ALC labels road pricing reforms 'next big thing'

ALC tells federal infrastructure and transport officials that road pricing reform is the key to future productivity

By Anna Game-Lopata | April 6, 2011

Peak lobby group the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) last week held the first of regular biannual meetings with officials from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

Over 40 senior industry representatives and key government officials gathered to discuss regulation and infrastructure issues confronting the transport and logistics industry.

Initiated by the ALC, the dialogue tackled four major areas, including infrastructure, regulation and safety, productivity and the role of information and communication technology in transport and logistics.

The ALC also took the opportunity to seek endorsement for its recently released strategic plan which predominantly focuses on the need to progress the agenda for national heavy vehicle and rail safety regulators by 2013.

However ALC CEO Michael Kilgariff says the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) road reform program was recognised as one of the issues most likely to unlock future productivity across the nation.

While Kilgariff stopped short of giving details, he says the discussion focussed on the nature of the proposals that would go to COAG in December and what government would take from the proposals to develop infrastructure and road pricing reform in coming years.

"Road pricing is the next big thing on the agenda," Kilgariff says.

"There was a general recognition from both industry and government representatives that (road pricing) needs be faced head on once and for all, despite the wide variety of opinion on the issue.

"As yet ALC has not formed a position on road pricing, but we intend to contribute as much as we can to the process of reform."

Kilgariff says overall participants at the meeting recognised that infrastructure and regulation are not solo issues and can be better approached on a national level.

"I think it’s clear better national regulation will lead to more efficient use of infrastructure in an environment where we are short of government funds," he says.

"Moving forward, we need to continue our agenda of increasing the role of rail and shipping as part of the solution to our growing freight task. It’s just a case of how this will happen.

"We used the occasion to reinforce to the department the need to keep pushing on, and to look beyond 2013 in terms of what the next wave of reform will be.

"Anyone who was of the view that it was going to be simple, they were sadly mistaken," Kilgariff adds.

"There was a general recognition that the reform process would entail ‘step by step’ progress and monitoring in terms of how developments are made.

Kilgariff also says there was an expectation that the newly elected O’Farrell Government in NSW will get behind the national reform agenda on heavy vehicles and rail safety.

"We hope it will reject and leave behind the agenda, issues and impediments raised by the former government prior to the election," he says.

"The former NSW government became dysfunctional in its last months, so nothing could get through the bureaucracy."

In terms of the yet-to-be-released NSW freight strategy, Kilgariff says while ALC hasn’t seen it he understands the document is complete.

"The new government is sure to review the NSW freight strategy very closely, but ALC believes it would be a good idea for some renewed consultation with industry to occur before the strategy is released," he says.

Outcomes of the ALC dialogue with the Department of Infrastructure and Transport will form the basis of a report to be released to ALC members in the next few days.

Participants have agreed to meet again later in the year to discuss progress.

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