2015 Local Government Associations Roads and Works conference
28 August 2015
Unity College (High School Campus)
Murray Bridge SA
Thank you very much, Dave [Burgess] and good morning ladies and gentlemen, before I start I would like to particularly acknowledge:
- My colleague the Member for Barker—Tony Pasin MP;
- The SA LGA President—Mayor Dave Burgess;
- The Mayor of The Rural City of Murray Bridge—Brenton Lewis;
- And of course, all the other Mayors, Council Chairs and Council staff here this morning.
It is a great pleasure to be here today to talk to you about our Government's commitment to local communities in South Australia—and their role in delivering a strong and prosperous local economy, with strong jobs growth, and better opportunities.
As part of this Government's commitment to driving economic growth we have delivered in our first year, the three biggest and most comprehensive Free Trade Agreements in our nation's history.
To ensure we make the most of the opportunities from the FTAs and enable South Australian producers to effectively engage in these new markets, we are getting on with the job of delivering an infrastructure package that is improving road and freight rail links in every state and territory—projects in all our biggest cities and smallest of local communities.
SA Local Govt issues—FAGs & Supp. Funding
Creating a stronger Australia requires a laser-like focus on the future, and partnerships between governments are integral to getting there. Our Government is proud to be delivering the vital infrastructure communities need in partnership with state and local government, especially through a number of new programmes designed to deliver the big national rail and highway projects and last mile connections.
Before I talk about the Government's continued investment in local government, I'd first like to address some issues I know are of concern to South Australian local government.
The Financial Assistance Grant temporary indexation pause is unpopular—we knew it would be and it was not a decision we took lightly.
When we were elected almost two years ago we inherited $123 billion in projected future deficits. We have got that down by about $40 billion… it's what we were elected to do and it was the responsible thing to do… but it did not make it any easier.
Despite our Budget repair job, Councils will still receive $9.45 billion in Financial Assistance Grants across the forward estimates.
This year South Australian councils alone will receive $152 million—and to make the burden easier for Councils we paid more than half the money early, mostly before the end of last financial year, so you can earn extra interest on the advance payment.
Staying with federal assistance, I'd like to clarify the issues surrounding the Supplementary Local Road Funding Programme paid only to South Australian Councils.
I acknowledge that South Australians consider their proportion of the Identified Local Road Grant national pool is inequitable—even though this was the proportion that was agreed by the South Australian government at a Special Premiers conference in 1990.
When the Howard Government commenced the SA Supplementary Programme in 2004-05 to bolster South Australia's share, the federal government's underlying cash surplus was $13.6 billion.
Upon our election, the federal government had a $48.5 billion cash deficit.
What's more, the previous Federal Government had not provided funding in the forward estimates to continue the programme beyond the election year; so new money would have to have been found and offset by cuts to other programmes to reinstate the programme.
After six years of the Labor's waste and mismanagement the Government is simply not in a financial position to continue to supplement South Australia for a decision the state made 25 years ago.
Having said that, if local governments around Australia are able to agree on a revised formulae for the interstate distribution of road funding to Councils that gives South Australia a better share—I will support it and the federal government will agree.
I accept I am giving you a very tough challenge. I was appalled that the States have not been prepared to countenance any adjustment to the GST distribution formulae to address the unjust and embarrassing disadvantage that has developed over the years for Western Australia.
Since South Australia and other states showed little sympathy for Western Australia, it would not be surprising if other states resisted any reform to the distribution of local government road funding also.
But, the good news is South Australian councils are winners from this Government's commitment to building the infrastructure of the 21st Century.
We are providing $171 million in additional funding to South Australian local roads through the Roads to Recovery and Blackspots programmes and other regional road projects—that puts into perspective the $18 million a year at stake for South Australian councils though the Supplementary Local Roads Programme.
We understand the importance of our partnerships with local governments—you are essential for providing the quality local roads we need and that's why we are investing in record amounts.
Roads to Recovery
The Government is delivering a record $3.2 billion Roads to Recovery programme—that is an increase of 286 per cent for 2015/16 and 330 per cent in 2016/17.
South Australian Councils will receive over $288 million from 2014/15 to 2018/19—$130 million more than previously committed.
This year, the Rural City of Murray Bridge will receive $968,000 in Roads to Recovery funding—that's a 286 per cent increase in funding this year alone. Next year it will go up again to $1.1 million—a 330 per cent investment in your local roads to grow our economy and strengthen communities.
Not only has this Government increased funding by $1.45 billion, we have ensured this programme is here to stay by removing the sunset clause in the legislation.
Roads to Recovery is now permanent—something Labor failed to do when in office and voted against in the House of Representatives.
This investment in, and commitment to, the Roads to Recovery programme demonstrates the value this Government puts in our partnership with local government.
I want to encourage Local Government to make good use of this money for local roads and streets. We want you to use it promptly. We are providing the investment in part to help stimulate the economy and to provide construction jobs at a time when the mining expansion boom has slowed.
There has never been a better time to build roads. Tendering is keen and we expect to see real action. If you do not claim your entitlement promptly I will never be able to persuade the Treasurer again that Local Government should be given the opportunity to participate in economic stimulus and infrastructure investment.
Bridges Renewal Programme
As you know, bridges connect communities and industries, and drive economic growth—that's why this Government has committed $300 million in the new Bridges Renewal Programme.
In February, three South Australian projects received funding under Round One of the programme.
As you would know, Round Two closes on Monday. We have decided that this round will be reserved specifically for Local Government bridges. The round will provide funding of up to $100 million exclusively to local councils to enhance the productivity of bridges serving local communities, and allow access by higher productivity vehicles.
We have been working with councils to ensure their projects have the best possible chance of success by streamlining the application form and providing more guidance in the application process, and better feedback directly to Councils and at forums such as this.
The Black Spot Programme
The Government has committed an extra $200 million to the Black Spot Programme—bringing total funding for the programme to $500 million over the five years to 2019.
$41 million to 2019 has been provided to overcome accident Black Spots in South Australia.
In 2015-16, 37 South Australian Black Spots will be addressed with funding totaling $16.6—an increase of $10.6 million from 2014-15.
In addition to expanding the Black Spots Programme, we have made it easier for Councils to access the funding by broadening the eligibility criteria for the Programme for the next two years.
When it comes to road safety, prevention is certainly better than cure.
That's why we have amended the criteria for Black Spots funding to allow more investment in the proactive treatment of unsafe roads. Consultative Panels will able to allocate up to 40 per cent of funding to sites on the basis of a road safety audit—rather than have to wait for accidents to happen.
To further expand eligibility for the program, the minimum Benefit Cost Ratio for proposals has been reduced from 2:1 to 1:1—a very significant shift.
The Government has also guaranteed that at least 50 per cent of funding provided over the next two years will be dedicated to fixing roads in regional Australia.
The closing date for 2016-17 nominations in South Australia is 31 October 2015—and I encourage you to nominate black spots for funding.
Heavy Vehicles Safety and Productivity Programme
The Government has committed an additional $200 million for projects under its expanded Heavy Vehicle Safety & Productivity Programme.
The Programme aims to improve productivity and safety outcomes for heavy vehicle operations across Australia, through funding infrastructure projects to ensure more local motorists and freight companies get to make the heavy vehicle sector safer.
Truck drivers and other heavy vehicle operators in South Australia will benefit from $7 million in new road and industry upgrades under Round 4 of the Programme.
This includes $2.46 million to the Rural City of Murray Bridge to improve road surfaces and upgrade five intersections to meet B-Double standards.
The project will address 'whole of journey' and 'last mile' issues. The new B-Double route avoids traffic and pedestrian conflict points, aligns with State strategies and industry needs and improves the efficiency of north-south freight movement.
I expect Round 5 will open later this year and I, again, encourage councils to apply.
National Heavy Vehicle Regulator
More generally, heavy vehicle regulation is an area where local governments and the Australian Government need to work better together.
As you know, local councils have legal obligations as road managers under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, especially relating to heavy vehicle access to their road networks—including deciding which heavy vehicles may use their road network and the conditions under which they will operate.
When the National Law took effect in February last year, it seems most councils were taken by surprise—it is fair to say outcomes fell short of expectations.
Many transport, agricultural and construction companies were not able to get timely road access or permits because local councils had never given thought to the policy issues involved or what parts of their road network were suitable for over width or over weight vehicles.
This was particularly evident in relation to over-mass vehicles, and special purpose vehicles like agricultural machinery and mobile cranes.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has since been undertaking an educational campaign to ensure local councils understand their role and obligation as road managers.
Equally, local councils need to be aware of the whole of government policy agreed by transport Ministers in November 2014 regarding the mapping of key freight routes initiative, to maximize the flexibility available to heavy vehicle operators to improve road access for heavy vehicles which will bring significant productivity benefits to the Nation.
I encourage local councils to work collaboratively with the NHVR to drive economic growth in our regions and urban centres.
National Stronger Regions Fund
Our commitment to regional South Australia is, again, highlighted through significant funding under our new National Stronger Regions Fund and our Community Development Grants programme.
Round One of the National Stronger Regions Fund is delivering $16.5 million to projects in South Australia to stimulate economic growth and address areas of disadvantage.
Not far from here, at Tailem Bend, we are supporting the development of the SA Motorsport Park project, creating jobs during its construction and into the future.
Applications under Round Two of the Fund have closed and are currently under consideration, and new funding will be available to support many important projects over the years to come.
We have also provided 20 Community Development Grants in South Australia with a total value of $31.6 million, which support projects ranging from sporting facility upgrades to tourism ventures and town centre redevelopments.
Under this year's Federal Budget, we announced our new Stronger Communities Programme, which is providing $45 million over two years to fund small capital projects in local communities.
Funding of $150,000 a year for two years to every federal electorate in Australia commencing in 2015-16 will be available to support projects that deliver social and economic benefits in local communities.
Applicants can apply for funding of between $5,000 and $20,000, matched by cash or in-kind funding.
The Stronger Communities Programme will hopefully fill gaps that can be left by other programmes, by focusing on small grants for projects that boost the vibrancy and livability of communities—so councils and other local sporting, community and service organisations can receive support for projects that will help your community and region to grow and flourish.
This Government believes in regional Australia—when our regions are strong, then so is our nation.
In addition to our significant investment in regional and urban infrastructure, the Government has set up a new National Water Infrastructure Development Fund with $500 million available for water infrastructure projects.
$50 million has been allocated to support the planning and investigation necessary to assess and plan viable projects for investment, and $450 million is available to construct water infrastructure in partnership with other government or industry.
The Government is determined to end dam phobia and get water conservation and storage projects underway.
There is a long and growing list of suggested sites and projects that could benefit from funding right across the country—I urge you to come to us with your shovel ready projects so we can get on with the job of delivering the vital water infrastructure our regions—and your agricultural producers—desperately need.
Major SA Transport Infrastructure Projects
The Government has made an unprecedented nation-wide commitment of over $50 billion to infrastructure investment, with a focus on major transport projects. The recent announcement of our Northern Australia package brought our commitments to investment in productive infrastructure, to nearly $57 billion.
In 2015-16 alone we are providing over $478 million for major transport infrastructure projects in South Australia, and $2.1 billion will be invested here in the five years to 2018-19.
Our highest priority in urban South Australian infrastructure is to finally deliver the North-South Road Corridor through Adelaide—that's action after the talk that started back in the 1960s.
The North-South project will progressively deliver major travel time savings over the next decade, especially during peak periods—and substantially boost the productivity of Adelaide's transport network.
The Australian Government has committed $944 million to the priority Darlington and Torrens Road to River Torrens upgrades.
The Darlington upgrade project, which will begin later this year, will support about 370 jobs a year during its construction—and the Torrens project, which commenced this month, will support 480 jobs a year during construction.
Indigenous Transport Infrastructure Projects
Creating real opportunities and progress for all Australians wherever they live—including Indigenous Australians—is a high priority for this Government.
We are supporting remote Indigenous South Australians through the $85 million we are providing to improve roads in the APY Lands which will greatly improve safety, service access outcomes and employment opportunities for APY Lands communities.
The development of road infrastructure and transport networks creates particular challenges for local governments.
For rural councils their networks are usually characterized by long distances and low traffic counts. In cities the networks require higher standards, and therefore higher costs.
Over $13.6 billion in Commonwealth funding is on the table for Australian Councils, most of which can be used for local roads including:
- $9.45 billion in untied Financial Assistance Grants;
- A record $3.2 billion Roads to Recovery programme;
- Up to $100 million under Round Two of the Government's new $300 million Bridges Renewal Programme;
- $500 million for the Black Spot Programme, which includes an additional $100 million in both 2015-16 and 2016-17; and the
- $200 million Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program.
Together with Councils, our investment continues to boost the South Australian economy, create thousands of jobs, increase capacity on our freight routes, reduce congestion and improve safety for all road users—be they urban, rural or remote.
I appreciate the opportunity to be with you this morning and outline the Australian Government's commitment to the work you do for your local communities.