PORTS Australia chief executive Mike Gallacher says the freight sector needs a unifying message ahead of a year which will see elections both nationally and in New South Wales.

Speaking at an ICHCA lunch at the Marriott Melbourne this week, Mr Gallacher addressed a broad range of topics including coastal shipping, infrastructure fees, the biosecurity levy and urban encroachment.

“One of the things I will be saying more about in the next 12 months is that 2019 is an election year – a national election year.

“In New South Wales it is a state election year… 2019 is the year the sector needs to develop a voice, a strong voice,” he said.

“When Michael Kilgariff [former ALC CEO] said ‘there are no votes in freight’ – I reckon there is.

“If we unify and all start to speak together – and again, I’m not talking about unifying the organisations but unifying the message.”

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Mr Gallacher urged governments to “grow a spine” regarding urban encroachment.

“It will be interesting to see when Badgerys Creek (airport) gets up and running – people actually starting to complain about planes and curfews,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we need government to grow a spine and start to dictate terms in relation to planning around our ports because you can’t create new ones with great ease.”

Mr Gallacher also made the case for coastal shipping, arguing it was crucial in alleviating congestion.

“You have got to look for a third way [on top of road and rail]. You have to start looking at how you can alleviate congestion around capital cities,” he said.

“I recognise that as cities grow the majority of freight is going to be coming to cities, there is no doubt about that. But what about the unnecessarily long-haulage journeys that are being played out every day by truck drivers travelling 1000km with two TEU on the back?

“A classic example I give is Brisbane and Mackay. Where a guy or a girl loads up a truck with two TEU, drives to Mackay, turns around and comes back. As I’ve said to the TWU: ‘how is that smart?’”

Mr Gallacher was recently made the DCN newsmaker of the year award, an honour conferred at the recent Maritime Awards in Sydney.

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