Australian Logistics Council Forum 2017 Dinner

Speech

DCS003/2017

08 March 2017

Members Dining Room, Melbourne Cricket Ground

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and thank you Ian for the warm welcome and invitation to join you tonight.

It's fitting that we gather in the stands of one of the greatest sporting arenas in the world.

The transport and logistics industry was critical to the establishment of this ground… but not in the way you might think.

The MCG was built at this site in 1853 when the government of the day forced the Melbourne Cricket Club to move from its former site, because the route of Australia's first steam train was to pass through the oval.

It stands today at the heart of this magnificent sporting precinct: a colosseum for ferocious contests and performances by people with huge egos—not unlike the House of Representatives in that regard.

It is a pleasure to be here and to be reminded about the opportunity we all have to help make a difference in our professional lives—to build infrastructure that our kids and grandkids will thank us for… infrastructure like the MCG in 1853 or a Melbourne to Brisbane inland rail in 2017.

In politics, just as in sport or industry: you have to make the most of every opportunity.

We are faced with an opportunity right now and I'm determined to work with everyone in this room to make the most of it.

Your forum theme…Getting the Supply Chain Right…dovetails with the Government's determination to develop and implement the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

My Departmental Secretary, Mike Mrdak, took part in an expert panel earlier today discussing the strategy.

As you can appreciate, this is the next wave of reform to boost productivity and improve safety and efficiency in your sector.

Investment in nationally significant transport infrastructure, which will underpin Australia's future economic growth and job creation, is a priority for the Turnbull-Joyce Government.

Malcolm wants me working closely with the private sector to help fund major projects and Barnaby is driving a regional growth agenda focused on dams, energy security and connectivity in all its forms.

Transport infrastructure provides the economic and social arteries essential for life in a large nation like Australia.

It is central to growing Australia's productivity, and to improving the living standards for all Australians—now and in the future, particularly those of us who choose to live long distances from our cities.

Our transport and infrastructure needs are growing.

Between 2010 and 2030, our domestic freight task is expected to grow by 80 per cent and air passenger movements will increase to 280 million passengers per year.

By 2050, Australia's population is forecast to jump to close to 38 million and Sydney and Melbourne will both have populations of around eight million people, adding to urban congestion.

This is one of the greatest productivity problems facing the nation as we try to meet the dual challenge of creating a land transport system that safely accommodates domestic vehicles, cyclists, bike riders and pedestrians while not impeding the efficient flow of heavy vehicles and delivery vans that are the backbone of the supply chain.

Most of our exports come from our regional centres and as a regional MP I know how important efficient freight links are in giving regional economies the best chance for growth.

The once-in-a-generation Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail will play a key role in moving freight along the east coast.

The benefits will start accruing from day one, but it will serve Australia for at least the next 100 years—our kids and grandkids will thank us for getting on with the job of delivering this project.

Given our short electoral cycle, not to mention the vagaries of political fortune, my challenge in this term of government is to build momentum on this project and make its development inevitable.

We need to make sure that no future government will undo a decision to get on with the job of building the inland rail project.

It's a simple concept to grasp—a 1,700 kilometre freight rail connection between Melbourne and Brisbane that offers an alternative to the existing coastal route and bypasses the congested Sydney area.

Inland rail will connect our regions to our ports, reduce congestion in our cities and make our roads safer—and we can build it within a decade.

The project is expected to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs during peak construction and hundreds of ongoing jobs per year once fully operational.

The other signature project which is well advanced in terms of development and planning is the Western Sydney Airport, being led by my colleague the Minister for Urban Infrastructure Paul Fletcher.

Again, it's a project that future generations will thanks us for.

By the early 2060s, the airport is forecast to generate more than 60,000 direct jobs and $1.5 billion per year in value add for the Western Sydney region.

But to return to today's reality, the last mile as the trucks maneuver their way through city traffic to our rail links, ports and airports is the real sticking point and a bottom line reason for developing a long-term, sustainable and strategic National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

This is something you have pushed for for quite some time and you got the ball rolling with your report, Getting the Supply Chain Right, and your video, Freight Never Stands Still, which I launched in September last year.

Both these show your commitment and your in-depth knowledge of the challenges and the opportunities we have to get things right.

Tonight I can announce a panel of three senior leaders in your field have agreed to liaise with industry and advise me on the development of the strategy.

I want to thank Maurice James, Nicole Lockwood and Marika Calfas for taking on this important role—I hope they are still talking to me at the end of the year!

As a peak body you represent around 1.2 million workers across the sector incorporating road, rail, sea, air and intermodal ports.

Your industry contributes 8.6 per cent of GDP adding $131.6 billion to our economy.

We need to get the equation right to ensure long-term prosperity and international competitiveness.

The independent process I have announced will examine how the efficiency, including supply chain infrastructure, can best be lifted.

The panel will examine any regulatory and investment barriers alongside opportunities to improve the capacity and reduce the cost of transporting goods through our major national container ports and intermodal terminals.

The findings will inform development of a long-term strategy that will benefit all Australians.

The scope of the report is wide-ranging—as it has to be. Extensive consultation with industry will look at a number of key issues including:

  • The capacity of our key national export ports, airports and intermodal terminals in comparison to international markets with similar characteristics
  • Trends occurring in the global supply chain
  • The adequacy of investment planning to meet forecast growth to keep Australia's position with its trading partners
  • The regulatory and investment barriers to improved efficiency and access to key national terminals, including road and rail corridors

The panel will also look at opportunities for regulatory changes and targeted investment to lift the capacity of key supply chain nodes and improve efficiency of operations.

This includes identifying the costs and benefits of options at a national level; transparent public performance measures for key national terminals; and broad first and last mile issues.

What we want to see are options for scenario planning and predictions, where possible, related to the following areas:

  • Future developments across the supply chain including distributed production and changes in technology
  • Urban distribution and population growth and changing consumer activities such as online shopping
  • Potential decentralisation and redistribution of the population into regional centres
  • Trade arrangements and the development of distribution systems in agriculture, and
  • Impacts on the supply chain following major climatic events.

The panel will also be exploring opportunities to use big and open data and new digital technologies to improve the performance of our freight infrastructure.

The report will identify options and recommend regulatory changes and investment actions—public or private—that will benefit the economy over the next 20 years specifically through improved performance, productivity and efficiency of the freight and supply chain network and infrastructure.

A draft report will be made available for industry and government for comment by December this year, and the final report should be provided to the Government by March 2018.

This is a good example of government working with industry to plan for the longer term and respond to a rapidly changing environment.

We are also looking at a more collaborative decision-making process, engaging with state, territory and local governments to ensure projects and policy settings support national and regional priorities, and deliver a more effective transport system.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will conclude where I started: we all need to make the most of every opportunity.

As a government we want to hear your ideas. We want to work with you.

Thank you again for your support and encouragement as we work together to improve the greatest nation in the world.