Address - Inland Rail Industry Leaders' Summit Brisbane Qld

Michael McCormack: I want to thank each and every one of you for attending, particularly Dr Andrew Higgins and Judi Zielke. Judi was the Dep Sec of the Infrastructure Department when I first took on this role and I know how committed she was then into that position and I know how committed she is now into making sure that CSIRO delivers on all of its objectives, but particularly with this infrastructure announcement today, with this infrastructure plan that is being developed. And I say being developed because whilst appreciating that some really good work has gone into the analysis, I know that it’s going to be a working and adaptive document, a live document as such, that is going to provide such a really important technological tool as we head towards the final phase of construction.

There’s no doubt with Australia’s freight task set to double over the next 20 years, that everyone in this room would acknowledge, would know and understand and would appreciate how important it is to connect two our fastest growing cities, Brisbane and Melbourne, via the Inland Rail. In a vast country like ours, transport and logistics are key to connectivity, are key to enhancing what we’ve already done in the free trade space but even building on that and making it more efficient, more productive for our farmers, for our small business people, whether they are in the inland regions or whether they are indeed people who have key roles to play in our capital cities to make this work. And certainly, what the CSIRO is going to provide for us today – having done a lot of work with this analysis - is going to be really constructive and really instructive in what the Government is planning with Inland Rail.

Now, the states where the Inland Rail is moving, we’re seeing, in logistic sense, warehousing, manufacturing and other handling facilities – intermodal hubs being planned, being delivered in Parkes, Albury-Wodonga, Moree, Wagga Wagga and elsewhere. These developments are happening at the junctions of road and rail and they have been happening along the alignment.

It’s a great pleasure to announce the results of the CSIRO Inland Rail Supply Chain Mapping Study predict a significantly larger cost saving for farmers from the transformational Inland Rail. It’s not just farmers. I know that the CSIRO very, very independently, have gauged the fact that there will be potentially, at this point in time, up to $94 a tonne of savings for horticulture, for post-food processing, but an average of $76. That’s absolutely significant. That’s significant savings in this supply chain. But don’t just take my word for why the Inland Rail is so important. I rather like to quote from some people who really know what they’re talking about, who really have their heart and soul in this, people such as Kirk Coningham, Australian Logistics Council who said: addressing freight transport times and the costs will be especially important for Australian exporters seeking to capitalise on the free trade agreements recently signed with key trading partners across Asia. And of course, he’s right.

Danny Broad from the Australasian Railway Association said that: industry welcomes the CSIRO’s study and acknowledges the significant benefits Inland Rail will deliver to the range of stakeholders who rely on efficient and cost-effective supply chains. And Tony Mahar from the National Farmers Federation says that they, as an organisation, welcome CSIRO’s conclusion that the landmark infrastructure project could save horticultural growers an average of $76 per tonne in transport costs. But more importantly, he highlights that it will result in 63,000 fewer heavy vehicle trips per year along sections of the Newell Highway. And as somebody who represents many of the areas that the Newell Highway intersects - Bland Shire, Forbes, and Parkes Shires - I know what a critical difference this is going to make. And what we’ll hear from CSIRO today is that Queensland’s primary producers will have real cost-saving efficiencies and benefits from Inland Rail: horticulture, post-processed food: Such a saving. The reduction in cost for producers will ensure that they remain competitive. That will give them greater resources; more money in people’s pockets. I know, coming from an agricultural region, coming from a hub that certainly relies on agriculture - not primarily, not of every single dollar we make economically, but it still is a critical factor in ensuring that the economy of Wagga Wagga, the economy of the Riverina and Central West is strong - that when farmers have more money in their back pockets, they don’t usually spend it on themselves. They spend it on capital equipment, and they potentially spend it on their most importance resource, and that is more people; that is more staff. So it’s job-creating.

So, supply chain costs can diminish Australia’s producers’ competitiveness. We all know that. But certainly, we need to make sure that everybody else knows that. It’s only fair that Queensland’s farmers and Queensland’s freight industry have the opportunity to take advantage of these efficiencies, and they deserve that chance, they really do. And what I’m doing is, at the moment, I’m trying to convince the Queensland Government, working cooperatively and collaboratively, to ensure the baseline, that inter-governmental agreement with Inland Rail. We’ve already got the Victorian Government, the first cab of the rank to sign up; New South Wales Government followed. We need Queensland to complete that final piece of the puzzle. And if you’re convinced about CSIRO’s analysis, which I’m sure you would be, I ask you to, if you haven’t already, add to that voice. We need Queensland to sign up to the Inland Rail.

It’s nation building. We’re building it. We’re getting on with it. I was delighted to see all that South Australian steel – the final shipment dropped off at Parkes just the other day - 14,000 tonnes of it: Liberty steel, Australian jobs, completing that Parkes to Narromine section. It’s been talked about for a long time, all of three score and ten years ago. We’re getting on with it. I know that you are going to be key players integral to the completion or to the construction certainly, and eventually the completion of it. And we’re going to make this - what was once a pipe dream many, many years ago, certainly a pipe dream - now it’s a reality.

Thank you very much.