AS YOU know, in New South Wales, the freight industry moves around $200bn worth of goods and contributes $66bn to the state’s economy.
Over the next 40 years, this is expected to double, so the importance of planning is obvious. And all governments, including my own, have two critical and interwoven roles in supporting the freight industry.
The first is through infrastructure delivery; the roads, bridges, tunnels, railways and ports that carry freight, vessels, trains and vehicles.
The second is regulation. And more accurately, the appropriate regulation rather than over-regulation – regulation that supports a viable and competitive industry and improves safety for all road and transport users, rather than regulation which holds everyone back.
One key to that is collaboration with other states, territories and the Commonwealth to make that regulation as consistent as possible and to plan for the nation’s future through a shared national strategy.
Of course, for all industries, another important element is certainty, and, providing certainty around that regulation and infrastructure delivery.
This certainly is provided through the New South Wales Freight and Ports Strategy. We didn’t even have a strategy until 2013 when the first Strategy was released, it established the direction of freight planning in NSW and provided that certainty for industry.
This financial year sets a record for investment in NSW. The Pacific Highway Upgrade is now 80% complete, and will be finished 2020. The work on the highway since 1996 has cut a nine-hour journey down to seven hours. And more importantly, fatalities on this road that has crucified many communities and families has steadily reduced over time from an average of 50 a year to 19 last year.
The rail task
We have also invested significantly in rail, since coming into government; we invested $1.35bn in the operation and maintenance of the country regional network including great line expenditure of $363m. This includes re-railing, re-sleeping, resurfacing track, as well as upgrades to level crossings and replacement of bridges. The network is quite significant in regards to the freight task with 2400 kilometres of operational track, which carries a large share of regional freight including grain, containers, coal and other minerals. We are investing $210m annually to improve the efficiency of this network.
As a result of our investments, there have been an enormous improvements in the proportion of freight going through Port Botany on rail, particularly in the past 12 months. We have reached a peak of 20.3% in February of last year, an average of 19.1%, which is an increase of 16.3% in 2015/16.
The Commonwealth is also assisting with rail investment through the inland rail project.
By enabling fast and efficient long-distance freight movements by rail, this project will reduce demands on the road network and increase the overall freight network’s capacity.
The Commonwealth has committed $9.3m to the 13 individual projects making up Inland Rail Importantly, seven of these are in New South Wales, including 648 km of upgraded line and 381 km of brand new line.
Inland Rail will create a 1700km express freight line from Victoria to Queensland, right through the heart of New South Wales and with efficient linkages to our three major ports.
There wil be 1800-metre-long double-stacked trains completng the full journey in less than 24 hours saving 10 hours on the current journey.
Critically for New South Wales, it creates the potential for three regional freight exchanges connected to Port Botany, Port of Newcastle and Port Kembla. The New South Wales government is working closely with the Commonwealth and Australian Track Rail Corporation to deliver Inland Rail over the next 10 years.
The road task
There is more heavy vehicle traffic in New South Wales than in any other state. We have a long history in leading the country in heavy vehicle safety.
We have the largest team of on-road inspectors. Four times more than our nearest state, the most extensive infrastructure, and the most active enforcement of chain of responsibility offences.
For the past five years, New South Wales has worked together with Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT to establish the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.
As the new national body to enforce the heavy vehicle national law, the next 12 months will be important, as these relatively new national arrangements are bedded down.
In July, the regulator will have access to the new national heavy vehicle registration system, and the national compliance information system will be launched, integrating camera and compliance data from around the country.
It is also the month of the new chain of responsibility provisions in the national law coming into effect.
Road safety; to me this is the key, recognising that everyone in the chain across all states has an obligation to safety.
Improving the safety of heavy vehicles, overrepresented in crashes, is critical to reaching zero. The new regulations and the national co-ordination behind them are steps on that path.
I acknowledge the industry’s contribution to this through the National Logistics Safety Code, through more advanced vehicles with features like stability control; through greater use of telematics to track vehicle locations, performance, speed and rest breaks.
We look forward to working with industry to make the NHVR effective, improving safety and efficiency and we have quite a lot of work to do.
We are up to the task and the technology that is at hand, and the cost-competitiveness of that technology is going to be the biggest game-changer in terms of taking the industry with us, the big operators, the mom and dad operators, that’s going to be the secret to getting the results that we need in terms of safety and efficiency.
The air freight task
Sydney Airport now handles around half of Australia’s international air freight, and around a third of our domestic air freight. While the volumes are dwarfed by both rail and road, this is important for our medical supplies, high-value electronics, seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables. By the year 2020, Western Sydney airport will add two important elements to the New South Wales freight task: first is a 24/7 airport capable of handling the largest aircraft. It will become an alternative to Kingsford Smith for incoming and outgoing air freight.
Second, as the heart of what’s being called an ‘aerotropolis’, the freight needs for its construction, waste, fuel, food and other needs will be significant.
To ensure we’re ready for this, the New South Wales Government is preserving land for future and rail corridors, a fuel pipeline and an effective regional road network along with light industrial land near the airport.
This land preservation is an important part of the draft New South Wales Freight and Ports Plan.
In October of last year, the New South Wales government released a vision for the next 40 years of Transport Infrastructure for the state. We call it the future transport 2056. It is the first time the government in NSW has tackled such a visionary project. We followed this in December, incorporating as part of our process the draft freight and ports plan, developed under consultation with more than 500 industry and local government representatives. It sets out six priority action areas to improve the efficiency, sustainability and safety of freight across the state.
The first is to strengthen partnerships between government and the freight industry.
Number two is to increase access to freight across the road and rail network.
Three is to protect existing freight precincts and ensure there’s sufficient land for future progress.
Four is to support technologies that can reduce the cost impact to freight.
Number five is to reduce the regulatory burden on industry. While we have no intention of relaxing our stance on safety, we know it’s important to keep the burden of compliance as light as possible and that the regulations need to adapt, adapt to changes in technology for example.
The final priority and this really is the bottom line, is to ensure safe, efficient and sustainable freight access to places across the state.
The draft plan is a starting point for the government to consult with the industry and the broader community before it’s finalised. We want the plan to be as effective and inclusive as possible so we do need your help.
As minister for roads, maritime and freight, you are all very much my constituents. And I am acutely aware that you are all much closer to the daily reality of the state’s freight and logistics needs than I can ever be.
The number-one priority of our draft freight and ports plan is to strengthen freight, industry and government partnerships because I know that by working together we’ll arrive at a better outcome sooner.
* The Hon Melinda Pavey is Member for Oxley and Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight. This speech was delivered at the Australian Logistics Council Forum 2018. It has been edited for reasons of space.