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Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 8512

Ms PARKE (10:00 AM) —I speak in support of the AusLink (National Land Transport) Amendment Bill 2008, which extends AusLink in terms of its operation as well as in its scope and duration. This bill clears the way for the funding under AusLink of heavy vehicle facilities, including off-road facilities that will improve both driver safety and amenities for truck operators. It also provides further funding for the Roads to Recovery program through to 2014, a program under which the local governments in the Fremantle electorate will receive $1,116,697 in the 2008-09 year.

The legislation being considered works to complement, and of course depends upon, the reform that is contained in those bills that effects an appropriate increase in the share of cost borne by heavy vehicle road users. Of course I support those changes, which are fair, reasonable and progressive. As a matter of general economic principle, I am in favour of using a full-cost approach in the assessment and formation of government policy. Not only does this mean that costs are properly and fairly attributed, and therefore properly considered in terms of what constitutes the full extent of effective government support, but it also provides the opportunity to assess the competitive footing on which relevant industry alternatives currently exist and, what is more, the basis on which they might compete if appropriate government support were determined on a full-cost basis.

When it comes to transport and freight policy, it is only right and sensible that road freight be considered with all the costs associated with it taken into account. This may have the effect of making rail freight more competitive and, notwithstanding the fact that road and rail are often seen as the only real domestic freight options, it may be part of a set of prevailing circumstances, including the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which sees a renewal of coastal shipping in Australia. Domestic shipping has fallen into an unnecessary decline in this country, with a range of consequences which in my view extend to the question of Australia’s transport sovereignty and security.

One aspect of the national land transport program that I particularly want to mention is black spot funding. As the Chairperson of the Western Australian Black Spot Consultative Panel, I am only too aware of the range and importance of road projects that this program supports. In Western Australia, the work funded this year will include 46 projects in both rural and urban areas to a total value of $5.927 million. In my role as chairperson of the consultative panel, I of course welcome all the funding that has been delivered and that will continue to be delivered to those Western Australian roads identified as requiring safety improvement. As the member for Fremantle, I am pleased that black spots in Banjup, Yangebup, Hamilton Hill and East Fremantle are being addressed under the program.

I want to take this opportunity to recognise the work done by my predecessor in the role of Chairperson of the Western Australian Black Spot Consultative Panel, Senator Eggleston, and I thank him for his contribution. One of the key aspects of this bill is the funding it enables through definitional change for heavy vehicle safety measures, including the provision of rest stops, decoupling areas and monitoring technology. This forms a part of the Rudd government’s heavy vehicle safety and productivity package. Like the Black Spot Program, this particular funding recognises that road transport, for all its advantages, has associated non-economic costs, the most significant of which is counted in human lives.

As the representative of the electorate that contains the port of Fremantle, I am only too aware that freight transport is a critical economic and community issue. The movement of containers by truck into Fremantle port continues to be a matter of contention between port users on the one hand and metropolitan residents on the other, and there is a long history of simplistic political pointscoring by the Western Australian Liberal Party in relation to what is a complicated issue.

I support the outgoing Western Australian Labor government’s approach to supporting the port’s freight needs while looking to minimise the community impact of road freight. There has been an increase in rail freight out of Fremantle port as a result, and I would dearly like to see that matched in the coming years by an increase in domestic coastal shipping. I refer those members who are interested in the shipping aspect of freight policy to the current House Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government inquiry into coastal shipping policy and regulation, to which I made a submission.

As someone who believes, in broad terms, that the transport policy answers lie in the policy challenge of decreasing our reliance on road freight and road use, I also take this opportunity to welcome the government’s budget commitment of $1.3 million for a freight monitoring and coordination technology project, called Network Intelligence, which will improve the efficiency of road freight movements between Kewdale and Fremantle Port. This is certainly an example of government supporting an initiative in the expectation that we can make things better in many cases by simply being prepared to do them smarter. In addition to the modifications that are planned for the High Street-Stirling Highway intersection, and the improved dual-carriageway section of Leach Highway west of Carrington Street, these initiatives will improve community safety and decrease the truck noise associated with the existing road freight into Fremantle port.

This bill extends the operation of AusLink into the area of heavy vehicle safety and monitoring and expands the scope of the Roads to Recovery program. I welcome these measures as part of the Rudd government’s heavy vehicle safety and productivity package. It is too easy to keep building more and bigger roads and to keep subsidising road use, whether through the politically expedient excise reduction madness of those opposite or through a failure to apply a full-cost approach to road transport analysis. The hard road, if you like, is to acknowledge the fact of ever-diminishing oil resources, not to mention the carbon pollution aspect of road use, and to begin the long and difficult process of changing the way we transport freight and ourselves in Australia.