Transcript - speech - Bus Industry Summit 2023, Hotel Realm, Barton, ACT

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Let me begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the country we are meeting on – the Ngunnawal people.[1]

I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. As well as any other First Nations people here with us today.

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.

I’d also like to acknowledge:

  • Tony Hopkins and Julian Gurney, who are the Chair and Vice Chair of the Bus Industry Confederation.

Thank you, Tony, for your kind introduction.

  • And Ken Kanofski, who is an advisor to the Heavy Vehicle National Law Reform Implementation Steering Committee.[2]

Ken is also a speaker at this event.

  • And I believe Minister Catherine King may be joining you at some point during the Conference.

Other invited guests, ladies and gentlemen…

It’s a pleasure to be here today and be part of your discussions around sharing data, trends and technological innovations, and the National Heavy Vehicle Law, zero emissions buses, environmental and social governance.

It is just four months since I last addressed a BIC event – at your National Conference in Brisbane.

We have made good use of the months in between these two events.

For example, in Brisbane I spoke about the Governments plans to address workforce and skills shortages in the industry.

I know that labour shortages and training is a top-of-mind issue for the transport industry – particular for trucks and buses.

BIC estimates your industry directly employs more than 85,000 people.

And the National Skills Commission has forecast an 8.3 per cent growth in demand for bus and coach drivers, through to 2026.

Many other industry sectors have similar concerns about labour shortages.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that we need to plan for the future – and jobs pathways and skills development are key to that plan.

The key to this is having government, the business operators and the VET sector working together. This is vitally important for the entire transport sector.

Following the Prime Minister’s Jobs and Skills Summit last year,

We have announced 480,000 fee-free TAFE and community-based vocational education places.

And the implementation of a twelve-month Skills Agreement between the federal, state and territory governments began in January. With negotiations on a five-year agreement – to follow on next January – already underway.[3]

More specific to the heavy vehicle sector, I’m aware that my colleague Brendan O’Connor has also been consulting with representatives from the heavy vehicle industry on developing training pathways to attract more young people into careers in transport.

But is it not just young people we need to attract to the heavy vehicle industry.

To put it bluntly, we need to attract more women. That is why I am so pleased to see the Women in the Bus Industry Panel, as part of your Summit program. I understand the panel will be talking about the attraction, retention and promotion of women in the bus industry.[4]

This is a timely discussion, and I welcome it. I look forward to learning about the potential policy and other changes BIC members believe need to be made to attract more women into your industry.

Analysis from Jobs and Skills Australia shows that occupations with skills shortages are likely to have significant gender imbalance in their workforce.

JSA found that for more than half of the occupations where there is a national shortage, women make up less than 20% of their total workforce.

This surely, demonstrates a systemic problem – not just for workers, but for business and the economy.

I spent some time on climate change and decarbonisation in my November address to you and want to provide a quick update.

However, for anyone who was not at the National Conference, here is a ‘headline summary’ of some of those points:

Transport makes up 19 per cent of Australia’s current emissions.

And we are aware that heavy vehicles have long lives on our roads.  So, with our goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, it is critical to make good decisions now. 

As part of our Powering Australia plan, we are pursuing a National Electric Vehicle Strategy.

A variety of matters were raised through the public consultation process, which closed at the end of October.  

I want to acknowledge that BIC made a submission to this process - one of 500.

Overall, submissions indicated widespread support for the increased uptake of electric vehicles, recognising their potential for reducing emissions.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is also looking at the role biofuels can play in the transport sector’s decarbonisation.

The Government has also announced a number of projects and initiatives that will ensure the development of Australia’s hydrogen supply chain, including the funding of hydrogen hubs in key regional centres and capital cities, the Hume Hydrogen Highway stretching from Melbourne to Sydney, and a number of international partnerships that aim to reducing the cost of green hydrogen.

A new Australian Design Rule – phasing in Euro VI (six) and equivalent noxious emission standards for new heavy vehicles from November next year – was signed into law by Minister King last month.

In addition, my department is currently consulting on the introduction of two new Australian Design Rules go to regulating safety requirements for electric, and hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles across the majority of road vehicles, including buses.

Before I conclude, I would like to touch on the reforms to the National Heavy Vehicle Law (HVNL).

It is a time of great change in the heavy vehicle sector, with new more fuel-efficient vehicles now available, enhanced safety features, and of course the shift towards zero and low emission vehicles and the use of alternative fuel sources.

For this reason, it is vital that our laws and regulatory regimes keep pace with these changes.

I know Ken Kanofski will speak in depth about the Heavy Vehicle National Law shortly – and I encourage you all to reach out to him if you have any questions or need further information about where this reform process is up to.

In summary, thank you for the invitation to address this year’s Bus Industry Summit, here in Canberra.

I wish you well with the remainder of this national summit and thank you for listening.