Address: International Transport Forum 2015—Transport, Trade and Tourism: Mobility for a connect world

Speech

WTS008/2015

27 May 2015

Congress Centre, Leipzig

Secretary General José Viegas, Ministers, industry and business leaders and fellow speakers.

It is an honour to be part of this distinguished forum.

The Summit's theme and today's discussion have a particular resonance for Australia.

Transport makes a significant contribution to Australia's economy. For example, the Australian Logistics Council has estimated that logistics accounted for 8.6 per cent of GDP, contributing approximately A$132 billion to Australia's economy in 2013.

But we share with other countries the prospect of an ageing population and the resulting potential for stalling productivity, as well as increasingly urbanised growth and the stresses this places on transport systems and mobility more broadly.

We also have our own unique circumstances.

  • We have a small population of 23 million with a land mass significantly larger than Western Europe. Our largest three cities—Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane—are separated by almost 2,000 kilometres.
  • We are transitioning from resources-led investment to broader sources of growth.
  • Our freight task will nearly double by 2030.
  • And, fortunately, we are directly engaged in the rise of Asia.

To meet the challenges of distance head on, the Australian Government is making historic investments in crucial road, rail, intermodal and port infrastructure projects.

However, no government can afford to do it all.

The Australian Government has put in place a suite of broad micro economic reform and deregulation policies to:

  • target investment in productive infrastructure;
  • reduce red tape to drive down costs and complete projects faster;
  • leverage more private sector investment, including foreign investment;
  • employ alternative models of financing; and
  • wider user-charging.

We are also a government that is taking action to open our economy and keep it growing.

Earlier this month in our Federal Budget we announced an initiative to promote infrastructure investment in Australia's north—which of course is closer to our key trading markets than any other part of our country—and creating an economic environment in which industries and small business can flourish.

Our tropical north is in the same climatic zone of two-thirds of the global population and has a unique opportunity to provide leadership in areas like tropical agriculture, medicine, education and science.

Australia's tourism and hospitality industries are on the brink of supercharged growth in coming decades.

Tourism already contributes 2.7 per cent of Australia's GDP and directly employs over half a million Australians.

In the year ending November 2014, international arrivals reached a record 6.8 million visitors with record results from China and the US.

And we currently have $53.7 billion worth of aviation, arts and accommodation projects in the tourism investment pipeline.

For distant Australia, aviation plays a particularly crucial role in tourism.

Hence our decision to build another airport in Sydney—which will not have a curfew—and to continue to ensure we have one of the most open aviation markets in the world.

Domestically, we have a completely deregulated aviation market and we permit 100 per cent foreign ownership.

Australia is also one of the few countries with an aviation sector that is entirely driven by the private sector.

In the international market, almost any airline that wants to add services to Australia can do so—where there are constraints, we work to remove them.

Australia is reaping the dividends of this aviation liberalisation. In two decades, international passenger numbers have more than trebled, and the number of airlines serving Australia has grown by 36 per cent.

Australia is taking a leading role in ICAO's work to develop a new multi-lateral framework for civil aviation. In the meantime, however, we view the current bilateral system as a means to facilitate trade, not to constrain competition.

The world has come a long way towards ICAO's shared vision of continuous liberalisation. It is important that the global aviation community continues to move in this direction without distraction.

Facilitating trade is extremely high on the Australian Government's agenda.

Australia currently has nine free trade agreements in force.

Our FTA with China is remarkably comprehensive and will come into force as soon as domestic processes in both countries have been completed.

As an island nation we are dependent upon shipping for international trade. Our major sea ports are also our international trade gateways—we rely on maritime transport for 99 per cent of our import and export volumes.

Last week I announced a substantial de-regulation of Australian coastal shipping that will introduce a single, streamlined permit for all ships—Australian and foreign—operating along our coast.  

This reform will foster an environment where Australian industry can make the most of domestic and international opportunities and be responsive to changing patterns of demand.

Looking globally, we are an active international participant in international shipping policy through our membership of the International Maritime Organisation of which we have been members since the Organisation's inception.

We take our international responsibilities seriously, being actively involved in building capacity in our region, and our search and rescue zone is one of the largest in the world as we have learnt well as we search for MH 370 more than 1,000km from our coastline.

Conclusion

Thank you again for the opportunity to share Australia's perspective on the theme of this Summit and to make a contribution to the international policy dialogue.

Transport, trade and tourism are the critical cogs in positioning Australia to engage with world economies.

We are open for business.

Thank you.