Speech - Victorian Transport Association Conference

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Victorian Transport Association State Conference.

I’m Carol Brown, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport in the Albanese Labor Government.

Let me begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the country you are meeting on.

| pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. As well as any other First Nations people at this event.

This year is the year of the Voice, and I am proud to be part of a Government committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in full.

Before I begin, I want to give a big thank you to the VTA’s very own, Peter Anderson. Peter has been a huge support to me in my first year as an Assistant Minister. His insights and knowledge of the industry is second to none.

Now, I know the focus of this conference is a topic being grappled by companies and governments across the country being the issue of workforce shortages.

I am proud that the Albanese Government wasted no time in getting to work to fix the damage left behind by the previous Government.

One of the first actions of the Albanese Government was hosting the Jobs and Skills Summit last September. Prior to the summit, Ministers held industry specific roundtables across the country.

At the Surface Transport Roundtable, participants had a lengthy discussion about the unique set of circumstances being faced by the transport industry, being a skills shortage, an aging workforce and an image problem.

The outcome of the Jobs and Skills Summit was the formulation of the Employment White Paper which will be released in September this year.

But the issue is to devastating on workers, businesses and our economy to wait. That is why the Albanese Government is already progressing serval initiatives to begin to counter the issues being faced by industries across the country.

We are providing 480,000 fee-free TAFE and community-based vocational education places — as set out in the October Budget.

And the implementation of the twelve-month Skills Agreement between the Federal, State and Territory governments began in January, negotiations on a five-year agreement are already underway. 

This is just one example of our Government’s approach in this area, ably led by the Minister for Skills and Training, the Hon Brendan O’Connor.

I know that Brendan is consulting with representatives from the industry on developing training and pathways to attract more young people into careers in transport.

And I must say, I am proud that my home state of Tasmania is leading the way in rolling out a Certificate 3 in Driving Operations.

Further, in recognition of our chronic driver shortage, truck drivers have been listed on the skilled migration list since the beginning of this decade.

In addition, Austroads, whose members include transport agencies from all levels of government in Australia and New Zealand, has been reviewing the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Licensing Competency Framework.

This work aims to deliver a harmonised licence training and assessment framework to produce safe and competent heavy vehicle drivers.

I would like to acknowledge the VTA’s continued engagement around the issue of licensing.

Improving road safety outcomes and having practical pathways for new drivers and licence progression are key objectives of these reforms.

Austroads will soon be asking Governments to consider a Decision Regulatory Impact Statement on potential reforms.

We are also moving quickly to implement our election commitments on climate change — one of the most challenging issues confronting us all.

Anyone who has dealt with recent adverse weather events — particularly major flooding — will agree.

In September, our climate bill passed Parliament.

This set an emissions reduction target for Australia of 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050 — compared with 2005.

Knowing that transport contributes 19 per cent of our direct greenhouse gas emissions, there is no time to waste.

A new division within the Department of Infrastructure and Transport, has been set up under the Albanese Government – the Net Zero Unit.

The Departments responsibilities will play a significant role in supporting the Government to reach our emissions targets and achieve net zero.

The Net Zero Unit will engage with other government agencies, stakeholders and climate experts.

More widely, the Albanese Government is 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 projects illustrate our commitment to diversifying the energy supply for transport in Australia.

Unlike the former Government, this Labor Government is aware and proud of the commitment so many companies, operators and local Governments have made in moving towards electric vehicles.

Finally, you have a Government living in the 21st century.

Lastly, one of our election commitments was to provide an additional S80 million for new and upgraded heavy vehicle rest areas across the country.

We delivered this funding in the October Budget, bringing the total funding to $140 million over ten years.

In December, I appointed Senator Glenn Sterle to Chair of the Heavy Vehicle Rest Area Steering Committee which will advise, and set priorities, for the initiative.

The makeup of the Steering Committee is the first of its kind, made up of truck drivers and industry experts – we are making sure those who work on our roads are front and centre.

I know that Senator Sterle — himself a truck driver — will be joining you at this event.

I wish you all a full, and thoughtful time, at the 2023 State Conference.