ALC Forum: Search on for national strategy

By: Anjali Behl

Industry discusses potential framework for concept seen as critical to ‘future-proofing’ industry

ALC Forum: Search on for national strategy
Ian Murray is one who is searching for a way forward


Industry and government representatives and experts kicked off a discussion on the development of a national supply chain and freight strategy at the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) Forum in Melbourne.

Hosted by ALC chair Ian Murray and MD Michael Kilgariff, the two-day event aims to highlight current and future issues facing the Australian logistics industry to help contribute towards designing a "commercially viable" strategy that meets the needs of all stakeholders.

Attendees and panellists are discussing key issues affecting supply chain including infrastructure development, policy planning, heavy vehicle charging, road reforms, port-to-road access issues, among others.

Delivering the opening keynote presentation, Victorian minister of roads and ports Luke Donnellan says there are no immediate plans to finalise the location for a new Victorian port as the current Port of Melbourne is capable of handling freight growth for the next three decades.

"Infrastructure Victoria has abundantly clear that identifying the location for a second container port is not a pressing task," Donnellan says.

"The most recent estimates of container growth identify that the life of the current Port of Melbourne could extend well past the middle of the century.

Victoria still sees more freight moved by road and therefore the immediate focus of the government is on road upgrades to increase productivity.

Donnellan highlighted projects improvement on the CityLink Tullamarine, East West Link, M80 and Western Distributor that aim to improve vehicle movement in and out of Melbourne.

Improving road infrastructure will be the state government’s focus in the coming years as rail plays a "small part in freight movement" in Victoria – a subject raised in one of the later sessions during the day albeit not specifically in terms of Victoria alone.

Port of Brisbane logistics manager Andrew Rankine said that rail could play a "much more important role" in freight supply if there was more spending to support rail infrastructure and "innovation" in the sector, an argument seconded by Aurizon vice president operations Catherine Baxter and Pacific National CEO David Irwin.

Baxter said that a national freight and supply chain strategy was a key step towards "future-proofing" the industry.

Sessions during the rest of the day discussed policy and regulatory issues, which some industry representatives believe are a deterrent to smooth operation of supply chain in the country.

Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development secretary Mike Mrdak says when creating a framework for national freight strategy development, there are many factors to consider such as how to:

  • create regulation that does not impede efficiency
  • get the best uptake of technology
  • get the right price and market signals in the land transport network.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims expressed his "frustration" on the number of questions raised in the logistics landscape and the lack of "enough answers" from authorities before outlining two crucial reforms for the industry.

Sims suggested the government and industry should focus on road reforms, including port-to-road access issues, to see concrete changes.

The ACCC head later commented that he was "frustrated by such debates", adding that Australia’s focus should be on transport regulation and policy formation.

"Not much has happened since the 1990s in transport regulation," Sims said.

"We must focus on the policy set-up because if it is just money for projects, it will fail to hit the mark."

He urged industry members to outline what kinds of regulations they want to see in the market.

In the nest session, Toll MD Michael Byrne made a case for a new telematics law, which he believes can help "strip out bad driving".

Other sessions during the day saw discussions on how Australia was at the threshold of "new opportunities" from the growing Asian market.

Attendees discussed how growing demand for Australian products, particularly fresh produce, can open more doors for the local freight industry.

Both Murray and Kilgariff are encouraging stakeholders to raise questions and concerns to help formulate a better plan that can, in turn, help shape the freight strategy.

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