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Address by John Anderson, MP Minister for Transport and Regional Services to the\nBureau of Transport and Regional Economics Transport Colloqium: Canberra: 18 May 2005.



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THE HON JOHN ANDERSON MP DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL SERVICES

Address by John Anderson to the

BTRE TRANSPORT COLLOQUIUM

CANBERRA, 18 MAY 2005

Very pleased to have the opportunity to talk about the Australian Government’s role in planning and funding our land transport system. I’ll also be mentioning some of the alternative policies that have been suggested.

In June last year, the Government released our national land transport plan, AusLink. It is the most important change to the way Australia plans and funds its land transport infrastructure in 30 years.

AusLink is heavily based on the BTRE’s work and particularly its efforts to forecast the land transport task over the next twenty years. Its projection that the freight task will double has focused governments and the community on the size of the infrastructure challenge ahead.

The BTRE has also developed the capacity to put together demand projections on a corridor-by-corridor basis. The projections will be critically important for the corridor strategies that we are now developing.

In the AusLink white paper, we foreshadowed that we would put together a comprehensive strategy for each of the corridors on the AusLink National Network. We will be developing the strategies in conjunction with the state and territory governments, and they will:

• Support the joint development and funding of projects on each corridor; • Help integrate land use and transport planning; and • Identify opportunities for private sector investment in the corridor.

We have started work on four pilot strategies, which will cover the Sydney to Melbourne corridor, the Perth to Adelaide corridor, the Brisbane to Cairns corridor and the urban links in Adelaide. We are also carrying out a study into the Mount Isa to Townsville link.

Our aim is to complete the corridor strategies by 2007; they will underpin the Government’s decisions about the second round of AusLink investments, which will start in 2009-10.

In the meantime, we are pressing on with the first round of investments, which add up to the famous $12.5 billion. As a result of our strong economic and financial management, we’re able to invest $2.2 billion in 2005-06, including $1.3 billion for major network projects.

The Government’s funding for these projects is available on the condition that the states and territories sign the AusLink bilateral agreements that will underpin the new planning process.

Taxpayers will also get better value for their road funding dollars, because the agreements include the National Code of Conduct for the Construction Industry - a best-practice approach to workplace relations that will increase the sector’s productivity.

The South Australian and Victorian Governments have already indicated their willingness to sign up to the Code.

The AusLink investment projects set out in the Budget include:

• More money for the Pacific and Hume highways in New South Wales;

• An extra $120 million for the Scoresby Freeway in Victoria, in line with our election promise, provided the Victorian Government reverses its decision to impose tolls;

• Funding for important projects in Queensland, including the Townsville Ring Road, flood-proofing the Bruce Highway south of Tully and widening the highway through Gympie;

• An extra $118 million for South Australian roads over five years, in line with the Government’s election promise; and

• Additional funding for the Mandurah bypass in Western Australia, provided the state government starts major construction in 2006.

The Government and the Australian Rail Track Corporation will invest $1.8 billion in the interstate and Hunter Valley rail systems in the years to 2008-09.

The Budget includes funding to develop ARTC’s new Advanced Train Management System and money to build a truly national communications system for the interstate rail network. It will replace the nine separate communication systems that are the electronic equivalent of the different rail gauges adopted by the Australian colonies.

We will also invest up to $110 million to improve rail infrastructure bottlenecks on the Port Botany line and between Strathfield and Hornsby in Sydney. The work will improve transit times for freight trains. It will also have benefits for passenger services, because the separation of freight and passenger trains will enable CityRail to run more off-peak passenger services.

We are placing a strong emphasis on improving road and rail access to Australia’s ports.

In Adelaide, the Government has brought forward $55.0 million to enable the Port River Expressway to be completed over the next two years.

We will invest $8 million to help improve the rail links between the Kewdale intermodal precinct and the Port of Fremantle, and we will spend $110 million over four years to upgrade the links between the Dynon intermodal freight precinct and the Port of Melbourne.

These measures will significantly reduce the freight congestion on the land side of some of Australia’s major ports.

I believe, however, that the Australian Government now needs to go further.

There are a number of ports where important decisions about infrastructure spending have taken far too long.

At Dalrymple Bay, Queensland’s regulatory processes took over a year and a half.

In Sydney, the regulatory approval process for expanding Port Botany is dragging on, while exporters suffer. The Sydney Ports Corporation has recognised the need to expand port capacity, only to see the issue become bogged down in inquiries and debate over

how much capacity is actually needed.

In contrast, this Government has a history of success when it comes to Australia’s ports. Our reforms to workplace relations on the waterfront have generated a massive increase in productivity.

When we took office, Australia’s five major ports handled 15.9 containers per hour. We set a target - 25 containers per hour. They said it could not be done by Australian workers.

The BTRE publishes figures showing the number of containers that go through Australia’s ports. The figures show what happens when you take strong decisions in the national interest. In the December quarter last year, Australia’s ports handled 27.1 containers per hour.

I believe it is now time for the Australian Government to build on the success of our waterfront reforms and extend AusLink to include the effective planning and regulation of Australia’s major export ports.

In AusLink, we made it clear that Australia needs to plan its major transport links from one end of the supply chain to the other. That’s why the Roads to Recovery programme is important, because it is fixing the local road end of the supply chain.

At the other end, the examples I have mentioned show that we cannot stop at the port gates any longer.

We need to involve the port owners, users and operators in the joint planning that will underpin the future development of our transport system, so all the investments along the supply chain - road, rail, intermodal facilities and ports - take place when they are needed.

We also need to have a single, Australian Government regulator with transparent processes and tight deadlines, because of the ports’ critical importance to our national future.

The Australian Government has always had the power to make laws for our export ports, under the trade and commerce power in the constitution. We have not needed to use it until now, but I believe that we now have to take action in the national interest.

I’d like to finish today by mentioning some of the alternative policies that have been put forward to deal with Australia’s transport infrastructure.

On the morning of Mr Beazley’s Budget reply speech, well-placed leaks told us that he would offer new leadership on issues like infrastructure.

It turns out that his leadership plan is to establish a committee.

A number of more reputable organisations have suggested that Australia needs an infrastructure plan.

As I’ve outlined to you today, we already have one. It’s called AusLink, it’s backed by billions of dollars in government investment and it’s based on the best research we have - research conducted by the BTRE and debated at forums like this one.

Thank you.

Bill McKinley Communications Adviser Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Leader of The Nationals Minister for Transport and Regional Services

Tel: +61 2 6277 7680 Fax: +61 2 6273 4126