Renewed Govt Commitment To Oz Shipping

Minister again commits to revitalisation of Australian shipping

The Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese today reaffirmed his support for the rebuilding of the Australian merchant marine in a keynote address to the Australian Logistics Councils 8th Annual Forum in Sydney.

The minister said the maritime industry was a key area of the transport sector that has been neglected in the recent past.

"Each year, almost 4,000 ships transport goods to and from Australia, carrying 99 per cent of imports and exports by volume," he said.  "This constitutes the world's fifth largest shipping task."

"Future economic growth and quality of life is tied to safe and efficient shipping.  With the relatively dispersed number of major ports and populations centres around our large coastline, shipping's lower carbon footprint offers unrealised opportunities. It needs to be considered within our overall transport strategy."

The minister said the government was working hard on three aspects of maritime reform — a single national regulator for all commercial vessels, the rewrite of the Navigation Act 1912 to modernise it to reflect contemporary conditions and practices; and consideration of reforms to revitalise Australian shipping.

Speech in full follows:

Introduction

Chairman Backman, delegates.

I want to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address your annual forum which follows meetings I have had with some of your leaders. 

The Australian transport and logistics industry is the lifeblood of our nation's economic productivity. It generates up to 14.5% of Australia's GDP and provides more than one million jobs across 165,000 companies. 

Your industry covers an extremely diverse range of operators.

Large companies such Linfox and Toll provide a range of services for clients, whilst others, such as Australia Post, undertake their own logistics. 

It is also an industry that for every large company, there are many more mum and dad operators.

With such diversity, it is little wonder that we have so many associations representing differing industry sectors and regions, placing varying demands on government and offering competing solutions.

That is why it is particularly pleasing to be addressing the Annual Forum of the Australian Logistics Council- a body that is national and is cross-modal.

A forum removed from the tired policy debates of the past.  A forum that rejects the negative frame that pits one mode of transport against another, and is instead focussed on the positive frame of improving the efficiency and safety of freight supply chains.

Efficiency that is vital to the nation's economic performance, to cut the costs of business and reduce costs to consumers.

Safety that places a premium on the people that work in the industry and interact with it on a daily basis.

The Rudd Government is committed to improve Australia's global competitiveness to meet the challenges of the future.  

Today I would like to address our productivity agenda- the importance of infrastructure renewal and the role of regulatory reform.

And in the face of the expectation that by 2056 Australia's population will reach 35.5 million, the topic that dared not speak its name for most of this decade - urban policy.

I will also briefly mention some Government initiatives on smart infrastructure and workforce planning.

Infrastructure

The Rudd Government believes that targeted infrastructure investment is fundamental to strengthening our economy, creating jobs, and building the assets we need to lock in our long term economic prosperity. 

During recent years we developed a coherent policy which we put into place in Government.

We listened to industry.

We listened to economists.

We listened to the Reserve Bank and its 20 separate warnings about capacity constraints in the economy.

We listened to the frustration of Australians dealing with urban congestion, poor infrastructure and the lack of leadership to avoid dangerous climate change.

Above all we listened to and acted on our gut instinct.

The instinct that tells us that we are engaged in politics to make a real difference.

That building the capacity of the nation through infrastructure has long term benefits well beyond the period of any Government.

Our gut instinct told us that we needed to break the nexus between the infrastructure policy cycle and the 3 year electoral cycle.

Like any piece of essential infrastructure, it has been essential to get the foundations of our policy right.

We have formed a new Department of Infrastructure.

We appointed the nation's first Federal Minister for Infrastructure.

We created Infrastructure Australia, with an advisory council of 12 Chaired by Sir Rod Eddington and with half of its Members drawn from the private sector.

We have conducted an audit of Australia's infrastructure needs and published the first assessment of nationally significant projects.

We established three nation building funds in our first Budget and made an initial allocation of $26 billion.

Our second budget provided investment where the economic need is greatest - on those projects that were assessed as national priorities.

We set up the Building Australia Fund to support ongoing infrastructure investment, and completed our first major Public Private Partnerships policy, to make it easier and cheaper for the private sector to partner with governments. 

Now if imitation is the best form of flattery, then it's clear we've got the fundamentals right.

In the last few months, the British Labor Government has announced the creation of Infrastructure UK. 

It's not just Labor Parties adopting this model. 

Upon coming to office the New Zealand conservative Government sought advice on the Infrastructure Australia model.

Here in NSW, the Opposition has adopted a core policy of the establishment of Infrastructure NSW. 

Likewise, the Tasmanian Opposition has adopted a policy to create Infrastructure Tasmania.

The Infrastructure Australia architecture is doing what it should - removing the temptation towards short-termism.

It gives business a transparent process, and promotes evidence-based public investment decisions.

Infrastructure Investment

Together with the states and territories we're building the transport infrastructure that will make our economy more productive, our regions more prosperous, our cities less congested and our environment even more sustainable.

We are investing almost $36 billion over six years to modernise and maintain the nation's road, rail and port infrastructure.

The Federal Roads Budget is now $27.7 billion over six years - more than twice what the previous government spent over a similar period of time.

The Rail Budget is now $7.9 billion over six years for 38 major freight and passenger rail projects.

We are investing more in rail over the next 12 months than our predecessors did during their 12 years in office.

We are the first national government to invest significantly in urban passenger rail infrastructure.

And we've set aside funds for port infrastructure.

On top of this, the state and territories have agreed to contribute more than $6 billion of their own money to the National Network.

Our unprecedented investment will lower transport costs, tackle the rising cost of urban congestion, cut travel times, curb carbon emissions and save lives.

This year alone construction work will commence on major road and rail projects worth more than $20 billion.

National Ports Strategy

In order to facilitate growth in trade and to improve Australia's performance in the global economy, a more national approach must be brought to the job of planning, regulating and investing in our trade gateways, our ports and landside infrastructure. 

Historically this task was left to state governments and the private sector.

The Rudd Government supports a nationally consistent and co-ordinated approach to the major ports so critical to our future.

We have asked Infrastructure Australia for a National Ports Strategy and a National Freight Network Plan.

Last week, Infrastructure Australia consulted industry on its Exposure Draft of the National Ports strategy.

I understand there was some robust discussion on some key issues, such as long term masterplans for nationally significant ports, and the right model for nationally consistent approvals for port precincts, channels and freight corridors.

I am pleased to see serious engagement is underway on these and other key issues, and I look forward to receiving the end product of these consultations later this year.

Infrastructure Australia is also working on a National Freight Network Plan.

Maritime Reform

A key area of the transport sector that has been neglected in the recent past is the maritime industry.

Each year, almost 4,000 ships transport goods to and from Australia, carrying 99 per cent of imports and exports by volume.  This constitutes the world's fifth largest shipping task.

Future economic growth and quality of life is tied to safe and efficient shipping.  With the relatively dispersed number of major ports and populations centres around our large coastline, shipping's lower carbon footprint offers unrealised opportunities. It needs to be considered within our overall transport strategy.

That is why we are working hard on three aspects of maritime reform, a single national regulator for all commercial vessels, the rewrite of the Navigation Act 1912 to modernise it to reflect contemporary conditions and practices; and consideration of reforms to revitalise Australian shipping.

Regulatory Reform

Delivering safe, efficient and productive transport arrangements is not just about investment.  It's about improving productivity through regulatory reform, creating a seamless national economy, reducing costs and red tape.

The need for regulatory reform is critical.  We understand that different approaches to regulation between state and territories add a considerable burden for operators who cross state borders.

The ALC study "The cost impact of regulation disparity in cross border regions" recounted the example of the transport of hay bales.

The standardised nature of hay bale production means that when stacked two-wide and three-high on a vehicle, they exceed load width and height limits in some jurisdictions but not others.

The problem caused by differing approaches to regulation was first recognised when Bob Hawke established the National Road Transport Commission in 1991 with the aim of creating uniform or consistent road transport legislation throughout Australia.

Much progress has been made since then.  But while all Australian jurisdictions recognised the importance of regulatory harmonisation, the pace of reform needs to be lifted to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

That's why in July last year COAG agreed to implement national regulators for maritime safety, rail safety and heavy vehicles.

The expanded national maritime safety regulation will be continue to be hosted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

South Australia will host the national rail safety regulator.

And last week I announced Queensland will host the national heavy vehicle regulator.

I stress that these will be national regulators, not the current state regulators with an expanded role.

This will mean improved safety and improved efficiency for industry.

All three national regulators will be fully operational by 2013.

Cities and Planning

It is common sense that any consideration of improving the performance of freight supply chains needs to grapple with the nature of our cities and urban congestion.

This is even more important when considered in the context of population projections over the next 30 years forecast in the Intergenerational Report 2010.

In his address to the Business Council in October last year, the Prime Minister said:

"Capital city strategic plans are needed to lift economic productivity, respond to climate change and ensure the nation is geared up for 35 million people by 2049."

The number of people living in cities is projected to increase from 13 million to 23 million.

Brisbane and Perth's population will grow by 120 per cent. Sydney and Melbourne will each have 7 million people. 

The quality of life in our cities is an issue we as a nation have confronted before.

In the 1970s, issues including the lack of sewerage infrastructure in the outer suburbs were tackled by the Commonwealth and the quality of urban life improved.

In the 1990s the regeneration of inner cities was enhanced under the Better Cities Program.

Now we must confront the challenge of ensuring we develop sustainable cities for the future.

Australia needs a policy framework that will assist the Commonwealth, the states and territories and local governments create productive, liveable and sustainable cities.

In 2008 we created the Major Cities Unit.

In December 2009 COAG agreed to national criteria for capital strategic planning systems to ensure cities have strong, transparent and long-term plans in place to manage population and economic growth and address future challenges. 

These plans and the agreed criteria will be linked to future Commonwealth infrastructure funding decisions.

Work is proceeding between jurisdictions on improving Australia's urban congestion management, tools and performance information. 

The Australian Government is providing $50,000 to the ALC for its Future Supply Chain project which will facilitate a national industry policy position on future supply chain sustainability relating to energy and environment matters. 

Smart Infrastructure

One of the real opportunities to make our transport systems safer and more reliable, and our lives less stressful is by making our infrastructure smarter.

The Federal Government's $43 billion commitment to establish the National Broadband Network will support the future economic growth of the Australian economy and open significant opportunities for government and business to invest in smart infrastructure.

There are a number of other initiatives underway supporting the application of smart infrastructure.

We have invested in the Australian Rail Track Corporation's Automatic Train Management System trial.

We are also committing tens of millions to a range of smart infrastructure projects such as the Kwinana Freeway Freight Management system in Western Australia and the Advanced Traffic Management System in South Australia.

Building on these initiatives, the House of Representatives Infrastructure Committee has agreed to my request to inquire into smart infrastructure and make recommendations on ways to maximise its potential benefits to all Australians.

This inquiry is looking at the role that smart infrastructure can play in the transport, communications, energy and water sectors.

I am looking forward to receiving advice on the ways smart infrastructure can lift productivity, enhance service delivery, reduce congestion, make infrastructure greener, and improve safety.

Workforce Planning and Skills

A further industry reform area being facilitated in partnership by governments concerns the national workforce planning and skills.  For too long the human capital aspects of the productivity agenda have been ignored by government. 

The industry faces critical workforce issues - an ageing, male dominated workforce with emerging shortages in critical skilled occupations.

The ATC has endorsed a Strategic Action Plan to encourage stronger collaboration between all levels of government and industry and to help address workforce planning and skills needs in the transport and logistics industry.

The Government has agreed to provide $120,000 to support the expansion of your 'Women Moving Forward' mentoring program, which provides a mentorship-based, personal and professional development program for 200 places nationally to improve career development opportunities to women in the transport and logistics industry.

Conclusion

As the world emerges from the global financial crisis, the government's reforms will position Australian industry to increase its competitiveness internationally.

The contribution that transport and logistics can play in that process will be strongly influenced by the level of partnership and cooperation that you, as industry members, can achieve both among yourselves and with government. 

It is important that the ALC provides strong leadership within the transport and logistics industry to work with government.

In doing so, you will be contributing to a sustainable and productive future for our nation.

ENDS