects is $82 million, with $50 million from the Federal Government.
I would like to acknowledge ALRTA and particularly Phil Halton for your support for this program and your assistance in identifying projects.
I look forward to building on this constructive relationship and continuing to work with you in the future.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.