Brisbane Container Terminals: Official Opening Address

Speech

WTS001/2014

22 January 2014

Berth 11, Peregrine Drive, Port of Brisbane

Thank you for the warm welcome Stephen (Gumley, AO—CEO Hutchison Ports Australia) and good morning everyone.

It is a pleasure to be able to join you for the official opening of Hutchison Port Holding's Brisbane Container Terminals (BCT).

I would also like to thank Stephen for the opportunity to take a look around the terminal operations earlier this morning.

This is a high tech enterprise and for me, it is the sort of infrastructure that ticks a lot of boxes.

The automated stacking cranes and other systems are significantly increasing container handling capacity and are providing a smooth and efficient flow through the terminal—which of course means better service to shipping lines, importers and exporters.

The service will be further improved when the second berth becomes operational later this year.    

Today's event celebrates a major step forward in the ongoing development of Australia's waterfront.

It also ends the duopoly that has existed on our waterfronts for many, many years and formally marks the entry of one of the world's largest port developers and operators into Australia.

Brisbane is the fastest growing container port in Australia, and the entry of Hutchison Port Holdings now places the Port of Brisbane at the cutting edge of stevedoring technology.

This is a move that is already sparking additional investment by existing stevedores and gives shipping lines, importers and exporters a new option in Brisbane and in Sydney's Port Botany.

Any increase in competition has the potential to drive more efficiency and productivity and what we have here is most definitely the sort of innovative infrastructure essential to boosting our national productivity.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) noted in its 15th annual monitoring report that the Australian stevedoring industry is healthier than ever before, with landmark reforms introduced in 1998 by the Howard Government driving increased productivity on the waterfront.

Since 1998, costs have fallen by 44 per cent in real terms as a result of the stevedores becoming more efficient.

Most of this cost saving has been passed on to shipping lines, with average prices falling by 37 per cent in real terms over the same period.

The ACCC also noted that a new competitor is a welcome development in an industry in which the conditions have not, until recently, supported the entry of new competitors.

As Deputy Prime Minister and as the Minister for Infrastructure and a proud Queenslander, I have no hesitation in saying that this is a great day for Brisbane and indeed a great day for the wider Australian economy.

Our major sea ports are our gateways to the world—and we have to ensure they are productive and competitive in the global market place.

On that note, I asked my Department's research arm, the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, to give me a snapshot of business at Port Brisbane.

The Bureau notes that in 2011–12, the total throughput of sea freight was 36.6 million tonnes.

The value of overseas sea freight was 12.7 billion dollars for overseas exports, and 28.4 billion dollars for overseas imports.

Containerised freight was 1  million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs).

The Port of Brisbane's official monthly trade report published in November for the 12 months just gone, saw 956 container ships move through the port.

And there will be no slow down as the demand for goods and services keeps pace with our rapidly growing population.

This is a national issue—a priority issue.

At the risk of stating the obvious—Australia is the world's largest island nation and a safe, productive and efficient waterfront is not something for the wish list—it is a must.

The importance of waterfront operations to our economy is emphasised in the national ports strategy agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2012.

The strategy aims to encourage long term thinking and share best practice and performance information to drive the development of efficient, sustainable, safe ports, fed by efficient landside supply chains.

The draft Queensland Port Strategy is in keeping with both the national approach to ports and the critical need to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

The draft strategy was the subject of public consultation and I am sure that as stakeholders, many of you here this morning contributed your views and expert knowledge.

I understand the consultation report is expected to be released early this year.

Development here at Brisbane Container Terminals certainly supports the draft strategy's call for improved management and productivity and enhanced supply chain connections.

Improving intermodal connections is one of the keys to unlocking the potential of our ports. 

The new Coalition Government recognises that the time has come to ensure that our freight infrastructure including road, rail, intermodal terminals and ports, is geared to meet forecast growth.

The Commonwealth, State and Territory governments are collaboratively developing a map of our freight routes that will be critical to carrying the burgeoning freight task, and assessing the issues involved in those routes.

While the Prime Minister and I have stressed on several occasions that we intend to be an infrastructure government—and we certainly intend to build a lot of roads—we are also committed to building the freight rail infrastructure of the 21st Century.

As I indicated earlier, our freight transport task has quadrupled over the last four decades, and we expect this trend to continue.

It is clear that with the continued growth of freight through the Port of Brisbane, opportunities will need to be explored to ensure land freight capacity continues to meet the demands of the port.

Well planned rail infrastructure could certainly play an important role in improving the supply chain to and from the Port.

And for that reason, the Government is committed to investigating the infrastructure required for a new 24/7 rail freight link.

This line would not only feed the Port but also link to the Inland Railway connecting the mines and agricultural regions of South East Queensland and Northern NSW to international markets.

As you may know, the Government has committed $300 million to finalise the plans, engineering design and environmental assessments to get the Inland Rail project underway.

It is all about getting the right connections and Inland Rail has long been championed by Coalition Governments.

It is an initiative that I am very passionate about both as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and in my role as Minister for Regional Development.

When previously in this portfolio, I commissioned the North-South Rail Corridor Study to identify the best route for the line.

It is now this Government's priority major rail freight project.

It is one of the nation's most ambitious and we have brought forward funding to make the project happen.

This is good news for the communities along the route from Melbourne to Brisbane.

The addition of a link line direct to the Port would really be the icing on the cake and would complement the existing road freight access and rail services.

Conclusion

Brisbane Container Terminals provides a clear example of how Australian governments, international investors and developers, industry and unions and can work together to ensure that our waterfront operations are among the best in the world.

This is exactly the sort of initiative that puts us on the world stage and highlights the Coalition's message that Australia is open for business.

Thank you