2022 National Local Roads and Transport Congress

*Check against delivery*

I want to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on today – the Muwinina people.

I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

I also acknowledge other First Nations people who are attending this event.


Thank you, Councillor Scott, for your kind introduction.

It is great to see so many of you here – in my home town of Hobart.

Indeed, I’m Hobart born and bred, as the saying goes.

I am pleased to be here today as Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport in an Albanese Government.

I know this is the first National Local Roads Congress for two years.

A lot has happened since then.

Just in the past twelve months:

  • A new National Road Safety Strategy was launched with the Action Plan to be considered by the end of the year.
  • A new federal Government was elected.
  • And just last week, we delivered our first budget as a Government.

I will be touching upon each of these issues, which are of importance to all Australians.

Road Safety

The National Road Safety Strategy 2021-30 charts a new direction in road safety.

It was released in December last year and we are keen to implement it, in partnership with states, territories and local government.

It sets out Australia’s road safety objectives, key priorities for action, and includes road trauma reduction targets for the decade to 2030.

The targets are ambitious – to reduce fatalities by 50 per cent and serious injuries by 30 per cent by 2030 – but they will drive us to take the action we need and I am committed to working together to achieve them.

The strategy also lays the groundwork for our longer-term shared goal of zero deaths or serious injuries by 2050.

This was also agreed by all governments within Australia then. And now.

Tragically, around 1,200 people are killed and a further 40,000 are seriously injured on our roads each year.

Many more people are affected by road accidents, including truckies who are often first on scene.

In addition to the terrible human toll, road trauma costs the economy
$27 billion a year.

Over the past four decades, road fatalities have dropped thanks to measures like the introduction of seatbelts, airbags, and random breath testing.

While there has been a downward trend in deaths, hospitalisation records show serious injuries are on the rise.

The latest available data shows an increase in injuries of more than 15 per cent between 2012 and 2019.

It also shows that the majority – 65 per cent – of road deaths occur in a Regional or Remote area, with the remainder occurring in major cities.

However, when it comes to injuries, 66 per cent occur in major cities, and the remainder in a Regional or Remote area.

As we continue to do what we can to drive road trauma down, we also face other road safety challenges.

Increased road use, including an uptake in devices such as e-scooters, an aging vehicle fleet with less safety features and legacy infrastructure requiring road safety investment, to name a few.

That’s why the National Road Safety Strategy covers the four pillars of the safe system, safe road use, safer roads, safer vehicles and safe speed.

From strategy to action

Of course, for a strategy to work it must be implemented.

So we are working with others on an Action Plan, to be considered by Infrastructure and Transport Ministers next month.

Under the former Government, the Action Plan failed to be implemented after criticism from stakeholders who felt there was to little consultation.

The Albanese Labor Government is getting the Action Plan back on track.

Unlike previous Action Plans, the new Action Plan will be designed to have measurable criteria and clear lines of accountability for action divided between States and the Federal Government.

My department established a Working Group comprising the Australian Local Government Association and road safety stakeholders.  As well as senior Australian, and state and territory government road safety officials.

This group has met three times.

A data sub-working group was also convened, to supporting the development of measurable actions and to work through the opportunities and limitations of existing data. Because, if you can’t count it, did it really happen?

In parallel to this process, early last month I held a roundtable with 16 road safety stakeholders, to discuss road safety priorities, data and the Action Plan.

The outputs of all these meetings will be a revised draft Action Plan which will improve accountability for the delivery of the actions by identifying who is delivering them, by when and how progress will be measured.

Freight and local government

I’d like to talk briefly about freight strategy.

Every time we see a truck enroute, visit a shop or have a parcel delivered, we see our freight and supply chain network in action.

And the volume of our national freight task is accelerating fast.

We must work together to ensure that we have the trucks, road infrastructure, logistical systems and importantly, workers, are in place to respond to this increase.

This is being pursued through the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, which connects industry and governments to improve system-wide efficiency.

The national strategy outlines four critical areas of action for the safe, reliable, and efficient delivery of freight.

Local governments play an integral part in transport and land use planning.

Particularly in meeting the challenge of balancing freight efficiency and community amenity.

To meet these challenges, the Urban Freight Planning Principles help guide planning for freight in Australia’s urban areas.

Endorsed in 2021, the Principles were developed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, and industry.

They are designed to guide land use decision-making across all levels of Government to improve planning for freight in our metropolitan areas.

And they are incorporated into state and territory level instruments, which flow through to local government planning schemes as appropriate.

Having said this, I do know that many local governments have immediate, pressing concerns – because of the impacts of the current east coast flooding on roads.

Many of you are seeing widespread impact on road infrastructure. Not just closed roads but roads that are damaged – particularly through pot holes.

I want to acknowledge that you are dealing with these issues now, in real time.

Action on climate change

Looking through the agenda for the next few days, I am aware that climate action will be one of the topics you will touch on.

Together, we are on a journey towards a lower carbon future. That is something individual states, territories and local governments could say individually – now with the election of the Albanese Government, we can say it as a united front.

Within 75 days of our election, our Climate Change Bill passed the House of Representatives. And the Senate soon after.

With it, we have enshrined into law an emissions reduction target of 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050. I know many in this room have championed emission reduction targets and have declared climate emergencies in your own councils, and I congratulate you on that important work.

Road transport and road infrastructure is an important part of reaching our emissions reduction targets.

Not only in improving vehicle standards themselves, but also through addressing energy supply across the nation.

We are working on both of these issues.

On vehicle standards - our Government recently announced the introduction of tighter emissions standards for new trucks and buses.

The new Australian Design Rule will be phased in over 12 months from the beginning of November 2024.

It adopts Euro VI and equivalent emission standards.

This measure will help reduce emissions and demand for liquid fuels while zero emission vehicles become more viable and more widely adopted.

These standards will help give certainty to the heavy vehicle industry.

Particularly at a time when delivery times on new orders are stretching out as long as two years.

With this interim measure in place, we are now working on two new Australian Design Rules, to address standards for electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell safety.

Our department is working with others to develop a National Electric Vehicle Strategy.

I know that all industries would want this to occur quickly, but it will take some time.

As a Government, we will move forward methodically and purposefully, in consultation with industry.

On the question of energy supply - this is something Labor has given considerable thought to in the Powering Australia Plan we took to the election.

The National Electric Vehicle Strategy is just one element of this wider plan.

It also includes the $20 billion Rewiring the Nation policy, aimed at rebuilding and modernising the Australian electricity grids – to ensure they can handle more renewable energy.

Just last month, the first of our investments under Rewiring the Nation were announced. 

This included a partnership to jointly fund the critical Marinus Link transmission project.

This is really ‘on point’ given we are meeting in Tasmania, as the Marinus link will deliver renewable energy from Tasmania to the mainland.

I’d also like to mention the work of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – known widely as ARENA.

ARENA is already looking to fund projects that incorporate hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and refuelling infrastructure.

For example, ARENA has committed funding to Viva Energy’s project to develop, build and operate the New Energies Service Station in Geelong.

There, a two-megawatt electrolyser will be powered by renewable energy to support the uptake of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in heavy fleets, including buses.

This service station will also include electric vehicle charging facilities.

We are also providing $20 million to the Hume Hydrogen Highway from Melbourne to Sydney, through our Driving the Nation Fund.

In this venture, we are pleased to be supporting the New South Wales and Victorian Governments, who are co-delivering this project and investing $10 million each.

These two projects serve to illustrate our commitment to diversifying the energy supply for transport in Australia.

I’m glad to see there is a broad range of topics on the program for this Congress, including road safety and electric vehicles.

I am pleased to see the use of recycled materials in roads also gets a Guernsey.

I met with the Australian Road Research Board in Canberra last week to talk about this (and other matters) and I’m delighted to see it get a wider audience here.

The Budget

At the start of my remarks, I mentioned some events since your last congress – such as the adoption of the National Road Safety Strategy and the change of government in May.

I also mentioned our first Budget as an important event – delivered by the Treasurer just last week.

Our first Budget will honour the pledges we made to voters, while also managing the economy in an uncertain global environment.

The Budget takes an important first step in ensuring the Commonwealth’s infrastructure spending is responsible, affordable and sustainable.

We are delivering on our election commitments which takes the total investment in transport infrastructure in every all state and territory in this Budget to $55 billion over the forward estimates for new and existing projects.

The Albanese Government wants infrastructure that leaves a lasting legacy, and this was reflected in the Budget.

It also made plain that we will continue to partner with state and territory governments to roll out life-saving projects under the Road Safety Program, with the delivery of total nationwide funding of $3 billion to continue through to mid-2025.

Our Government is also committing $26 million towards specific road safety grants over three years from 2022-23, addressing priorities identified in the National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan.

We’re also launching two new grant programs which will directly benefits local councils; the Growing Regions and Regional Precincts and Partnership Programs.

After almost a decade of rorts and waste from the Liberals, the new grant programs will add transparency and fairness back into funding and grant programs.

I want to share some details about the Growing Regions fund with you today – the Growing Regions fund is a new community infrastructure program which will deliver strategic investment in the regions by providing equitable and fair access to funding for capital works.

The program will run an open, competitive grants round, which will deliver a higher standard of integrity by awarding grants on a merit basis. The grants can be used to construct or upgrade community infrastructure.

I am pleased to be able to let you all know that ALGA will be involved in the consultation of the new Growing Regions grants program.

We are also committing an additional $80 million to deliver Heavy Vehicle Rest Areas nationwide, supporting our hard-working truck drivers who keep Australia moving. The $80 million commitment is on top of the pre-existing $60 million from the former Government – making the Rest Area Program a $140 million initiative.

Heavy Vehicle National Law Reforms

I know that this Congress is interested in the issue of heavy vehicles more generally.

And the substantive review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law in particular.

On the 30th September, Infrastructure and Transport Ministers agreed a process for implementing the agreed reforms from this review.

Among them is the ambitious goal of removing the need for
90 per cent of access permits for heavy vehicles over the next five years – through a digital automated access system.

Ministers also agreed that regulatory instruments and decisions on access issues should always be tested for impact on buses.

From here, senior transport officials will have a crucial role in the implementation process, with ongoing independent advice from Mr Ken Kanofski and from you - the Australian Local Government Association.

The process will return to Ministers next year, when the National Transport Commission will bring forward a Decision Regulatory Impact Statement on legislative reforms for consideration.

Opening the door for local government

ALGA’s participation in this process is just one way in which we are including local government in national conversations.

I know that Councillor Scott represented ALGA at the Jobs and Skills Summit in early September.

And the Prime Minister has announced that ALGA will be invited to attend meetings of the National Cabinet and the Council on Federal Financial Relations annually.

He has also announced the re-establishment of the Australian Council of Local Governments – which will bring together the Prime Minister, Commonwealth Cabinet Ministers, Mayors, Shire Presidents and local government stakeholders.

I am pleased to be part of a team which recognises the importance of local government and personally, given you are responsible for 36% of all kilometres travelled in Australia, you are all pretty important stakeholders to me!

In summary

I’ve covered a lot of areas today – road safety, , climate change, our first budget, heavy vehicle policy and the ways we are including local government in national conversations.

I’d like to thank you for listening and, as a local, I do hope you enjoy Hobart as much as I do.