THE freight and logistics sector is the lifeblood of the Australian economy, said shadow transport minister Anthony Albanese told delegates gathered for the Australian Logistics Council Forum 2018.
“I welcome the government’s commitment to looking at how it can better support the vital job that you do including improvements to the infrastructure you rely on,” he said.
Mr Albanese went on, saying the provision of infrastructure can no longer be considered a second-quarter public priority.
“Investing in good infrastructure generates long-term economics and jobs growth it lifts productivity it creates inclusive communities,” he said.
“It builds a low carbon future, makes businesses grow and gives our exporters a competitive edge.”
Mr Albanese pointed out that infrastructure can last much longer than any political term.
“Indeed the great challenge of infrastructure in this nation and in others is to break that nexus between the infrastructure investment cycle, which is by definition, long term , and the political side, which is short-term,” he said.
“It may well be that the state government that initiated those projects [WestConnex and the Sydney light rail] doesn’t get to cut the ribbon. And any new government of course will pretend it’s their project.”
The spectre of coastal shipping also reared its head in the shadow minister’s address to the ALC Forum. He said the modernisation of the nation’s rail and road freight infrastructure.
“I want to turn towards another safe, environmentally sound mode of transport that could be doing more of the heavy lifting when it comes to the national freight task, and that is coastal shipping,” Mr Albanese said.
“As a vast island continent, with ports around its coastline, it defies logic that in 2018, this industry is no bigger than it was 40 years ago – in fact, in recent years, it’s been in decline, with just 17% of the domestic freight task being carried in the hulls of ships.”
He said the proud, Australian-flagged merchant fleet and the skilled workforce on those ships was fast disappearing.
“Today much of the freight that does go by sea is transported on board ships that are foreign-flagged, foreign-crewed and foreign-paid.”
He said preventing the demise of coastal shipping was a priority for the former federal Labor government, ensuring there was a level playing field between Australian shippers and their international competitors.
“In order for the suite of reforms to have worked, they needed time,” he said, lamenting that the Labor government didn’t have that time before it was ousted.
“One of those things that you need in this sector, as much as possible, is for both sides of politics to work together so that when there’s a change in government, there’s not an automatic change in policy,” he said.
“And, shipping is an area I think that has suffered greatly from it.”