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Future Freight Networks : Yearbook 2011
43 FUTURE FREIGHT NETWORKS 2011 Session 2 Pat Conlon MP South Australian Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy South Australia may have struggled in the 1980s, but it is now very much on the mend. Currently the level of infrastructure spend is some five times that in 2001–2002. A lot of money has gone into mining and defence, and the harbour has been dredged to take post-Panamax size vessels. Conlon welcomed the national infrastructure initiatives, but warned that national initiatives could be frustrated at grassroots level by local councils, and emphasised that THINK NATIONAL: ACT LOCAL – A NATIONAL FREIGHT NETWORK we need to make the right decisions all the way down the line. He referred to Australia’s track record on nation build- ing infrastructure projects as a ‘national embarrassment’ saying that there is a greater uniformity between nations in Europe that were previously at war than we have between the states in Australia. Possessed of a deft turn of phrase, he lampooned Australian efforts with comments such as, ‘When one awaits changes on this front, glaciers whizz by.’ Conlon was pleased that people are increasingly recognising the need for national infrastructure and emphasised that all parties need to go the last yard to see real outcomes. Michael Deegan CEO, Infrastructure Australia After many years of frustration, there is now more encouraging movement. For too long a holistic perspective has not been sufficiently apparent. It’s been silo-by - mode, silo-by -regulation, silo-by - geography. And then there have been layers of bureaucracy on top of that. According to Deegan, a new paradigm is essential. Two major big picture breakthroughs have been internationally competitive gateways, and a truly national freight system. The National Port strategy has been long overdue, and there is a lot of work to be done in this area to match overseas costs and efficiencies. Progress has been far too slow – the economy is going backwards. Perhaps we can take on the European idea of ‘co-opetition’? Treasury intergenerational reports indicate that we do not have the people or the money to maintain global competitiveness and desired standards of living. Greater efficiency in the regulatory environment is at least one step in the right direction. Community is not aware enough of the issues facing the nation and these must not only be better communicated, but real steps must be taken. Gary Liddle CEO, VicRoads ‘Driving Australia’s Road Reform’ was the theme of Liddle’s presentation. To put the task into perspective, he informed the audience that the Australian transport system includes some 800,000 kilometres of roads, and 44,000 kilometres of rail networks. He proposed that one thing that would help us make better use of these assets would be to look beyond being asset protection managers to being service providers. He also stressed the need for a national perspective to overcome a plethora of ridiculous local regulations. With freight volumes doubling every 17 years since 1961, the issue of more intelligent management of road freight is paramount. Victoria is investigating how to prioritise freight on its roads, and the issue of high productivity vehicles. Developing accurate pricing models to drive better decision-making is essential to the overall task. A proposal is to be put to COAG by the end of this year. A good up- to-date source for information is www.roadreform.gov.au.