|Title||RURAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT PORTFOLIO
|Committee Name||RURAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
|Department|| Department of Infrastructure and Transport
Senator IAN MACDONALD
CHAIR âWelcome, Mr Deegan.
Senator BACK âFirst a question regarding the Port of Bunbury in Western Australia. It is not a port that has exported wheat for some period of time, but I understand there are at least two exporters looking to the port as a possible outlet for up to about two million tonnes of wheat per annum. Can you help us at all about the capacity of the port to handle that? Presumably rail access would have to be a factor to be considered. Do you have any advice for us about upgrades to the Port of Bunbury to service what we think will be an increase in demand over time for wheat exports?
Mr Deegan âThat question goes to the larger issue of how we handle our ports, and I will come back to Bunbury in particular. You might be aware that the Prime Minister took a national ports strategy to the Council of Australian Governments just two weeks ago, with a view to taking a 30-year planning arrangement around our major ports to try and deal today with some of the issues that are coming at us. Capacity in our ports will continue to grow. Many of our ports are growing much more quickly than people had predicted and we are getting these challenges in many of those port arrangements.
Bunbury has quite a sophisticated, well thought through approach to the future development of the portâyou probably have seen the proposed changes to moving the riverâand to some of the detailed road upgrade that they will need. We have had a very close look at the Port of Bunbury and have made a number of visits there to look at the sorts of issues that they are facing. We maintain a close relationship with the port authority in trying to deal with those issues. The combination between WestNet Railâits integration with the portâis a better example than some of the other places that we deal with.
So we are working with them on that capacity issue, the operating patterns around the gauge rail that they are using and, indeed, Minister Albanese today released the discussion paper on the national freight strategy, and part of that starts talking about moving to standard gauge rail into Bunbury, for the longer term, so that we have got better connectivity generally.
On the particular issues at Bunbury facing both coal export, wheat, some of the timber and some other bulk goods, and cruise ships, as wellâit is a growing part of that tradeâwe are working with the Port of Bunbury and the local government on how we might manage all of those issues. We do not have the particular answer today but we are working very closely with them on those issues and are happy to come and talk to.
Senator BACK âI am relieved to know that and I would like to follow it up with you.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âThanks, Mr Chairman. Eat your words.
Senator BACK âYes, I will.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âMr Deegan and others who are here today: was Infrastructure Australia consulted on any of the governmentâs deferrals to the Queensland infrastructure projects announced on 27 January to pay for the flood recovery?
Mr Deegan âNo.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âCan you, or the minister perhaps, or the secretary, or someone, tell me why Infrastructure Australia was not consulted, bearing in mind that the role of Infrastructure Australia is to recommend priorities?
Mr Mrdak âThe decisions were budget-related decisions; they related to an existing program and projects which were being implemented by the government. They are not matters in which Infrastructure Australia is involved and do not fall within its charter of responsibilities.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âNone of these projects had been considered by Infrastructure Australia?
Mr Mrdak âOnly one of the projects that has been announced for rephasing of funds was a project to which Infrastructure Australia provided advice; that is the Regional Rail Link project in Victoria.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âThe Vantassel Street to Flinders Highway, the Herbert River floodplain, the Sandy Corner to Collinsons Lagoon, the intersection upgrades, the Burdekin Road, the highway from Cabbage Tree Creek to Carman Road and the upgrade of the highway between Caboolture and Caloundra: none of that had been to Infrastructure Australia?
Mr Mrdak âNo, they were existing commitments of the government, under the Nation Building 1 program.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âInfrastructure Australia had never had a look at any of those sorts of things?
Mr Deegan âNo. As the secretary has indicated, they were existing programs. We have offered our support to the Queensland government and indeed to the Victorian government, given the flood issues there, and worked closely with them on issues that may come about as part of that broader process.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âMr Mrdak, bearing in mind that a couple of those projects, at least, were intended to mitigate future flood damage, can you indicate, or is this perhaps a question for the minister, the rationale for the cutting of those solemn promises?
Mr Mrdak âNo promises have been cut. The government has deferred expenditure in the program to out years. All of the projects remain as commitments by the government, both the Australian and the Queensland government. Obviously, the flood situation in Queensland, as the Prime Minister has outlined, has been an unprecedented natural disaster. The Commonwealth and the Queensland government took decisions to look at the existing Nation Building Program in Queensland, to identify those projects that were at the early stages of planning and that were not scheduled for starts of construction for another year or two, to see whether those projects could be deferred for a period, to allow those funds to be reallocated. That is the process we have been undertaking.
To identify those savings, we looked at the existing Nation Building Program, we identifiedâwith the Queensland governmentâprojects that were at that stage and agreed with them that these six projects that you have outlined were able to be deferred for a period, given the scheduling of them, and that the commitment would beâ
Senator IAN MACDONALD âYou are starting to repeat yourself. Thank you, Mr Mrdak. Can you give me, perhaps on notice, when they are deferred to, the extent of the deferment? If you could, on notice, give me a schedule showing when they were going to be done and when it is now anticipated they will?
Mr Mrdak âCertainly.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âMr Deegan, you mentioned you had offered your assistance to Queensland and Victoria. Have you been consulted in relation to restoration projects there at all?
Mr Deegan âWe have been involved in discussions, particularly with the Queensland government, about some of the long-term issues that they will face. A number of the Infrastructure Australia council members have been up to have a look at some of the flood damage in the Lockyer Valley, impacts in Toowoomba and elsewhere, and those discussions and offers of support remain current.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âHave you been asked by Queensland or Victoria, through that COAG process, to give some analysis on infrastructure needs and priorities?
Mr Deegan âWe have simply offered our support and there are some discussions going on.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âSo, no, you have not been asked as of yet?
Mr Deegan âWe have had discussions with officials, just generally, about the long-term impact that those floods will haveâas you know, better than probably mostâthe enormous impact that that has had and the impact on the national productivity as a consequence, as well as the peopleâ
Senator IAN MACDONALD âYou have not been asked to do any back-of-the-envelope calculations of money?
Mr Deegan âNot at this stage.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âTell me, Mr Deegan, have you provided any advice to either the department or the government in the last three months on your role or your future?
Mr Deegan âThere has been some discussion between the Infrastructure Australia council and the government about its future and there are further discussions underway.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âI cannot ask you what that was, obviously, but you are having some discussions as to your future in the role. Your funding expires at the end of June, in a few monthsâ time. Have you made any provision for staff redundancies?
Mr Deegan âAt this stage, senator, discussions are going on with the department and the government about the future of Infrastructure Australia; we have not planned for staff redundancies at this stage. Most, in fact all, the officers belong to the department of infrastructure, other than my own position; so that, if the government were to wind up the program, those officers would return formally to the department.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âWould they? All right. Could I just refer the secretary or the minister to an answer given by the minister for regional Australia, question 128, to the Member for Dawson, Mr Christensen, on a dateâlooks like 16 Februaryâwhere Mr Christensen asked on notice where the funding for various projects in the Mackay area, or in the Dawson electorate, was to come from, and he also asked: âWhen will funding for the above election commitments become available and how will recipients access it as soon as possible?â The answer has been:
Funding is available from the financial year 2010-11 and the department is working with proponents to finalise necessary details.
I appreciate this is a different department but it is related to the grants that I think would be in this section that we are dealing with. Can anyone tell me in relation toâperhaps on noticeâthe Mackay ring road, the Mackay Basketball Stadium, the Airlie Beach main street proposal, the Mackay junior soccer grounds and the water park on the Bowen foreshore, what funds are being expended during 2010-11 and what funds will be spent in the subsequent year?
Mr Mrdak âThe only one of those projects that falls within this portfolio is the Mackay ring road study. That is a commitment of $10 million under the Regional Infrastructure Fund. Arrangements for that fund are yet to be settled by the government. That is being considered as part of the current budget process, and, obviously, the Regional Infrastructure Fund is also contingent on the resource tax.
Sorry, we have one other project, I am advised: the Mackay Stadium project, which is under the Infrastructure Employment program, which is with this portfolio. I am happy to get you some details on that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âAccording to the answer in writing given by the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, (b) is the community cultural development grants program. But the point is that he has answered them and I assume he therefore had some input from your department. I am wondering if you could take on notice those that are relative to this department as to what funding is being spent in the year 2010-11, which the minister indicated it wasâI am just interested in the detailâ
Mr Mrdak âCertainly, Senator.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âin your department, and what the projections are for future funding.
Can I move on now to the electorate of Leichhardt, and Cairns, regarding evacuation centres built to category 5 standard. As I understand it, in all of the cyclone areasâthat is, putting it in representative terms, the electorates of Dawson, Herbert, Kennedy and Leichhardtânone of the projects under the Â Building the Education Revolution or any other program through this department have been built to category 5 level. Is that right, do you know?
Ms OâConnell âSenator, I am not aware off the top of my head. Obviously, we comply with all the requirements in terms of building codes, but we would need to take that on notice and ask the department of education.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âThat is in relation to BER. The Cairns Base Hospital: was your department or Infrastructure Australia involved in the funding of that?
Mr Mrdak âNo, Senator.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âWas Infrastructure Australia or the department involved in any building work at all in those electorates that I mentioned, the cyclone electorates, that you can recall?
Mr Deegan âWe are not involved in any particular projects in a construction phase. The department may have someâ
Senator IAN MACDONALD âNo, not the construction phase, because you do not do construction, but in the looking-at and advice phase.
Mr Deegan âI am not aware of any.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âCould you take it on notice?
Mr Deegan âYes, I will take it on notice.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âIf there is, I would be interested in what they are, and I would also be interested in whether or not your advice includes recommendations that public buildings be built to categoryÂ 5 standard. I mention that because a lot of the BER buildings in the cyclone areas that could have been used as shelters were not built to category 5, so they sat there empty while people were sitting in houses that were being blown round around them. The next stage for the Townsville ring road: can anyone tell me when that is planned?
Ms OâConnell âThe Townsville ring road was a commitment under the Regional Infrastructure Fund, and the timing for thatâRoland?
Mr Pittar âSenator, the timing for construction is still to be advised. The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads has previously undertaken planning to determine the route for stage 4 of the ring road, and further detailed planning and design works are now required to determine the full scope of that project and a construction time frame.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âIs there any projected time frame for those?
Mr Pittar âWe do not yet have a construction start date for that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âThe $40 million for the cultural precinct in Cairns: is there any update on that?
Mr Pittar âThe Cairns cultural centre in the cultural precinct is a project that fits under the Infrastructure Employment Projects Program, and we are currently working through details of that proposal with the proponent. That is still in the planning stage.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âFinallyâand I repeat that we have agreed that we will all have 15 minutes and go around, so I am rushing to get these throughâin answer to a question on notice, No. NB-II 11, from the last estimates, you told me:
The Australian Government has committed $25 million to the Bruce Highway-Sarina to Cairns-Burdekin Road Safety Audit Project in the Nation Building Program. Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads has not yet submitted its Project Proposal Report for this project and a date for commencement of construction has not yet been determined.
I am not sure when I got this answerâI suspect it was in recent daysâbut is that still the case? When did I get them, Mr Mrdak, do you know?
Mr Mrdak âI just need to check. I think they were tabled with the committee on 15 February.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âIt is a slight improvement on the last estimates, when I think we got them the day after the next estimates; but getting them three or four days before does not give us much chance to disseminate them.
CHAIR âSenator Macdonaldâ
Senator IAN MACDONALD âChair, can I just get the answer to that?
CHAIR âYes, of course.
Ms OâConnell âThat is still the case, Senator.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âIt is still the case?
Ms OâConnell âYes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âWhat is the next step? Does someone try to get the Queensland department to actually do something? They have a long history of getting allocated Commonwealth funds and not spending them for yearsâusually it is just before an election.
Ms OâConnell âWe work closely with the state government departments who are responsible for the construction of the various projects, and there is a process, obviously, of undertaking the planning, preparation and design works before any construction begins.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âYes, I know all that, but is there any certainty? Can you come along one day and say, âYes, but by the end of this year they will have the planning done, by the end of the next six months they will have the graders in,â or something? Can you tell me any of that, what the time lines are?
Mr Jaggers âSenator, that particular project, the Burdekin Road Safety Audit Project, was one of the projects that have been deferred as a result of the requirement to put extra money into flood recovery work.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âSo we have absolutely no idea now when that is likely to happen?
Mr Mrdak âWe will come back to you, Senator. As I took it on notice earlier, we will come back with the likely dates, given the deferral, but we cannot do that here today.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âThank you.
CHAIR âSenator Milne.
Senator MILNE âOne of the tasks of Infrastructure Australia is to provide advice on infrastructure policy issues arising from climate change. I wonder, Mr Deegan, if you can tell us the infrastructure policy areas where you have given advice in relation to climate change.
Mr Deegan âSenator, in our current work we are looking at some 80 to 100 major infrastructure projects, and part of the assessment of those projects is to deal with the potential impact of climate change in each of them. We have considered, as part of the National Ports Strategy that the Commonwealth has taken forward, the impacts of climate change. The National Land Freight Strategy discussion paper released today by Minister Albanese is designed to consider some of the impacts of climate change in terms of road versus rail and the pricing arrangements that might go to those things, and it is also present in our work on both urban and regional water strategies, both of which are out in the public domain. While we do not have primary carriage for climate change policy within the Commonwealth, we do take those issues seriously.
Senator MILNE âI do welcome the fact that you have incorporated those. If we can go to the draft freight strategy that is out today, which you just mentioned. Can you tell me how you brought the climate change issues to bear on your policy recommendations?
Mr Deegan âSenator, because there will be a fair bit of detail in the response, can I take that on notice and come back to you? I do not have the document in front of me at the moment.
Senator MILNE âOkay. I am going to ask some questions on oil prices in a while. But, in relation to the level of car dependence and road freight dependence in Australia, did you take into account the emissions from petrol based engines?
Mr Deegan âIn broad terms we have considered the environmental impacts and the potential. The national freight strategy was intended to look 30 and 50 years out as to the sorts of impacts that might occur. Clearly, any modelling and thinking about those arrangements are to try and deal with the sorts of impacts that we have seen through cyclone and storms, and the potential for climate change. In the ports, should the sea levels rise, what would be the long-term impact on port developments and their current structures? We have had the benefit of some research undertaken by Stanford University in the US about those long-term impacts on ports in particular. There is a range of work that we have considered behind the scenes in dealing with those issues and, again, some of that detailed modelling that the academics from Stanford have done deals with a whole range of different scenarios and the potential long-term impact on our ports, as one example.
Senator MILNE âSo that is in terms of impacts on infrastructure if sea levels rise and as a result of various scenarios on climate change.
Mr Deegan âYes.
Senator MILNE âI am really also interested, and you may wish to take this on notice, in this in determining the appropriateness of rail over road for freight and other infrastructure. What factor did climate change play in terms of emissions and also availability, or cost availability, of fossil based fuels?
Mr Deegan âAs part of the national freight strategy work that we have been doingâand the discussion paper is available too on our website, because it is intended to get responses from and have engagement with the community on those and other issuesâwe have gone to the general issue of road and rail pricing and how those pricing arrangements will take account of externalities, including some of those environmental issues. We have put out in this discussion paper that these are the sorts of issues that we are seeking further responses from the community on, and they are the sorts of issues that we expect quite a lot of detail on. We have had positive engagement from the trucking industry in this discussion. They see that these are issuesâthe emissions and how all that is affectedâthat will have a long-term impact on their operations. We are also looking to see, on a longer horizon, the sorts of changes that might occur with high-performance vehicles and the changes that we think may be needed in the longer term for rail, including a considerable amount of track workâstandard gauge rail up further both into Queensland and into parts of Western Australiaâand the capacity then to use newer and more efficient locomotives and different rolling stock and to change the whole profile of rail within our freight industry.
Senator MILNE âIn relation to the energy sector and provision of energy infrastructure into the future, one of your tasks, I note, is to identify significant infrastructure gaps that may well need to be filled in forthcoming years. Can you tell me whether Infrastructure Australia has identified any gaps, particularly in relation to the grid in Australia?
Mr Deegan âWe did undertake an audit, as you indicate, to look at the sorts of gaps that might occur. We did focus on transmission issues. Generally, we were confident that the National Transmission Planner and also the arrangements within the energy industry were looking at those issues. We were not looking so much at the generation side of power but, rather, those long-term transmission issues. At approximately a million dollars a kilometre for transmission, there is considerable investment required should the community and governments decide to take a different approach to those arrangements.
Senator MILNE âI take from your answer that you did identify grid infrastructure as a capacity gap?
Mr Deegan âAs an area of focus, yes, but we were generally satisfied that the arrangements for the National Transmission Planner would deal with those issues as they came through.
Senator MILNE âSo where to from there on that particular issue? Have any of the states put up projects for grid infrastructure to Infrastructure Australia?
Mr Deegan âThere are a couple of grid proposals before us, principally from South Australia and Western AustraliaâWestern Australia up in the Geraldton area; South Australia as to a couple of different energy proposalsâthat we are currently considering.
Senator MILNE âThey are currently before you in consideration of a priority list. Can you tell me if, in the list of requirements for Infrastructure Australia, you are also asked to perform any functions that the minister, by writing, directs Infrastructure Australia to perform? Have you had any directives from any minister about what you should or should not consider in relation to restricting the scope of your work?
Mr Deegan âNo. I think I am accurate in saying we have had two directions from the minister. One was in relation to the Moorebank intermodal terminal in New South Wales, on the outskirts of Sydney, and the second, more recently, was to consider some projects that may be funded through the Regional Infrastructure Fund.
Senator MILNE âWhen you say to consider some projects through that particular fund, wouldnât they have been considered anyway in terms of projects that had come up through nominations from the states or otherwise?
Mr Deegan âNot necessarily.
Senator MILNE âSo these are projects that the federal government wants to initiate and have you consider?
Mr Deegan âI think there are six projects: two of them have been proposed by the states; the four others are projects that the Commonwealth want to have a look at. I am happy to provide you with the details of those six.
Senator MILNE âYes, if you would. Can you explain to me how you will deal with that? You have a directive from a minister to look at these six projects, but you already have a process for identifying priority projects that you would recommend. How does the ministerâs directive affect the priority list?
Mr Deegan âIt is just a normal part of the process. Any individual community group, any government or the private sector is encouraged to put proposals for us to consider, to be done in the normal course of our work.
Senator MILNE âReturning to the transmission infrastructure and policy recommendations or funding recommendations that you might make, have you considered public-private partnerships with, say, the superannuation industry as a possible way of funding new grid infrastructure?
Mr Deegan âWe do not have any specific proposals for PPPs in the energy space, but we certainly encourage proponents to consider the PPP model as an option. We are doing a considerable amount of work with the superannuation industry about both the long-term pipeline of work and what issues they have in terms of their decisions to make as to further investments in those sorts of assets. The superannuation industry are generally indicating a preference for brownfield assets where they can see the operating arrangements, the flow of revenue and how they might secure the appropriate statutory benefits to their membership that they are required to doâand their fiduciary responsibilities are taken seriously. That is a very active discussion between the Infrastructure Australia Council and the superannuation industry, and we are hoping to do more work in that area. That will affect a whole range of asset positions.
Senator MILNE âIn relation again to the rollout of the grid, I know you have just said you are generally satisfied with the planning that is going into it. How much of that is in relation to taking into account the possibility of new large-scale renewable energy facilities that might come on streamâsolar, thermal, large wind farms or geothermalâwhich would require a transmission route or a hub of industries very different from what we have previously had necessarily? What confidence can the community have that Infrastructure Australia is looking to alternatives in that way?
Mr Deegan âCertainly you would be aware of discussions going on in the Mount Isa area about the potential future power needs of the mining industry in Mount Isa. There are a number of different proposals up in that vicinity and there has been considerable engagement with both industry and the local community on the sorts of issues. It is being handled with the Queensland government and the Commonwealth Department of Resources and Energy as to the future of the power supply in that area. That has raised a number of renewable energy sources and the potential for those resources to be engaged in that process. In that particular case, the purchaser of the output will be the mining industry and they will make their decisions on a commercial basis.
All of those issues have been canvassed very carefully. There has been a lot of mapping done by a number of agencies of wind power, solar potential and other arrangements. There has been, I think, one attempt at a pilot solar project in Cloncurry which I have seen. There have been some issues in getting that off the ground. But they are the sorts of things that we have shown some considerable interest in how that might go forward.
Senator MILNE âHow can the renewable energy industry and Infrastructure Australia possibly work better together in anticipating grid infrastructure needs into the future? If we eventually get better funding arrangements for large-scale renewables, they will need the transmission infrastructure which will not necessarily be in place.
Mr Deegan âI think, Senator, they go to the deeper policy issues around carbon pricing and other arrangementsâthat we are not the central agency involved in those but clearly have a close interest in those outcomes.
Senator MILNE âYou are not the central agency but you are engaged inâ
Mr Deegan âIn those discussions.
Senator MILNE âconsideration in those matters.
Mr Deegan âYes.
Senator MILNE âThat is fine, thank you.
CHAIR âSenator Nash.
Senator NASH âI think last estimates or the estimates before we were discussing the rental cost of the building and the lovely view of the harbour. At the time you were saying that it was important, I think it was, to send a message to the big end of town. How is the message going? How has it being received? Are you finding value for money in the spend with the message that you were trying to send?
Mr Deegan âWe have made the premises available to a range of various groups to conduct planning strategic days and meetings in our office. We have international guests on a regular basis. We have a range of players from the CBD of Sydney and people who fly into our offices and find that a very convenient location for the types of meetings we have had, such as Canadian pension funds and deputy prime ministers from other countries. I think we have been able to show that we are a professional organisation and, in my view, the judgment made by the government about the selection of those premises was a worthy one.
Senator NASH âYou would have a good view of the QE2 and the Queen Mary or whateverÂ today.
Mr Deegan âNot today, because I am down here, Senator.
Senator NASH âI am sure there are others in the building who could take advantage of it. We are sure you are not a one-man band up there, Mr Deegan. To start, Infrastructure Australia had AECOM undertake a review of water quality and security. That is correct?
Mr Deegan âYes.
Senator NASH âWhat was the reasoning behind initiating that?
Mr Deegan âBack in 2008 we undertook a national audit of our infrastructure systems across four spheres: water; energy; transport and telecommunications. In the water space the infrastructure gaps that were identified in that initial audit were a concern around particularly pricing of water in urban Australiaâso again, back in the cities. The second gap was a concern around initially water security for regional townsâat the time we were in the middle of a severe droughtâand associated with that were a range of water quality issues that have been subsequently identified. It was a national overview of the sorts of issues affecting the country in the supply of drinking water in regional Australia.
Senator NASH âThe report seems to indicateâand I must say I have only read it fairly sketchilyâthat there is a problem of pricing and quality in the rural towns. Is that correct? Is that something the department agrees with?
Mr Deegan âThere is a range of different responses. It is not a uniform issue. In some towns there do not appear to be any issues at all; in others, there are issues that are worth considering. I thought, Senator, that you just spent all your time reading the index and the appendix. How you could put it down, I do not know.
Senator NASH âSorry, did you want to say that again?
Mr Deegan âNo.
Senator NASH âI have got a bit of a woolly head cold at the moment, I might not have heard you correctly.
Mr Deegan âSorry.
Senator NASH âThe report states that the regional utilities, I think in New South Wales and Queensland, are not currently independently regulated. That is correct? Do you have a view on whether or not they should be or is it something that you will have a view on or comment on?
Mr Deegan âIn our report we looked at each of the states and territories. At a broad levelâand it is difficult to drill down to each individual partâwe took a sample of a number of towns across Australia, a random sample, to test water quality and water security issues in those towns. In Tasmania we have seen a bringing together of the water agencies that used to be spread across 29 councils now brought with the councils into three regional groups. We think that is already starting to show some effect. But there are still issues with boiled water alerts in a number of towns in Tasmania; there are still some issues that the Tasmanian government is dealing with.
In Victoria they have moved ahead. They have a regional water structure that has, on the basis of our work, provided very good drinking water quality to people in Victoria. South Australia and Western Australia operate on a state model, so it is a little different from some of the others that are operating. In New South Wales and Queensland we raised a concern and made some initial recommendations that it would be worth considering whether a regional water model similar to that in either Tasmania or Victoria, or some other working model, might better protect drinking water supply and drinking water quality.
One of the recommendations, again as part of a discussion paper, is the potential to move to mandatory arrangements under the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. We think that would provide an appropriate mechanism to protect water quality issues for drinking water for Australians across the country.
Senator NASH âIn terms of any funding being required to underpin those types of changes, where would that sit, if indeed we went down that road?
Mr Deegan âBecause of the nature of the documentâthe document is a discussion paperâand the sorts of things to be considered, part of it is: have we the pricing arrangements in place; have we secured the appropriate funding for water and sewerage; are those funds being applied to water and sewerage and being applied elsewhereâwhich is a concern raised by a number of the councils; usually that is about some other councilâs, not their ownâand whether in fact in the long term there will be some of those towns where, because of their size, they will simply not be able to get the pricing right and may need other support.
Senator NASH âSo you would not envisage that local community members might have to wear an increase in their water charges as a result of any of this or, indeed, secondary to that, that the responsibility will fall to local governmentâor is that a possibility?
Mr Deegan âLocal government in New South Wales already have the responsibility in large part for regionalâ
Senator NASH âI meant the responsibility for any increase in funding.
Mr Deegan âThey are genuine issues that we have canvassed and which need to be considered properly. Some towns may be in a better position to pay more for their water. Others are too small to provide the infrastructure that they require. They are issues again that we have canvassed in the paper.
Senator NASH âSo you could have some sort of financial viability assessment of whether or not a local government was able to bear the burden, given how extended they are at this stage right across the board?
Mr Deegan âI think that is a genuine issue and part of what we suggested is to also look at those governance arrangements. If a local council is looking after water, based on artificial council boundaries, would we be better to go to a catchment modelâto have a group of councils or some other structure involved in dealing with those water supply and quality issues on the catchment to better integrate what is going on. We found evidence of cows within metres of water inlets toâ
Senator NASH âCome to my farm!
Mr Deegan âfor drinking water. I hope your farm operates differently, Senator. For drinking water for reasonably-sized towns. We found some practices that did not meet best standards. While there are always cost issues, it is about how we support those communities in providing drinking water of the same standard that we might get in the city or other major cities.
Senator NASH âWhen you are talking a catchment type of model, does that mean you would envisage some sort of cross-subsidisation from those that are more financially viable than others?
Mr Deegan âNot necessarily, but certainly the community service obligation issue would need to be considered. There are some of those catchments that would handle those issues quite well, as they have done in Victoria and are starting to do in Tasmania. In other areas it will be a struggle. We recognise that, but that is an issue we think, as part of our national approach, does need to be properly considered.
Senator NASH âWhen do you think this process will be finalised?
Mr Deegan âWe have a discussion paper out, I think, until the end of the March. We will then take a response back to the Infrastructure Australia Council for them to consider and provide advice within the next couple of months back to the Commonwealth government. We would certainly encourage submissions from all those involved.
Senator NASH âI want to turn to the Epping to Parramatta rail line. Can you advise me of the federal governmentâs responsibility in funding for the Epping to Parramatta rail line?
Mr Deegan âMr Mrdak might be in a better position to respond.
Mr Mrdak âSenator, the agreement that has been reached with New South Wales is that the Commonwealth will provide $2.1 billion and New South Wales will provide $520 million for the current estimated cost of the project.
Senator NASH âDoes Infrastructure Australia have any involvement in this at all?
Mr Mrdak âNo.
Mr Deegan âOther than that following the election we provided some advice to the department on some of the issues that they might want to consider, but no other involvement in that.
Senator NASH âIt is purely at the departmental level. When was that agreement signed off?
Mr Mrdak âYesterday.
Senator NASH âAre there any conditions attached to that funding? Can you explain for me the bucket of funding that that money is coming out of, how it works and how the agreement was reached?
Mr Mrdak âThe commitment was made by the Commonwealth government as an election commitment in the election campaign in August last year.
Senator NASH âThe federal one, not the state.
Mr Mrdak âIt was a joint agreement between the Premier and the Prime Minister, a joint announcement, last year. That has now been translated into a memorandum of understanding between the two governments that was entered into yesterday between the Premier and the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport. It essentially provides that the Commonwealth funding, the $2 billion, will be available in Nation Building 2 from 2014-15. The New South Wales government will provide funding immediately to enable the commencement of work on the project from this year. Essentially, the Commonwealth money will be available in Nation Building 2 and is programmed out beyond the 2014-15 year.
Senator NASH âHow long has the Epping to Parramatta line been on the drawing board?
Mr Mrdak âI could not answer that, I am sorry. It is a project which I know has been longstanding. The initial stage of it to Epping was completed some years ago.
Senator NASH âWould you mind taking that on notice for meâthe history of it and how far back discussions were had around the potential for the Epping to Parramatta link.
Mr Mrdak âWe have got some detail for you.
Mr Jaggers âSenator, I think the New South Wales government granted planning approval in 2002 for the construction of the entire Parramatta rail link project. That included the Epping to Chatswood component, which is already constructed, and this further component, the 14-kilometre section between Parramatta and Epping.
Mr Deegan âSenator, I should add the planning approval was for two stages. Stage 1 is completed and planning approval is in place for stage 2, which is what the current proposal is.
Senator NASH âSorry, I thought this did not have anything to do with Infrastructure Australia.
Mr Deegan âNo, but I live in Sydney, so I know the history of it.
Senator NASH âLocal knowledge. Thank you, Mr Deegan, that was very helpful. If that project does not go aheadâI understand that if there is a change of government that is not going to be as significant a priority for the incoming governmentâwhat then happens to the funding of $2.1 billion from the Commonwealth?
Mr Mrdak âAt this stage the Commonwealth government position is that it is committed to that project with the New South Wales government. I could not comment on anything beyond that.
Senator NASH âIt is purely project specific.
Mr Mrdak âThe minister has made it clear in his public comments that the Commonwealth commitment is for that project.
Senator NASH âWhy would the department or minister not think of transferring that to another worthy project in New South Wales?
Senator Carr âBecause a commitment has been made to that project.
Senator NASH âHello, Minister. I do understand that. But, given the disastrous state of the transport system in New South Wales, surely that funding could be reallocated. I am a little at a loss as to why it is just for a specific project.
CHAIR âSenator Nash, just to help you out, the Prime Minister has made a commitment and it is very, very clear. So, if you do have other questions of the department, I would urge you to go through because you do have only two minutes left.
Senator NASH âThank you very much, Chair, and I thank the minister for his very timely intervention. You always know you are on the right track when the minister wakes up and says something, donât you, Senator Colbeck?
CHAIR âIn all fairness, you asked a question and you received an honest answer, Senator Nash.
Senator NASH âAbsolutely.
Senator Carr âAnd it has been asked about seven times today.
Senator COLBECK âYou will get asked a few more times.
Senator Carr âYou will get the same answer.
CHAIR âTwo minutes, Senator.
Senator NASH âMinister, if we had a rule in this place that one was never allowed to repeat a question, it would be a very, very boring and very unusual set of estimatesâ
Senator Carr âLetâs have a productivity improvement by asking it once.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âHear, hear. Thereâs a little sensitivityâ
Senator NASH âAbsolutely.
CHAIR âSenator Nash, you have one minute.
Senator NASH âIt seems there is more than one Labor minister that likes a bit of a hissy fit. All right, I will leave it there. Just to be absolutely clear, this funding is specifically for this project and, as I think the minister has stated on the record, it will not be transferred to any other project, no matter what the priorities.
Senator Carr âThat is the advice you have been given.
Senator NASH âThank you very much for that, minister. Thank you, Chair. I will yield my last minute to somebody else.
CHAIR âThank you, Senator Nash. Now I am going to go to Senator Colbeck.
Senator COLBECK âI just want to go through some local infrastructure issues in Tasmania and I want to refer to the proposals released today by Minister Albanese for the national transport strategy. I note the word âTasmaniaâ does not rate a mention in the whole document, although Bell Bay, as a port, does. Can I get some sense of who is advising the government in relation to the port strategy for Tasmania? Where is the advice coming from? Where is the direction coming from?
Mr Deegan âSenator, Infrastructure Australia identify it as one of its seven themes, the need to focus on our internationally competitive gateways, and we have taken responsibility, with the National Transport Commission, for preparing the National Ports Strategy, which was released by the Prime Minister on January 7 this year.
Senator COLBECK âYes.
Mr Deegan âWe have had extensive discussions, as you may be aware, with the Tasmanian Government about both Bell Bay and Burnie, and, indeed, the existing arrangements down in Hobart and the potential for their further development, particularly in relation to the science requirements through Antarctica. We have primary carriage of that advice at this stage.
Senator COLBECK âHow does that sit in the context? I note that Bell Bay was listed in the release that the Prime Minister made on 7January as effectively the key export port and that there is some concern about that at home, in Tassie. How does that sit in the context of last weekâs announcement by AAA, which is effectively the one consortium that exports out of Tasmania, that they are going to leave that port and leave Tasmania without an export port, and all freight will have to go through Melbourne? There are pros and cons around that. Also, Bell Bay is a port which has lost its rail link, which was shut down by the Tasmanian government in recent times, and also, due to a range of other factors, lost some of its port infrastructureâsome of its throughput, things like paper from Boyer now going via Burnie, rather than being shipped direct from Bell Bay to Western Australia. How does that all fit together, when all these things are happening, and how does that leave Bell Bay seated as a key export port, or a key port in the overall scheme? I am not trying to downplay Bell Bayâs importance in a Tasmanian contextâI would not survive the trip back to Tassie if I didâbut how does it fit in that major overview?
Mr Deegan âAs we are trying to fit each of our 42 major ports into a national strategy, how do all of these things fit together? How does Port Kembla fit with Sydney and Newcastle in New South Wales? It is a similar style of approach that we are trying to take at a national level. What are the road and rail connections in and out of those ports? We have spent a lot of time looking at the Bell Bay-Burnie issues. The announcement by AAA has happened subsequently to the release of the strategic approach. But, basically, the country has not had a national strategic approach to these ports.
Senator COLBECK âNo, I understand that.
Mr Deegan âA 30-year plan in each of these ports in a coordinated fashion we would hope would put us in a better position to respond to these sorts of individual issues as they come through. Some of those issues go to the cost of shipping and how that might work, the arrangements for moving to and from the port. The paper issue has worked fairly well from near Hobart up to Bell Bay.
Senator COLBECK âBurnie by rail, yes.
Mr Deegan âBut there have been, as you know, a host of issues with those arrangements, and the Commonwealth department has been involved in funding some of those repair issues that are associated with it. At a strategic level, we are trying to say, âListen, as a nation we need to think through what we are trying to do with the ports and then think through how we connect the freight arrangements to it.â So the freight strategy today goes to a host of road and rail issues and how they connect into the ports and trying, for the longer term, to get those things sorted out.
Senator COLBECK âHow do you manage those live issues, though? The decision to close the rail access to Bell Bay has been taken for a little while now. The ink is probably hardly dry on this document released today and the announcement is very recent in respect of AAA, but it does potentially have a major impact on where the whole strategy goes to, so how do you actually manage those live issues as part of this process?
Mr Deegan âThat is a really good question and at the Australian Logistics Council yesterday, dealing with all the major industry players, they took the opportunity to have some discussion about that. To come back to Senator Macdonaldâs question about Townsville, to use that as an example, long-term planning of that particular port, for defence, heavy minerals and cattle, will require longer-term thinking about the rail access, which takes about 90 per cent of the material through the port. And then there is the port access road, particularly for cattle and bulk goods, and indeed an increasing amount of raw materials that have been subsequently upgraded, and also there is the issue of what is happening with the dredging issues around the port. Residential development, downwind of a major port, is going to have some impacts.
To use Townsville as an example, they are live issues but, because we have not had a strategic thinking about that in the longer term, we perhaps have not been able to deal with those live issues today. I think the strategic approach will give us the tools to deal with those things. We metâagain to use Townsville as an exampleâwith the 14 mayors or their representatives all the way up the rail line from Townsville to Mount Isa, dealing with that whole supply chain and the sorts of changes that might have an impact. The issue of how the city of Townsville is planned in the future and its connection with the port is a really key event because of the juxtaposition of it, and similarly with most of our ports where there are cities related.
In terms of Burnie and Bell Bay, they are similar sorts of issues that we are looking at: what are the demand forecasts, what sorts of material, what are industryâs requirements now and into the future, and then how do we strategically manage those issues better for the people of Tasmania and the national task? What happens with the treatment of bauxite in the future? Nationally, there are going to be some changes, potentially.
Senator COLBECK âDoes Bell Bay remain an aspirational site? It is one of the key ports, it is the only port in Tasmania that is listed in the National Ports Strategy at this stage in relation to export; it is mentioned again today in this major transport document. Does that remain an aspirational port as far as Infrastructure Australia is concerned orâ
Mr Deegan âI would not use the word âaspirationalâ. It is an important port to the nation and it is how we best manage that. It is, for the first time, getting a national focus to support the Tasmanian government and community and the sorts of challenges they are going to have in their port system.
Senator COLBECK âWhat are the signals that you are getting out of the Tasmanian government on this, because they are an important process? I recall, I think it was, Minister Sturges about 18 months ago, made some public comments about the priorities placed on the three northern ports and, given the parochialities in Tasmania are no different to other places, perhaps stronger, it did raise a fair bit of comment at the time because there is a lot of aspiration about the drivers of the port as a key economic driver in these three locations. Where does the direction from the Tasmanian government fit into this at the moment?
Mr Deegan âWe have had direct discussions with the now Premier on those issues, dealing very closely with her department and her relevant minister on those issues. Again, our focus is getting down into the detail of what are those demand forecasts for, whether it is car product or export, or other arrangements that might happen through those ports, and how then do we manage that asset, how do we help the Tasmanian government with those asset decisions around both Burnie and Bell Bay in the north.
Senator COLBECK âAs I understand it, there is another stage of the ports that deals with the coastal ports, if you want to call them that, rather than the export ports. Is that still to be released as part of this overall package.
Mr Deegan âYes. Our major focus is on the 42 major portsâyou have got to start somewhere. We have got requests in from a range of other ports as to what role they may play in the 30 to 50 years outlook. We are encouraging those ports to work with us on a master planning arrangement for that.
Senator COLBECK âYour direction in this is influenced fairly heavily by the perceptions or the views of the various state governments as well as that process?
Mr Deegan âState governments have a lot of interaction with industry on these matters, clearly, because they are the big players in the space.
Senator COLBECK âIn relation to the release today, and particularly the B-triples that are proposed as part of that process, how does that interact in relation to major highway links and proposed development on that? There has been an ongoing battle in Tasmania over whether we should have a two-, three- or four-lane highway between Launceston and Hobart and I think everybody now, at last, has decided we want a four-lane highway. How do these sorts of decisions that have been considered as part of this strategy influence those funding decisions for that sort of infrastructure?
Mr Deegan âAgain, the point of having a national strategic approach for our freight system is to think it through and make sure that those financing and funding decisions, because it will not all necessarily come from government, are properly reflected in an overview of what we are trying to do. If the task is to move goods and services from Hobart to Launceston or other parts of Tasmania, what is the most effective way of doing that? Do we spend more and more money on increasing the road network as a nation; do we do something in rail; do we do a combination of those? Clearly, there are some other things you can do. There is the regulatory impact, and you are aware that there is a big push on to reduce Australiaâs nine rail safety regulators to one. Again, moving to a national heavy vehicle regulator department who is responsible for implementing will make a big change in our productivity outcome, similarly, with the sorts of vehicles that you might use on either road or rail. That will transform the way we do business. If you were to moveâand not all roads are suitable for B-triplesâto B-triples on suitable roads, you would clearly cut down the number of trucks that you require for the current effort. The problem we are facing is that we are doubling the freight task and we are just not geared for it. Without this sort of long-term thinking about the national freight view, we will struggle to manage.
Senator COLBECK âAs part of that process, the decision between road and rail, is there any cost-benefit analysis work that is done in the context of that? I talk to people involved in the freight industry in Tassie and obviously they have their views, based on which sector that they are in, but is there any cost-benefit analysis work that is done to actually drive those key decisions, whether to make that investment in rail versus road, or the other way round?
Mr Deegan âCertainly, with the pricing arrangements that sit underneath road and rail, the current arrangements in the trucking industry are through something called the PAYGO method. Some of the proposals from the Henry tax review were to look more deeply at those sorts of pricing issues and how that might operate. When we look at particular projects, and the department does the same for both road and rail, there is an analysis for cost-benefit. For example, we have a major project that both the department and ourselves have looked at, an inland rail project between Melbourne and Brisbane. We have asked the proponents of the various options to ensure that there is an apple-with-apple comparison between the Newell Highway, the New England Highway, inland rail, coastal rail and even, potentially, coastal shipping, so that the Commonwealth is in the best position to make the decision as to what funds should be provided. The other part of this that we are interested in is what capacity and opportunity is there for the private sector in some of these investment decisions as well, and we have got some work underway on a couple of innovative private sector funding solutions for some of these challenges.
Senator COLBECK âAre there any specific requests for additional funding for the Brighton bypass project, and where are we at with filling in the missing link?
Ms OâConnell âThe situation at present is that there is approval for an alignment for that Brighton bypass. That alignment involves a bridge over the river and levee. The Australian government is contributing an additional $12 million in terms of that alignment change for that bridge.
Senator COLBECK âWhat is the Tasmanian government contribution to that?
Mr Jaggers âIt is, $2.5 million.
Senator COLBECK âOne more question: I want to ask about the Kingston bypass and a suggestion that there is a shortfall in the funding for that project. Can you give me some advice on that, please?
Mr Jaggers âThe Australian government is contributing $15 million for the Kingston bypass project. The total cost of the project is $41.5 million. It is providing a 2.8-kilometre bypass of Kingston for the Channel Highway along the alignment.
Senator COLBECK âYes, I know the basic details. I just want to know if you have had a request for any additional funding and whether there is a shortfall in the project that you have been advised of.
Mr Jaggers âNo, not at this time. Construction is well underway on all the bridge structures and 80 per cent of the route.
Senator LUDLAM âMr Deegan, thank you for coming back in. When Infrastructure Australia was announced, or a short time after it was announced, it was announced as a $20 billion Infrastructure Australia fund. About a quarter of that was quarantined for version 1 of the NBN project. Open source reporting is indicating that there is about $800 million left in the fund. I am trying to work this out. Are you only dealing with that amount of money, or are you just setting up your pipeline of projects and letting government take care of funding decisions?
Mr Deegan âEssentially the latter point. We are providing advice on a range of individual projects that have been proposed by Commonwealth, state or other bodies, but we are also, in the strategic work, looking at other major funding requirements in the long term.
Senator LUDLAM âIs the $800 million figure correct? I just read that in a newspaper. Can you confirm it?
Mr Deegan âI would have to take that on notice. I do not know off the top of my head.
Senator LUDLAM âYou do not know how much money you have left?
Mr Deegan âNo, principally they are decisions that the Commonwealth take in their budget, but I will establish that for you.
Senator LUDLAM âYes, if you could. Do you have a fund still that you consider yours that has any kind of special status, or are you just assuming you are working out of Commonwealth revenue from here on?
Mr Deegan âWe are an advisory body only. We do not allocate the budget decisions.
Senator LUDLAM âWhat ever happened to the Building Australia Fund? Did it just quietly get shifted back inâ
Mr Deegan âThe model is still there, and I will check for you the current balance.
Senator LUDLAM âThank you.
Ms OâConnell âIn terms of the Building Australia Fund in the 2009 budget, there were quite a number of key project decisions to commit funds out of the Building Australia Fund. In terms of the operation of the fund, those commitments I think valued $8.5 billion. The draw-down on the cash within the fund is phased according to the progress with those particular projects.
Senator LUDLAM âYes. We have heard this morning there is an enormous amount of work still to do, so I am just wondering what everything else will be funded out of, and it sounds as though it will be consolidated revenue. So we will not be hearing much more of the Building Australia Fund?
Mr Deegan âThat depends on government decisions about how they allocate it. Originally, as you would be aware, the Building Australia Fund was made up of surpluses as they were predicted at the time. They are decisions that the government would take in the normal budgetary process.
Senator LUDLAM âThank you very much. I want to get a quick update on WA proposals that are in the pipeline. State government obviously put out a set of proposals. In particular, I am interested in Point Torment. Do you want to just give us a run-down, first of all, of whether there is somewhere that we can already find out what the status of particular bids is without wasting your time here?
Mr Deegan âSorry, the status of?
Senator LUDLAM âOf a particular bid. I am interested in all the WA ones, obviously, but particularly the Point Torment one in the Kimberley, for example. Where is that up to? Is there somewhere you canâ
Mr Deegan âI am having trouble hearing, Senator, sorry. Which one in the Kimberley?
Senator LUDLAM âIt was one of the WA governmentâs proposals for infrastructure near Point Torment, about 40 kilometres from Derby in the West Kimberley.
Mr Deegan âI would have to take that on notice. I will take that on notice.
Senator LUDLAM âOkay. I might put the questions in writing rather than taking up your time now.
Mr Deegan âThanks. That would be useful.
Senator LUDLAM âBut there is a larger question there: how does the general public or interested stakeholders know what the status of a particular project is within your pipeline?
Mr Deegan âWe produce a publicly available report each year, in June, and there will be another one produced for June this year.
Senator LUDLAM âOnce a year?
Mr Deegan âWe report on the major advice we have provided to government across a range of projects. A number of those projects are identified as early stage, right through five stages, to ready to proceed. We identify the status of those projects at that time.
Senator LUDLAM âIn addition to that, you have the ones that come in from left field, like the New South Wales stuff. Maybe then, while we are on the subject of New South Wales, you have advised against funding of the M5 duplication, and again there is some reporting in the press about the reasons for that rejection. Is that something specific to a failure in that particular application, or are there some more fundamental issues around urban freeways that are in play?
Mr Deegan âThere is a combination of issues associated with all projects put forward by jurisdictions. This is not New South Wales centric at all but, rather, we have a rigorous process of analysis of the projects that are put to us. In the case of the M5 and M2 to F3, Minister Albanese has asked for advice on potential private financing options. That was announced in the media post-election, or maybe even pre-election, but he sent the request subsequently. We are undertaking that work at the moment, and that is looking at a combination of issues associated with access to the Port of Botany for freight, access to Sydney airport for the M5 project, and the potential for private financing. There are similar issues associated with the options around the M2 to the F3, and we have had a former employee of the department of infrastructure who had the corporate history working closely with us on that. We would hope to provide that advice to the Commonwealth government in due course, dealing with all those issues that you have just canvassed.
Senator LUDLAM âThank you very much. I am quoting from a piece that ran in the Herald this morning titled âTransport stuff-ups cost state billionsâ. I will just read it to you. It is about the feedback that you have given going back quite a while now, to when the New South Wales government asked for funding for the M4 east. Infrastructure Australia said:
The project is not consistent with a number of IA strategic priorities.
You gave us an outline this morning again of what they are. Is it really your job to help the government find private financing for a project that would not meet strategic priorities for government finance?
Mr Deegan âClearly, when a sensible request is made from an Australian government minister about private finance, we also look at the appropriateness of the financing arrangements, as would the private sector. The private sector are not going to stump up cash unless they feel that the project is going to work. They are the issues that we are currently dealing with, particularly in association with the M5.
Senator LUDLAM âPrivate financiers will not have your breadth of terms of reference. It is good that you have them. You are charged with looking after the public interest; private financers are looking after whether it will turn a profit or not. So we might get a dramatically unpopular private road. I am just trying to work out whether yourâ
Mr Deegan âWe would hope we get a dramatically popular solution to the challenge.
Senator LUDLAM âIt might mean that there is no freeway, though.
Mr Deegan âIt might mean a combination of issues. It might need better access to the port for freight, it might provide some pricing signals to the community about access for cars in the current arrangement, or it might look to some public transport options as part of the solution. We try and deal with the broader picture. Clearly, in and around Port Botany there are a host of freight rail issues as wellâdevelopment of the intermodal terminal proposed at Moorebank, the current operating pattern of that rail system and whether it should be duplicated from Port Botany to Moorebank; how Enfield and Chullora work. We try and take that big picture view. I am pleased to say that, while the Herald report reflects our advice of some time ago, there has been a significant improvement in and a better strategic approach from the New South Wales departments that we are working with on these big issues.
Senator LUDLAM âYou would not rule out Commonwealth funding, for example, for the M5 or the M4 extension if they tick certain boxes?
Mr Deegan âOur advice would be to consider those issues in the broad, and then it is the governmentâs decision as to whether they accept that advice.
Senator LUDLAM âDoes New South Wales have a state freight strategy?
Mr Deegan âThey are working on one.
Senator LUDLAM âSo that is a no.
Mr Deegan âThey have had one. I think they are seeking to update that.
Senator LUDLAM âDoes that make it a little bit difficult to develop a national freight strategy when our largest stateâwell, as a Western Australian, I should say âour largest stateâ but I mean New South Walesâdoes not yet have one?
Mr Deegan âI think one of the features of our country is that to date we have not had that national overview of the sorts of long-term road and rail connections and the interaction with our ports that a country of our size and maturity should have. The detail of those arrangements within each jurisdiction should properly flow from an overview at the national level. That New South Wales are still updating their current strategic approach gives them the opportunity to understand the national view of how these things might work. Add to that the work the department and Minister Albanese are undertaking in trying to reduce our regulatory burden on both rail safety and heavy vehicles, and I think those national impacts will have a very big role and produce a different outcome, I would hope, in New South Wales.
Senator LUDLAM âGiven that there is a reasonable likelihood, some would say absolute certainty, that we will be dealing with a different state administration post-March, coalition leader Barry OâFarrell made some peculiar comments about distrust of Infrastructure Australia. Have you had direct dialogue with the opposition, or do you not really see that as part of your role?
Mr Deegan âIt is not necessarily part of our role. We have had some informal contact with the opposition, and it is not our role to judge the outcome of particular elections, and we will see where that goes. I think the report today in the Sydney Morning Herald reinforces the rigour with which we approach these issues.
Senator LUDLAM âIt does.
Mr Deegan âI do not think there is any question about our independence, based on that report on its own.
Senator LUDLAM âI would have thought so, that is why I am describing his comments as peculiar. In a nutshell, what should New South Wales be doing to ensure a larger proportion of funding? So far they have put up proposals that have been knocked back, and the Commonwealth has allocated some funding to help them get their planning act together. What do you see as the essential ingredients to bring New South Wales back to the table?
Mr Deegan âThe essential ingredient is something that New South Wales has undertaken in the last couple of years, which is, in the transport space, to combine the transport agencies under one leader. That has been a significant development for Sydney and the state of New South Wales. The individual there is doing an extraordinarily great job in trying to pull together the various arms of the transport system. That, on its own, will produce a very different strategic approach and is something that our organisation has welcomed with open arms.
Senator LUDLAM âAre you confident that there will be continuity post the change of government then?
Mr Deegan âThey are matters I could not comment on.
Senator LUDLAM âThat is fair enough. I am presuming that you and everybody else in this space are operating on the assumption that freight volumes are going to double between now and 2030?
Mr Deegan âThere is certainly considerable data about the freight impact, and that is something that we are testing. In the port strategy, we identified that there were different demand forecasts across different ports, often for the same product, so that is a piece of research that we are checking through to make sure that the data is the same and that we are using the same sort of demand forecasts, otherwise we will make mistakes in the long-term planning.
Senator LUDLAM âRecognising that you folk are guessing like anybody else, and we are paying agencies like BITRE to do the educated guessing, whereas the rest of us are probably doing uneducated guessing, I got a response to a question on notice that I put about how you judge the long-run forecasts of oil prices. I know you would be disappointed if I did not ask you about this at least once per session.
Mr Deegan âI hope the answer was sufficient for you.
Senator LUDLAM âNo, it is not. It is three lines. It says:
The Infrastructure Australia Cost Benefit Analysis guidelines ask proponents to follow industry accepted guidelines and to provide sensitivity testing for key parameters, including changes in global oil prices.
So it does not really tell me what you do with that information. What I am interested to know is: what do you consider as the long-run oil price? Are you actually planning and preparing for a very, very expensive short-term oil future or not?
Mr Deegan âIt is one of the issues that we take into account.
Senator LUDLAM âBut it is a really, really important one.
Mr Deegan âYes.
Senator LUDLAM âBecause it seems to me as though, notwithstanding decisions around getting more freight onto rail and so on, which are quite clearly a priority of this government, so we are told, that investment decisions are still being made based on the past, not on the future.
Mr Deegan âIn my response to Senator Milne, I outlined the importance of having a national freight strategy that deals with this and other issues so that in the long term we can take those issues into account. If we were to move from an oil based system, or the pricing was so different, they are the sorts of things that would drive a different outcome. What Minister Albanese has today released for the very first time a view of the national governmentâs freight strategy. The sorts of issues that you raise about oil pricing are a very important part of that long-term thinking so that we can actually factor those issues into account far better than we have today.
Senator LUDLAM âI am going to drop some of these on notice, I think, because we are out of time and everyone has been very good at keeping to time. Do you encourage local governments, or consortiums of local government and industry and utilities and so on, to come forward with proposals for funding submissions? Is it necessarily a deal breaker if the state government is not at the table?
Mr Deegan âWe do encourage the community groups, industry, state and local governments to come to us with proposals that are sensible proposals that would boost national productivity.
Senator LUDLAM âAre you aware or can you advise people of alternative funding pools for transport infrastructure?
Mr Deegan âOften we do provide advice, where we are aware of alternatives that they might consider.
Senator LUDLAM âThank you. I will probably have to leave it there if I am out of time. My last question on notice then would be about whether you have any involvement in the high-speed rail study that is underway, because I presume they will be looking at many of the same corridors as your study and as are outlined in the freight strategy.
Mr Deegan âIn part, yes. But I will take that on notice.
Senator LUDLAM âYes, if you couldâjust the degree of the involvement that you have had. Thanks very much, MrÂ Deegan.
CHAIR âSenatorÂ Macdonald.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âI would like a very quick answer, please, from whoever. Is the federal government involved in the Gold Coast light rail project and, if so, where is that at?
Mr Mrdak âYes, the government has provided $365 million for that project and that project is now at the construction stage.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âFinally from me, in an edition of the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin of 4 November 2009 it was reported that, âPremier Bligh is taking a personal interest in the project,â which was the third crossing of the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton, âand has given the green light for infrastructure planning stage to beginâ.Â I am just wondering if either the government or Infrastructure Australia have had any approach from the Queensland government or anyone else in relation to a third crossing of the Fitzroy River. You will be aware that Rockhampton and the township were substantially flooded in January and much of the existing highway was under water.
Mr Deegan âI have been to Rockhampton at the invitation of both the Rockhampton Regional Council and others to look at road and rail issues, in particular, and access in and out of Rockhampton. We have certainly been briefed on those issues and the department may have more information as to current status.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âWhen was that?
Mr Deegan âI can check for you.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âBut, what, in January?
Mr Deegan âNo. Prior to the floods.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âDo you recall if the third crossing was a subject of your discussion?
Mr Deegan âEvery bit of infrastructure was the subject of those discussions; they donât miss.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âBut including theâ
Mr Deegan âIncluding the third crossing, yes, and water issues and the pipe.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âNothing further from the department?
Mr Jaggers âWe just might add that there is a Yeppen flood plain study that is underway at the moment, and that study is expected to be finished in early to mid-2011. That study is looking at routes for a higher level crossing of the Fitzroy River flood plain. So that is considering alternative routes and crossings.
Senator IAN MACDONALD âThanks.
CHAIR âSenatorÂ Ludlam just has 60 seconds and SenatorÂ Milne was short. So SenatorÂ Ludlam.
Senator LUDLAM âIt is something I meant to ask about when we were speaking about the article that was in the Sydney Morning Herald, about Infrastructure Australia proposing a second airport on the Central Coast. That idea seems to have come from somewhere out of left field. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
Mr Deegan âThere have been discussions in Sydney and New South Wales about increasing airport capacity for some time. I think the Herald article is referring to some advice some time ago. You will be aware that the Commonwealth department chaired by MrÂ Mrdak and a New South Wales official are looking at airport capacity and issues in the Sydney basin more generally.
Senator LUDLAM âI will leave it there then. Can you just identify for us where in the program will be the most appropriate time to pick that issue up?
Mr Mrdak âAviation and airports.
Senator LUDLAM âThat makes sense. I will stick around.
CHAIR âSenatorÂ Coonan.
Senator COONAN âI just want to ask a few questions about the high-speed-rail study, please. The minister announced in October last year a $20 million feasibility study and said that the cost would be $20 million. Can somebody at the table tell me why only $6 million was sought in the appropriation bill that was introduced on 10 February this year?
Mr Mrdak âThe funding that is in the additional estimates I think is over two yearsâ$6 million in the current year and $14 million next yearâwhich reflects the way in which the study terms of reference have been designed. Essentially, it provides that the first stage of work to be completed by July is the initial route and costing work, and then much more detailed work will be done over the following 12 months to complete the final study by the middle of 2012.
Senator COONAN âYes, I thought that might be the case. It is pretty misleading in the description in the EM. I think it just says, âThe Department of Infrastructure and Transport be provided with $6 million to undertake the study.â
Mr Mrdak âI think that just reflects the additional estimates for this year.
Senator COONAN âOn announcing the terms of reference: can somebody confirm if the tender has now been let, the date of it and to whom it was awarded?
Mr Mrdak âYes, certainly, Senator. The first phase contract has been let. It is a consortium led by AECOM and that consortium includes KPMG, Sinclair Knight Merz and Grimshaw Architects in the AECOM consortium. That contract was awarded in January and that contract is now underway.
Senator COONAN âDated 20 January; would that be right?
Ms OâConnell âThat could be the announcement date. It was announced at the time.
Senator COONAN âIt was the only one I could find. So I have assumedâ
Ms OâConnell âIt was announced at the time, Senator, in January.
Senator COONAN âWhat amount is that one?
Mr Mrdak âThe contract I would have to take on notice, I think the work is around $4.3 million for this initial contract.
Senator COONAN âHow are the study costs going to be allocated? For example, is it being paid in full to the winning tender or is it being allocated to third parties and broken into various payments?
Mr Mrdak âIt is being paid through the head contractor, AECOM. It will be done on a milestone basis on a work program that has been agreed with them under the contract.
Senator COONAN âI have a couple of other questions. The formal reference group: has that been established, and who is on it?
Mr Mrdak âYes, the reference group has been established. It is chaired by me. It includes representatives from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, the Australasian Railway Associationâ
Senator COONAN âCan we have their names?
Mr Mrdak âCertainly.
Ms OâConnell âBrendan Lyon from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia.
Mr Mrdak âBrendan Lyon from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia.
Ms OâConnell âBryan Nye from the Australasian Railway Association. My colleague might have to help me with the personâs name, but from the CRC for Rail Innovation there isâ
Mr Mrdak âWe will get you a list of names today.
Senator COONAN âYou will take that on noticeâ
Ms OâConnell âWe can tell you the organisations.
Senator COONAN âgiven the time.
Mr Mrdak âWe have the head of the ACT Ministerâs Department; the Department of Infrastructure and Planning in Queensland; Transport New South Wales, Les Wielinga; the Australian Local Government Association, Mr Beresford-Wylie; and the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Victoria represented on that reference group. I will get you the names.
Senator COONAN âSo it has met?
Mr Mrdak âYes, it has. It had its first meeting two weeks ago.
Senator COONAN âAre you able to say, given that the timing that the minister said in announcing the study wasâand parliament was again advised as recently as 10 Februaryâthat the first stage would be completed by July 2011: is this still the case, and is the second stage of the study on track to be completed by mid-2012?
Mr Mrdak âYes, we have built into the project milestones the first stage be completed by July. We are now also doing the planning for the second stage to ensure that those time frames are being met.
Senator COONAN âHave these milestones been met so far, or have they yet to be met?
Mr Mrdak âThey have, yes.
Senator COONAN âThank you.
CHAIR âThat is it, Senator Coonan?
Senator COONAN âYes, thank you.
CHAIR âVery good, thank you.
Mr Deegan âI need to leave.
CHAIR âYes, you do, Mr Deegan, Thank you very much.
Senator COLBECK âI mentioned before, when I was talking to Infrastructure Australia, policy on the main highway between Launceston and Hobart. Has the government had any discussions with the Tasmanian government on delivering funding for a four-lane highway between Launceston and Hobart as part of theâ
Mr Mrdak âIt is not in current program, and I am not aware of any such discussions.
Ms OâConnell âOther than that perhaps, I think, there has been a submission to Infrastructure Australia. There may have been a submission to Infrastructure Australia onâ
CHAIR âSo we have just let the relevant person escape on us?
Mr Jaggers âSenator, we have not been involved in discussions at departmental level on it.
Mr Mrdak âNo, not at departmental level.
Ms OâConnell âWe can check if there has been a submission to Infrastructure Australia.
Senator COLBECK âIf you could find that out for me on notice, that would be fine, thanks.
Ms OâConnell âYes.
Senator COLBECK âHave we had any requests from Tasmania for further gas rollouts?
Mr Mrdak âNot that we are aware of, Senator; not in this portfolio.
Senator COLBECK âThe other stuff I will deal with under other agencies.
CHAIR âAs there are no further questions, that is it. Thank you very much, colleagues. I thank the officers. I thank Hansard and Broadcasting.
Proceedings suspended from 1.02 pm to 2.02 pm
CHAIR âNow we will move to questions about nation building. Senator Williams.
Senator WILLIAMS âMr Mrdak, in relation to truck stops, the federal government is providing $9.7 million over 2010-11 and 2011-12 for 14 new upgraded projects. They include Goonoo Goonoo, on the northbound side of the New England Highway near Tamworth, and Boolaroo rest areas. How do you identify where these truck stops are most needed?
Mr Mrdak âThey come out of a process that has been determinedâwe are working quite closely with the truck industry. I might ask my colleague, Mr Jaggers, to take you through that process.
Mr Jaggers âSenator, submissions are received from state and territory governments identifying priorities for funding, and are also received from interest groups, such as the Australian Livestock Transporters Association, Australian Logistics Council, Australian Trucking Association, Linfox, NatRoad Ltd, National Transport Commission, Queensland Transport Association and Toll Group. So the minister receives submissions, and approval of funding is based on the submissions and adequate project documentation and stateâs agreement to the terms of the funding and reporting requirements. So I thinkâ
Mr Foulds âAnd the states contribute the same amount as the Commonwealth.
Senator WILLIAMS âDo they?Â So the states kick in 50 per cent. So you consult with the transport industry as well toâ
Mr Foulds âYes.
Senator WILLIAMS âObviously, the distances between stops and the availability of truck stops play a priority in that, where you cannot have too much distance, obviously.
Mr Jaggers âYes, Senator. The stakeholders are a key part of the process.
Senator WILLIAMS âSoâfourteen new truck stops over a two-year periodâhave you any idea what the demand is for more truck stops? For exampleâI will just do New South Wales aloneâis there a need for another 50 or 100? How many applications do you know have been put forward to your department as far as more truck stops?
Mr Foulds âWith the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, those submissions come when they are called for for that programâand there have been two rounds, round 1 and round 2â
Senator WILLIAMS âSo you are saying the program is announced and then they call for submissions?
Mr Foulds âFor those ones, but in the development of road projects in general, it is often the case that truck stops and service facilities are considered as part of the planning process. So take work around, for example, the Pacific Highway near Kempsey. There is provision for, or a lot of consideration going into, south of Kempsey, a truck stop, rest area, service facilities, and how close that is to others. So those things are considered as part of normal project development in the larger projects. But specifically for this program, they were part of it. Specific submissions out of thatâI am not aware of any at the moment.
Senator WILLIAMS âGiven that Minister Albanese has announced, I think, again today the Inland Rail Projectâit has been announced many times nowâthe number of trucks on the road is obviously increasing. Am I correct in assuming that?
Ms OâConnell âYes.
Mr Mrdak âThat is correct.
Senator WILLIAMS âDo you have a congestion problem in some of those areas, as far as truck stops go? With more trucks, and with the regulations of log books, driving hours et ceteraâwork diaries I think they call them these daysâare you finding that there are areas where truck stops need to be enlarged, as well as more put in?
Ms OâConnell âCertainly, and some of the proposals that we receive are about increasing the size of some of the heavy vehicle rest areas. Not necessarily all of them are for new rest areas; some of them are for increasing the size of the rest areas.
Senator WILLIAMS âSo you have had to increase the size of some of the previous truck stops to cater for the number of trucks?
Mr Mrdak âThat is right.
Ms OâConnell âThat is right.
Mr Mrdak âIt is fair to say, Senator, that, were there more financial resources available, we certainly would be looking to do more of the truck stops, because industry is quite rightly saying that, particularly, as you say, with the new fatigue requirements, we do need more of these facilities. When the priority lists are developed by the states with industry, we try and capture the critical ones in the program.
Senator WILLIAMS âSo when the government increased the road user charge on the fuel, did that money flow on to more truck stops, or some of that money?
Mr Mrdak âThis program has been funded out of that initial increase.
Senator WILLIAMS âBut you are saying there needs to be more funding to actually build more truck stops?
Mr Mrdak âCertainly, I think the industry is clearly of the viewâand we would share that viewâthere is a lot more we could be doing on truck stops, and as we design future programs, we would certainly like to be making more provision for those. That is certainly true.
Senator WILLIAMS âHave you any idea how much more funding would be needed over, say, four-year forward estimates?
Mr Mrdak âI am not in a position to give you an estimate at this stage.
Senator WILLIAMS âOkay.
Senator JOYCE âMr Mrdak, can you please update us on the progress of the national heavy vehicle reforms? Is this on track to implement by 2013?
Mr Mrdak âYes, it is. We are on track, and COAG reaffirmed, Sunday a week ago, its intention that we have the intergovernmental agreements all finalised by the middle of this year. Ms OâConnell may be able to give you an update on that.
Ms OâConnell âYes, certainly. The work plan has the intergovernmental agreements agreed by the middle of this year and going to a COAG subsequent to that for endorsement, and with a view that the single national heavy vehicle regulator would come into being, if you like, or be enacted, from January 2013. That is the current time line.
CHAIR âCan I just interrupt, Senator Joyce? Is this more for surface transport policy?
Ms OâConnell âIt is, Senator, butâ
Mr Mrdak âIt is. We are happy to deal with it ifâ
CHAIR âOnly because if we can officiallyâ
Senator JOYCE âYes, wellâ
CHAIR âIf you do not have anything on nation building, I will come back to you straight away, Senator Joyce.
Senator JOYCE âFair enough, Chair. I just thought he was talking about trucks, so I thought I would ask another question about trucks.
Senator WILLIAMS âJust moving on to black spot funding, Mr Mrdak, what percentage of applications for black spot funding comes from authorities in regional areas? Have you any idea?
Mr Foulds âI believe it is of the order of half. There is no specific rule in the notes on administration for it, but it is roughly that.
Senator WILLIAMS âRoughly what percent?
Mr Foulds âRoughly 50 per cent.
Senator WILLIAMS âAbout 50?
Mr Foulds âYes.
Senator WILLIAMS âAnd what percentage of projects are approved for funding in regional New South Wales? Have you any idea of that percentage?
Mr Foulds âNo, I do not have that information with me, but I couldâ
Senator WILLIAMS âTake it on notice and perhaps file it?
Mr Foulds âYes.
Senator WILLIAMS âThat would be wonderful. And what is the process for determining whether particular areas should be eligible? Is there, for instance, an onsite inspection, or is it just determined from the written applications? How do you actually determine that a black spot area will be a priority?
Mr Foulds âThe way the black spot program works is that any organisation or individual can nominate a spot on a road, a national highway: âThis is a black spot,â or âI would like this to be considered.â
Senator WILLIAMS âYou would get a lot from local government, would you not?
Mr Foulds âYou get a lot from local government; you get some from individuals. In regard to the criteria that relate to it, it has to have a history of at least three casualty crashes over a five-year period at that particular point for it to be eligible for the black spot program. It needs to be able to demonstrate a benefit-to-cost ratio of at least two to one. There are some sites which are eligible for consideration as a result of a road safety audit. Road safety audits do not require a crash history or a casualty crash history, but only 30 per cent of the program can be allocated on the basis of a road safety audit, as opposed to one which has a crash history.
When those are nominated, there is a desktop review, if you like, conducted by the particular road safety authorityâso, in the case of New South Wales, it is the RTAâand all of those submissions are brought to the state or territory consultative panel. In the case of New South Wales, that is chaired by Mr Craig Thompson MP, and the membership of that is the Local Government and Shires Association, NRMA, Institute of Public Works Engineering, New South Wales Police, Council on the Ageing, Federation of Parents and Citizens, and the New South Wales RTA itself. They then go through a process of looking at the allocation of funding for that year. They will then produce a list of black spot projectsâor potential black spot projects, reallyâwhich is then put to the minister for approval.
Once approved, the black spots solutions are then implemented and that can result in some changes. So it ceases to be, if you like, a desktop study and becomes a practical implementation issue. That is where problems may or may not arise and where the price or the cost of a particular solution, be it a roundabout, traffic lights or line painting, could go up or could go down, depending on a whole raft of issues. That is how you get to the list of potential black spots and hopefully every one of those converts in the funding year to a solution.
CHAIR âIf there are no further questions of Nation Building, thank you very much, and we will call Surface Transport Policy. Senator Joyce, you have the call.
Senator JOYCE âMr Mrdak, I presume that this question is going to go to Ms OâConnell, because she started answering it last time. Can you please update us on progress of the National Heavy Vehicle Program? Is it on track to be implemented by 2013?
Ms OâConnell âThe introduction and the commitment to have a single national heavy vehicle regulator is on track and that regulator will come into effect from January 2013. It has been reinforced in the latest COAG agreement a couple of weeks ago that that commitment remains on track.
Senator JOYCE âI notice in the COAG agreement there was a media release that said it had been brought forward six months. Is that correct?
Ms OâConnell âNo, I think the wording was that it remains a commitment for 2013 with the request that the relevant ministerial council, which is the Australian Transport Council, have a look at the possibility of introducing it six months earlier, so from July 2012. That is not the exact wording but that is the thrust of it, so it was a request by COAG to have a look at introducing it six months earlier.
Senator JOYCE âIt is an amorphous statementââhave a look at introducing it six months earlierâ.
Mr Mrdak âIt very much depends. What we are trying to do with the jurisdictions is bring forward the legislative timeframes. The critical piece is Queensland, where the heavy vehicle regulator will be based. We are looking to have the Queensland parliament pass the legislation, the national laws, by October and then we have got to get the other jurisdictions to legislate, to effectively apply that Queensland law in their own jurisdictions. So we are trying to get state legislators next year to bring forward their legislative programs. That is going to be a big ask.
Senator JOYCE âSo basically the whole of Australia will have Queensland laws?
Mr Mrdak âIt will be a national law done through the Queensland parliament.
Senator JOYCE âSo where are your negotiations with places such as New South Wales? They would not know whether they are Arthur or Martha, would they?
Mr Mrdak âThe New South Wales government is a supporter of the national regulator. There are a number of issues we are now working through. We have got a number of variations in jurisdictions which we are trying to minimise. What we are building into the national legislation is to protect some of the productivity benefits, the productivity measures that are in place in a couple of jurisdictions, to make sure they are locked in and grandfathered effectively. There are still some differences, particularly around fatigue hours and some of those things, between jurisdictions. We have got them down to a much smaller list of differences, and I am hopeful that when senior officials meet in March and then ministers in May we will actually have those resolved and we will have a consistent position. But at this stage New South Wales is a supporter of moving to the single regulatory approach.
Senator JOYCE âYou had an ambition of, what, 362 areas of uniformity. How are you going with that? How many areas of uniformity have we achieved? I think it was the last estimates you mentioned 362 areas of uniformity.
Ms OâConnell âThat is certainly the case in terms of divergence of the various different regulatory models in place across all the jurisdictions at the moment. The remaining issues that are to be the focus of agreement by transport ministers in May number about five areas. It is a small number of areas that we have. Transport ministers last agreed to engage an expert panel to have a look at these particular remaining issues and will consider the report of the expert panel in May.
Senator JOYCE âSo how many have been achieved? That was really the crux of the question.
Mr Mrdak âWe are down to about five key policy issues, but they are significant. They are fatigue hours, I think, and a couple of othersâ
Ms OâConnell âCompliance, enforcement, fatigue and registration are the issues.
Mr Mrdak âThis is annual vehicle registration.
Senator WILLIAMS âWhat about axle weights? Are you getting uniformity there?
Mr Mrdak âI think we have got large uniformity. What we do not have at this stage is a guarantee of access. What we will get is uniformity of the regulations, but the road agencies will retain the right to provide access onto certain pavements, and that is the next stage, once the regulator is in place, to get some of those access arrangements flowing through.
Senator WILLIAMS âWhat about livestock volume loading? How is New South Wales endorsing that under Queenslandâand you know what I mean by volume loading livestock in Queensland. You get a 40-foot double cattle truck and you can just fill it up, but you come into New South Wales and you are overweight. Where I live we have an abattoir. A lot of stock comes down from Queensland, they get to Goondiwindi and they have got to unload 10 per cent of their stock because they are overweight when they get into New South Wales. Are there signs of some uniformity in this issue?
Mr Mrdak âSigns, but not yet settled I think is probably the way you would put it.
Ms OâConnell âThese reforms, they are focused on safety regulations, so the uniformity is around the safety regulations. There are still, as the secretary mentioned, issues of access that are held by each jurisdiction.
Senator WILLIAMS âCan I just ask one on driver hours? We have got these outrageous regulations in South Australia where if you work more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period, you are gone. So if you start work at nine in the morning and you finish at nine at night and the next morning you start at eight and work till nine, one hour, you have worked 13 hours in a 24-hour period. You face up to a $20,000 fine and the company faces up to a $20,000 fine as well because you have worked more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period. Is South Australia showing some commonsense in these negotiations, do you know?
Ms OâConnell âThis is one of the five areas of policy in relation to fatigue. Driving hours is part of the fatigue package. This is one of the issues in terms of jurisdictions having different views in terms of driving hours, and this issue has been referred to the expert panel to provide advice to transport ministers on it.
Senator WILLIAMS âHas there been any hint of some flexibility when you are near home, and I will give you an example. A mate of mine worked his 12 hours in South Australia. He got 30 kilometres from home and had to turn his truck off. He was empty after taking livestock down the south east. He had to sleep in his truck when he was literally 19 minutes from home where he could have had a shower and a meal and slept in his own bed. If he had got caughtâhe owns a companyâhe could have faced up to a $40,000 fine for driving an extra 18 or 19 minutes to stay at home. Instead he slept in the sleeper of his truck. Is there going to be any flexibility? In some states, when you are within 100 kilometres from home you do not have to fill out a work diary. Is there going to be some flexibility when you get within that range from homeâyou can actually go home and have a decent nightâs sleep instead of staying in the truck?
Ms OâConnell âIt is exactly these jurisdictional differences that are the reason behind introducing one single set of national laws.
Mr Mrdak âI think it is fair to say there is some flexibility by officials but, as Ms OâConnell says, we have got some big stumbling blocks on hours.
Senator WILLIAMS âSomeone spending 20 minutes going home and facing a fine of up to $40,000, so sleeps in the truck in a little country town that has no facilities instead of being at home, is outrageous.
Mr Mrdak âI think there is a recognition that some of those anomalies do not make a lot of sense. I think everyone is coming to the table with the right approach. I am hopeful that by May we will have settled a workable arrangement that will satisfy the industry.
Senator WILLIAMS âLet us hope there is some flexibility so that when they are nearly home they can actually go home instead of having to spend the night in the truck.
Senator JOYCE âHas the regulatory impact statement for these reforms, which is obviously the reforms pertaining to uniformity and the heavy vehicle regulator reforms, been completed?
Ms Gosling âIn relation to heavy vehicles, the national transport commission is in the process of finalising the regulation impact statement and it is expected that that will be out very shortly.
Senator JOYCE âRight. So you cannot be more precise than that as to when it will be out?
Ms Gosling âWe have heard the possibility of next week, butâ
Senator JOYCE âNext week?
Ms Gosling âYes.
Senator JOYCE âThat is close.
Ms Gosling âIt is not entirely within our control.
Senator JOYCE âI want to go onto something that is very close to my heart and the hearts of the people who live in my area. It might sound parochial, but we are dead-set serious about this. The Australian government has released a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement to examine the case for adopting an international standard on pedestrian safety and global technical regulation 9: pedestrian safety. As a new Australian design rule, can you please confirm that this will not include the banning of bull bars?
Ms Gosling âI might defer to my colleague, Mr Hogan, in terms of the details of that regulation impact statement, but the proposal is not to ban bull bars, and the statement actually goes to the issue of pedestrian safety and the standards that apply in relation to vehicles to address and ameliorate the issues in relation to pedestrian safety but not actually to ban bull bars.
Senator JOYCE âThere is a recognition that in regional areas, where we live, bull bars are, for us, like safety belts. If you do not have them, you are putting the lives of the people in the car at risk, because if you hit a beast, you might wreck the car, but you are not going to kill the people inside. If you hit a roo, you are not going to go off the road and kill your wife and kids.
CHAIR âSenator Joyce, I agree with you 100 per cent. I am on board here too, but I think Ms OâConnell has made it quite clear that there is no plan. Am I correct, Ms OâConnell?
Ms O'Connell âThat is right.
CHAIR âYou have said no plan to ban bull bars.
Senator JOYCE âSo the big thing is: has the minister made a direction or made any statement and said, âLook, we are not going near getting rid of bull barsâ?
Ms O'Connell âYes, there has been a press release by Parliamentary Secretary Catherine King exactly to that matter about two weeks ago. We can get a copy of that and provide that to you.
Ms Gosling âThe statement is out for comments until the middle of April, and then it will be assessed. But the statement, as it stands, does not propose the banning of bull bars.
Senator NASH âCan I just clarify that, then? So there is nothing in the document itself that says the regulation might mean that only vehicle designed for off-road use would be allowed to fit a bull bar on the front?
Mr Mrdak âThere are proposals for standards for certain vehicles and how those bull bars would operate. I might get Mr Hogan to explainâ
Senator NASH âBut that is my question. We need to find if there is a distinction between off-road and on-road vehicles fitted with a bull bar.
Mr Mrdak âThere is a provisoâ
Senator NASH âI know you are giving us a broad statementââThere is no move to do itââbut if there is some sort of qualification between off-road and on-road, we need to know about it.
Mr Mrdak âI think I will get Mr Hogan to explain the proposal.
Mr Hogan âI can reiterate what has been said. The proposal in the RIS is emphatically not to ban bull bars. What the proposal actually does is propose standards to improve the pedestrian safety of vehicles by increasing the energy absorbency of the front of the vehicles. In a sense, they become softer. Now, so that that proposal is not undercut when people go and put bull bars on carsâand the safety benefits of bull bars are well understood, particularly in relation to animal strikesâthe proposal also includes standards for bull bars. The standards for bull bars are in relation, for example, to passenger cars that are commonly used around townâdifferent from the standard that is proposed in relation to four-wheel drives.
Senator NASH âIn what way?
Mr Hogan âThe standard that is proposed for vehicles that are used around town is more exacting.
Senator WILLIAMS âWhat does that mean?
Mr Hogan âIt would be more difficult to meet. It is closer to the actual pedestrian safety standard that is proposed itself.
Senator NASH âWhy are you assuming that a sedan is only used around town? Have you discarded the proposition that a sedan might be used on farm and still need the same sort of criteria as a heavy vehicle?
Mr Hogan âNo, we have not. When we are dealing with vehicle standards, we cannot talk about the end use to which the vehicle would be put. So as a substitute for that, we use vehicle classes that might most closely approximate end use. There are two standards proposed. One is for passenger vehicles most commonly used around town, and the other one is proposed in relation to four-wheel drive vehicles. The standard that is proposed for passenger vehicles around town would be more demanding. The standard that is proposed for four-wheel drives is based on an Australian standard which had industry involvement in the development. Both of those standards have explicitly been stated in the regulation impact statement as being subject to peopleâs comments, so they are precisely what we want feedback on. If people believe that those standards are going to be too exacting, that they create practical difficulties or that they create costs, that is exactly the sort of issue on which feedback is required during this consultation period.
Senator NASH âWith regard to the passenger vehicle used around town that you are talking about, I would hazard a guess that that sort of vehicle is still precisely what many stock and station agents use to do thousands of kilometres out in the bush.
CHAIR âThe Falcon Commodore.
Mr Hogan âIt may well be, and that is the very sort of issue on which we are looking for feedback. On the other hand, there are many vehicles travelling around towns that have probably, at this stage, bull bars which we would consider, relative to the proposed pedestrian safety standard, to be too stiff with not enough give. So a standard is proposed. But in proposing a standard we are looking for comment back on that rather than saying, âThis will be the standard.â
Senator NASH âOkay.
Senator JOYCE âCan we suggest something? And I think it is a bipartisan view. When we have this inquiry into bull bars and how bad they are, you use yourâget your sedan, come out to St George and we will have the inquiry at Mitchell at around 7 oâclock at night. You can do the drive up, and if you have got a car by the time you get to the end I would be surprised. So what I am asking is: are you saying now that on sedansâwhich are just normal cars which are used by people out in the country and people who live in cities who do the drive between country towns and do those long milesâpeople cannot attach a bull bar?
Mr Hogan âNot at all. What I am saying is that the standard for that particular bull bar would be closer to the actual pedestrian safety standard that is being proposed. The standard that is being proposed for the four wheel drive represents a significant concession against that standard.
Senator Carr âI may just jump in a little bit. What Mr Hogan is outlining is the sense of continuing to apply an Australian standard to vehicles which are specifically designed for off-road use. What is being proposed here and what is only out for public comment at this stage is that for vehicles which are designed for on-road use you would apply, effectively, the European commission standard for front protection for the fitting of these bull bars.
Senator JOYCE âHow many kangaroos in Germany?
CHAIR âThis is a very important issue. I want to hear the answer to that question, Mr Mrdak.
Mr Mrdak âWhat the government is saying is the proposal is for pedestrian safety for this ADR. What we will most likely get is a whole range of views on this. We will go back and reconsider this in the light of those comments received. The government is being very clear that there is no proposal to ban the fitting of bull bars or any of these devices on the front of vehicles. What we are trying to set is some form of standard which would apply to the manufacture and fitting, at the time of manufacture, to these vehicles; or, if they are post-manufacture, that we have a standard which does not defeat the purpose of the pedestrian protection in the design of the vehicle.
Senator NASH âWhat is the European standard that you just referred to that would apply to these passenger vehicles?
Mr Hogan âWhat do you mean byâit is a European directive, but you meanâ
Senator NASH âHow heavy is it? How big is it? Is it Perspex? Is it steel?
Mr Hogan âNo, it actually sets no material standard. It sets out some performance requirements as to the impactâ
CHAIR âMr Hogan, I am sorry to come in. Can I just suggest to my fellow committee members that we seek a briefing?
Senator Carr âVery good suggestion.
CHAIR âI am notâthis is just very important. This is very important.
Senator JOYCE âI think Senator Nash has a relevant question to ask, because obviously, the standardâI mean, when we hear about European standards for Australian roads, it is all very well if we are going to go for a drive down the Champs-Elysees, but we are actually trying to driveâ
Senator Carr âWe are getting a bit cute now.
Senator NASH âNo, it is not.
Senator JOYCE âNo, we are not.
Senator NASH âYou donât get it.
Senator ABETZ âThe minister for industry should be supporting Australian-made cars.
Senator Carr âNo-one has said anything different to that. What we have had is the government making a clear statement that we are not banning bull bars.
Senator JOYCE âNo, you have just madeâ
CHAIR âJust let the minister finish.
Senator Carr âNo, we have made a very clear statement the government will not be banning bull bars. As the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, I can assure you that there has been a long process of ensuring that Australian vehicles meet safety standards. If you just think about the way in which vehicles have changed their design over the last generation, it will become apparent to you: the whole sloping of the bonnet has changed as a result of the application of new safety standards. It does not mean there is any more or any less commitment to ensuring passenger safety or driver safety or any of those other matters. It is just a question of making sure that the governmentâs position is spelled out very clearly. And I think if senators do have an interest in this matter, I may well arrange a briefing with the department to actually discuss what this RIS has proposed. It is not the same as a government policy position.
CHAIR âI would actually welcome that opportunity once again and, do not worry, you will all be invited, because we really need to get our heads around this.
Senator JOYCE âBut, Chair, the people who are interested in this are the people who are watching this.
Senator Carr âThey are also sitting up here too, Senator Joyce.
Senator JOYCE âYes, up there. But we are privy to their briefing. The Australian people would want to know why we are about to have a European standard applied to the sedan that someoneâs wife or someoneâs partner drives between towns, because as far as they are concerned they want the capacity to be able to survive the impact with roos generally and cattle or whatever.
Senator Carr âI think you are taking a liberty with the use of the term âEuropeanâ in this context. I suggest that you take up the offer for a briefing from the officers and actually find out what is being proposed by this RIS. This is not the governmentâs policy. It is a proposal that is being put forward by the department at this point.
Senator NASH âI appreciate that, and we certainly will take up the offer of a briefing. But the point is there is a slight disconnect here in that the government is saying that there is no move to ban bullbars, which we appreciate, but if a bullbar of inferior quality is the only potential one we are able to put on a countryâ
Senator Carr âSenator Nash.
Senator NASH âCan I just finish. It is important, Minister. Certainly we agree there will not be a ban, but if it is a bullbar that is not going to be useful in rural circumstances then that negates the wholeâ
CHAIR âI am just going to come in here, Senator Nash. I have requested a briefing. It is not to be cute to try and avoid this issue. It is very, very damn important to a lot of people, and I think in all fairness we the committee deserve a briefing. The Minister has given us the tick-off for a briefing and I think we can do this as early as next week and the sooner the better with the blessing of my fellow full-time committee members.
Senator NASH âAbsolutely, but as long as Senator Joyce has as many of his questions on the record that he would like, because he makes the very good point that our briefing will be a private briefing.
CHAIR âSenator Nash, they are certainly on the record and no-one has moved to shut Senator Joyce down.
Senator JOYCE âI will leave a question on the record then and we will move on. I appreciate, Chair, that you too, as a person who has done a lot of driving, will understand it. We need to know this on the record. I do not know what they call them in Europe. I imagine they call them bullbars there. We certainly call them bullbars or roo bars here. What is the differentiation between the European standard and what is currently the practice in Australia as fitted to a whole range of sedans that are driving our roads and will this European standard have the capacity for which we attach a bullbarâthat is, to protect the occupants from the impact with wildlife?
Senator Carr âWe will take that on notice and get you a descriptor in technical terms of what the differences are.
Senator NASH âCan I just have a clarification?
CHAIR âThere is no difference, Senator Joyce. We have European standards for diesel engines and everything.
Senator NASH âBut I think we just want to know what it is, thanks. Minister, would you be happy for that briefing to be on the public record? Can we put that in Hansard?
Senator Carr âWhat is that?
Senator NASH âThe briefing that you have offered.
Senator Carr âI would prefer it if we could actually have a private conversation and then you could have a hearing if you like. But that is not a part of the estimates process.
CHAIR âWhy donât you take it on notice, Minister.
Senator NASH âI am not talking about the estimates process.
CHAIR âWe do not always make a habit of having briefings. In fact, I do not know oneâ
Senator Carr âSenator Nash, that is a separate use of the committee.
Senator NASH âI was just clarifying because, as the minister had said, and quite rightly, the offer of the briefing was there. Not being able to do any more here on the public record, and given the offer, it is important that we actually do the briefing on the public record.
Senator Carr âSenator Nash, all I am saying is that there are procedures in the Senate in terms of the standing orders about what matters can be taken in evidence and how they are taken. There is nothing in the standing orders about taking a private briefing. That is all I am suggesting. Letâs take it on notice, but the offer for a briefing stands. Whether it goes beyond that may well require a resolution of the Senate.
Senator ABETZ âI would have thought it would be very helpful, given the public interest this has aroused by the looks of itâthe chair is aware of it and so are the National Party and the Liberal Party; there are a lot of people interested in the answers that will be providedâif the committee were to resolve of its own volition to ask the Senate to be allowed to sit for a period on the public record. I am sure the Senate would be more than agreeable. But the problem is if we are not resolved to that we might be in a situation where we truncate Senate estimates now. We cannot get anything else on the public record before this report comes out in end of March or April.
CHAIR âSenator Abetz, I will help you out there, because one thing about this committee is it is very, very approachable once it gets its teeth into something. I am depoliticising this and saying that I think I can safely say the whole committee wants a briefing. There are processes in place. The committee shall have a private meeting to discuss that later. The minister has said he will take it on notice and we have been offered a briefing. I am not one to sit here in front of everyone and say everything is going to be on the record because we have never done that for that for briefings before. So with the greatest respect to the committee we will have a private hearing later.
Senator WILLIAMS âCould I ask one question on pedestrian safety?
Senator NASH âCan I just resolve this first? So could we, perhaps, determine the public nature or not of the briefing in the afternoon tea break so that, if we determine that we cannot have it on the public record, we can continue back with this at some stage today?
CHAIR âNo. To be honest with you, we have a problem and we will discuss that. Senator Nash, I am not politicising a very important issue like this. I do not know how many times I have to say to you as not a member of the Liberals or the Nationals that I have a vested interest in this too, as do many Western Australians. But I do not want to go off half-cocked while we are all screaming across the table at each other, which has happened.
Senator NASH âI do not think we are screaming at all, Chair.
CHAIR âYou are carrying on and then the minister answers and then you all attack him. Senator Nash, we will have a private meeting. I am not committing to anything. The committee will have a private meeting in the afternoon tea break.
Senator NASH âBut you take my point, Chair; we do not want to truncate it.
CHAIR âI am not going to start precedents in here. You know that, Senator Nash, as a long-term member of this committee. It is cute to pull that before we have a meeting.
Senator ABETZ âThere is a 127-page regulation impact statement dealing with the issue of pedestrian safety. Does that document deal with occupant safety?
Mr Hogan âThe document is particularly focused on the application of the pedestrian safety standard. There are many Australian design rules which go to the issue of occupant safety. If you are asking whetherâ
Senator ABETZ âI am asking about this statement. Does it deal with occupant safety?
Mr Hogan âThe intent of the document is that there should be no degradation of occupant safety.
Senator ABETZ âThat is the intent. Can you take on notice whereabouts in the document that is indicated to us, please?
Mr Hogan âYes.
Senator ABETZ âThank you. Can I also ask: does this proposal deal with the issue of winches and driving lights on the front of motor vehicles as well, besides bullbars?
Ms OâConnell âWe will take that on notice.
Senator ABETZ âDo we know at this stage or not?
Mr Hogan âIt is possible to accommodate those devices within the proposed standards but, of course, they are matters on which we seek public feedback.
Senator ABETZ âWhat is the European standard in relation to winches?
Mr Hogan âIt is not a standard in relation to winches; it is a standard in relation to impact forces and how they are dealt with. You can definitely have winches fitted to bullbars and those bullbars be able to meet the standards. They are not prescriptiveâ
Senator ABETZ âAlso, what about winches? Would they be allowed if you had, for example, a car without a bulbar but just a winch and driving lights? Would that offend against the proposed European standard?
Mr Hogan âNo, it is not a prescriptive standard, Senator. It is a standard that requires certain vehicle performance in relation to pedestrians and it does not preclude fitting of those devices.
Senator ABETZ âSo these regulations might ban bullbars, but might still allow winches andâ
Mr Hogan âNo. The proposal does in no way ban bullbars.
Ms OâConnell âI offered earlier the media release from Catherine King that clarifies that. I can table that.
CHAIR âPlease do.
Senator WILLIAMS âJust on pedestrian safety, having lived in rural Australia all my life, I was quite amazed when I went to Sydney recently and there was a red light sign that said âDonât walkâ and a lady walked out on the road and a bloke on a pushbike cleaned her up and he went head over heels. What is going on when people just walk straight across the road through the âDonât walkâ light? Isnât that one of the high-risk problems when you talk about pedestrian safety? There is a green light and a red light, and you can count people by the hundreds of thousands every day in Sydney walking straight through the red lights. Is that an issue that needs to be addressed, or do you just leave it up to everyone as individuals? And then, of course, when they get hit by a car it is the roo barâs fault, the carâs fault or the driverâs fault. Where do we stand on this?
Mr Mrdak âCertainly the proposal with the standard is to try and build in best practice in terms of absorption, as Mr Hogan has indicated. You obviously cannot control the actions of every person who steps out onto the road, but what you can try and do is minimise the impact if that is taking place with vehicles. That is what we are trying to do, and that is what design standards have been trying to do for some time.
Senator WILLIAMS âThe point I make is that, if they obeyed the traffic rules, there would probably be fewer people being hit.
Mr Mrdak âYes.
CHAIR âWhere were we? After all that excitement, I have lost my place.
Senator JOYCE âWe were going to have a private meeting to determine whether we are meeting on the record or not.
CHAIR âFine. Members of the committee will have a private meeting at four oâclock.
Senator Carr âActually, I think it takes more than the committee to determine whetherâ
CHAIR âI am talking about requesting aâ
Senator Carr âOh, the briefing.
CHAIR âQuite frankly, minister, there will be some positions put. This is out of the blue. We do not do this as a committee. I think it is rather cute to start pulling that onto the Senate estimates. That is my view, but we will have that discussion at four oâclock.
Senator NASH âThank you, Chair.
Senator JOYCE âMy next is on Australian maritime safety.
CHAIR âThere are only two members here at the moment. We will get Senator Heffernan.
Senator JOYCE âI am on Australian maritime safety.
CHAIR âOkay. Are there any other questions of surface transport policy? Senator Colbeck, do you have surface transport policy questions?
Senator COLBECK âYes, just a couple of quick ones. You provided to Senator Abetz answers to some questions that he asked on my behalf last estimates about vehicle numbers from Tasmania over the last five years, and the latest figures were 2009-10, so I presume they are calendar year numbers. Do you have any figures more up to date than that for the last six monthsâsay, up to the end of December?
Ms Gosling âI would have to take that on notice. I do not have those figures with me, andâ
Senator COLBECK âOkay.
Ms Gosling âI am not even sure whether we will be able to get them, but we will certainly try.
Senator COLBECK âOkay. The other thing that I would be interested in is if I could get some month-on-month trend lines to work out where the peaks and the troughs are in the claims for passenger vehicles under the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme.
Ms Gosling âI will take it on notice and we will see whether that is possible, I guess.
Senator COLBECK âOkay.
Ms OâConnell âIs it just restricted to passenger vehicles? There are a number ofâ
Senator COLBECK âThe document that you give me, ST04 attachment A, is quite a comprehensive one, and I have to say I am pretty pleased with it.
Ms OâConnell âSo it is the same break-up.
Senator COLBECK âIf you could break it up based on that, that would really be very helpful. There is a bit of concern at the moment about capacity for passenger vehicles on those vessels, as I think Senator Abetz might have alluded to last time, and I am just trying to get a sense of where that is heading to. I think the effects are probably post the numbers that you have been able to give me. That is why I am trying to get something post June last year.
Ms OâConnell âOkay, June last year.
Senator COLBECK âSo I am just trying to get a bit of a sense. But, of course, I recognise that there are seasonal impacts to those numbers as well, so, if I can get some reflection of that, that gives me the capacity to have a bit of a look at what is actually happening in the system. It has dropped from 188,000 vehicles in 2005-06 down to 163,000âthis is carsâin 2009-10. There may be a number of reasons for that, but one of the concerns that have been raised is that there is additional freight being placed on the vessels to the extent of about 100 cars per sailing. So I am just trying to get a sense of what the impacts were, and I think those things were instigated during the year last year, so they would not show up in these figures specifically.
Ms OâConnell âOkay.
Senator NASH âI get caught with this every time. The road safety issuesâwhere do they fit?
Ms OâConnell âIt is here.
Senator NASH âThank you. Can I just ask about the issue of the draft National Road Safety Strategy. There are some concerns, I understand, from the Australian Automobile Association that the strategy only sets a target of 30 per cent reduction in road fatalities over the next decade. The AAA have put forward, from what they have said, that they would prefer a target of 50 per cent. Is that correctâthat there is only a 30 per cent reduction? How is that figure arrived at, and are you aware of any concerns about the level?
Ms Gosling âYes. The submissions on the draft National Road Safety Strategy closed on 18 February, so they just closed at the end of last week. We have actually received something in the order of around 600 submissions, so we now have a reasonable task in cooperation with our state and territory colleagues to analyse those submissions and pick up the key themes coming out of them. We are aware that that comment has been made, in terms of the target, and that will be one of the issues that will need to be considered in analysing the submissions and providing further advice back to the Australian Transport Council. In terms of how the 30 per cent figure was derived, I might hand over to Mr Motha.
Mr Motha âThe 30 per cent was arrived at by a process of modelling. The Monash University Accident Research Centre, based in Melbourne, undertook a modelling project that generated some scenarios for the target, and that 30 per cent came out of that work.
Senator NASH âAll right. The AAA has certainly brought to peopleâs attention that this target is lower than the target in the last NRSS, which was 40 per cent. Is that correct?
Mr Motha âThat is not quite correct. The target in the previous strategy was based on a rate, so it was a target that was 40 per cent based on a rate per hundred thousand people. The 30 per cent target in the current draft strategy is an absolute number-based rate, so it is based on reduction in the total number of fatalities or total number of serious injuries. If you do a calculation on that, you will find that the 30 per cent absolute number rate in the current draft is roughly equivalent to a 40 per cent rate in terms of rates. It translates to 40 per cent in terms of rates, so they are roughly equivalent.
Senator NASH âThey are roughly equivalent.
Ms OâConnell âYes. I think that in terms of the direct comparison, as Joe has explained, there is not a direct comparison. I think the other thing in terms of the current road safety strategy is focused not just on deaths but also on serious injuries. One of the developments is the increase in injuries. As technology is improved in cars et cetera, there are fewer deaths but more serious injuries. So it is to get more of a balance of looking at both deaths and serious injuries in terms of the strategy.
In terms of the responses, there is a balance of responses. Certainly a number of themâand you mentioned the AAAs responsesâare a higher target in terms of reductions. That needs to be underlain by the sort of activities or actions you put in place in order to achieve that higher target. I think it is fair to say that probably some of the responses have also not necessarily been supportive of some of the measures suggested to reduce the road fatality rate. So it is a balance of both, in terms of responses.
âDo these come out annuallyâthe NRSS?
Ms OâConnell âThe National Road Safety Strategy?
Senator NASH âYes.
Ms OâConnell âThe National Road Safety Strategy is a decade-long strategy. It is the international Road Safety Decade of Action, and most countries are looking at a decade of road safety initiatives. It looks at a systems-based approach, so it is not just one single initiative but looks atâ
Senator NASH âAt the whole lot.
Ms OâConnell âthe whole lot.
Senator NASH âIs there any measurement on the way through of how it is tracking, or do you wait until you get to 2020 before you do that?
Ms OâConnell âNo, there is measurement all the way through in terms ofâ
Senator NASH âOkay. When did it start? Has it only justâ
Ms Gosling âThe draft strategy has just closed. The submissions have just closed, so it will be considered by the Australian Transport Council in May.
Senator NASH âCan you, if you would not mindâand I am very happy for you to take this on noticeâjust say what that benchmarking will be over the next 10 years as you are measuring whether or not you are getting towards it or how that is all going to work, thanks. I have just one last very quick question on the vehicle rest stops. In answer to some very good questions from Senator Williams on notice, basically about the rest stops and the optimum number, one of the answers says: âThe audit did not quantify an optimal number of rest areas for this network. The audit did, however, identify that there was a deficiency of rest opportunities on 60 per cent of this network, as well as deficiencies in site facilities at existing rest areas.â It is STP03. How can you know if there is a deficiency if you do not know what the optimal number of rest stops is?
Ms OâConnell âI think, in terms of rest stops, when Senator Williams was asking some questions earlier, we did cover the process of the rounds for the heavy vehicle safety package 1, and the second round of heavy vehicle safety packageâso that process of how the rest stops are prioritised and then selected. I think this is reflecting that the demands for rest stops are clearly high. The more rest stops, I think, the better, in terms of the process that people are allowed to put forward in submissions.
Senator NASH âBut you see my point. It is difficult to find out how you can see what is not good enough when you do not know what is good.
Ms OâConnell âI think it is probably fair to reflect that there is not a sort of national standard for number of rest stops.
Senator NASH âI will go back and read the Hansard, sorry. I do not think I was in the room when Senator Williams was doing that. Perhaps I might put something on notice. I just find it very difficult to see how you can identify what the deficiency is if you do not actually know what the optimum number of rest stops is. Perhaps you could take that on notice for me anyway and come back with more of a thorough answer, thanks.
CHAIR âThanks, Senator Nash. Thank you, Surface Transport Policy officers.