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Future Freight Networks : Yearbook 2014
52 FORUM 2014 John Mullen told the ALC Forum that Australia needs a freight master plan for the next 30 years to provide certainty for the industry. He said that talk of a national freight master plan has been around forever, but it is still just talk. Australia needs the right infrastructure investment and seamless national regulation. The plan must establish priority projects, because long-cycle projects like highways, ports and airports take decades – not years. Mullen said that our Asian neighbours often scratch their heads when they look at our ability to deliver on major infrastructure projects. He said that in Australia, governments come and go, and often very little happens. In Asia, they just get on with it. In a short space of time, Asian airports and seaports will be so far in front that it will be doubtful whether we can catch up. Mullen singled out small minority groups for criticism, saying how they can delay nationally significant projects. He said that the growing number of groups that want to stop any development at all must understand that you cannot tax business for funds for community goals without business earning money in the first place. Mullen said that Australia has a unique logistics challenge. It is the most urbanised and coast-dwelling country in the world. The reason we don’t use more rail is because we do not have large inland cities – like Chicago, for example – so there is no incentive. Mullen encouraged governments to provide greater incentives, such as tax bonds, to the private sector to encourage investment. He said the potential for federal and state investment in conflicting projects underscored the need for a national approach to infrastructure, and that the ALC is the vehicle to drive it. Mullen also called on governments to continue efforts to reduce red tape and inefficiency. He said integrated national standards would be beneficial because freight is national. Mullen also said that Australia needs one national regulator for all rail regimes, and one set of environmental processes, adding that Australia’s environmental approval time is double that of some other countries. He agreed with ALC’s assessment that Infrastructure Australia (IA) should be the Productivity Commission and Reserve Bank of infrastructure, but it should not all be on the shoulders of government. If we ensure predictability and certainty, give incentives, and give IA a better role, then the private sector cannot be excused. It must take the risk and make the investments to make Australia a leader, not a follower. John Mullen CEO & Managing Director, Asciano John Mullen