Exports underwrite Victoria’s prosperity: Donnellan

By: Anjali Behl

Minister says Victoria needs efficient freight movement in the face of growing international demand for Australian goods

Exports underwrite Victoria’s prosperity: Donnellan
Luke Donnellan says the Victorian government is committed to building an effecient freight network.


Speaking at the ongoing 7th Intermodal Asia Exhibition and Conference in Melbourne, roads and ports minister Luke Donnellan emphasises Victorian Government’s commitment to investing in ports and rail and road networks.

The minister, who delivered the keynote address at the two-day conference, highlights the operational tasks of the Victorian ports, particularly the Port of Melbourne which handles 36 per cent of the nation’s container trade, with exports increasing up to 40 per cent in the last decade.

Victoria produces 44 per cent of Australia’s processed food exports, 50 per cent of the country's horticultural exports and 85 per cent of Australia’s dairy exports – a majority of these exports move through the Port of Melbourne, Donnellan states.

As a result, he says, "exports – particularly agricultural exports – underwrite much of this state’s prosperity".

Most of Victoria’s export freight flows to the three ports (the Port of Portland, the Geelong Port and the Port of Hastings) are carried out by road transport, with rail playing a key role in grain exports and in the long-haul intermodal market, Donnellan says.

"About 3 million tonnes of export wood chips move through the Port of Portland, while large tonnages of dairy and horticulture are containerised and handled through the Port of Melbourne.

"Over the last five years, containerised grain exports have increased by over 200 per cent, and now represent 30 per cent of all grain exports from the Port of Melbourne.

"So you can see Victoria’s reliance on export commodities and the importance of being able to move this type of freight quickly and efficiently from farm gate to port," he says.

An ever-increasing demand for Australian agricultural goods, particularly in the Asian markets, justifies the importance of investment in new technologies and equipment to ensure efficient freight movement from farms to ports to international markets, Donnellan says.

The minister also emphasises the importance of efficient performance of the regional freight network.

"The Port of Portland expects to move 3 million tonnes of wood chips this financial year, and work continues on the construction of a new wood chip loader to cater for the huge demand for paper products from China in particular," Donnellan says.

"At the Port of Geelong, dredging has been undertaken that gives access to deeper draughts, and at the Port of Melbourne, the construction of a new international container terminal at Webb Dock will add at least 1 million containers to annual throughput.

"Despite being investigated as a potential container port, the Port of Hastings in the south-east is very much open for business to the bulk and break-bulk trades – there is enormous opportunity at this port.

"The fact that Victoria’s exports start or finish their journey by road transport means a freight-friendly road network is essential to our prosperity.

"That’s why we’re undertaking a bridge upgrade program throughout regional Victoria to improve road freight efficiency and lower costs for regional exporters."

The bridge upgrade program is joint venture between the Federal and the State Government that will see the upgrade of 10 bridges on the M1, 10 bridges on the Hume Freeway, seven on the Goulburn Valley Highway and four on the Western Highway.

"Elsewhere throughout the state, we’ve committed nearly $43 million to upgrade bridges, many of them to accommodate 68.5 tonne gross mass limits – to accommodate B-doubles."

Donnellan says the Western Distributor project, which will build a tunnel under Yarraville and a second river crossing over the Maribyrnong, will deliver "big improvement to port access".

"In the north-west of the state, the Murray Basin Rail Project will bring a big boost to rail freight movement in regional Victoria.

"By standardising rail gauges in the west and north of the state, the project will bring a big boost to farmers and businesses moving intermodal and bulk freight to port.

"The project will give grain farmers and exporters in the Murray Basin access to a deep-sea port at Portland, delivering them efficiencies from larger bulk carriers and creating more competition between the ports of Portland and Geelong," he says.

Speaking on the Port of Melbourne lease, which was finalised by the Victorian government and opposition on Thursday, Donnellan says the lease of the Port "will increase efficiencies and competitiveness, reinforcing Victoria’s position as the freight and logistics capital of Australia".

The lease of the port will target three main goals – fund the removal of 50 level crossings, freeing up freight flows in metropolitan Melbourne; fund a $200 million agriculture infrastructure and jobs fund designed to boost efficiencies in regional industry sectors; and mandate an intermodal rail option, the minister states.

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