Truck policies missing in McCormack speech

Freight route funding, Inland Rail discussed by Albanese as well but both ignore road freight issues

Truck policies missing in McCormack speech
Infrastructure and transport minister Michael McCormack


Heavy on rail and light on the road. There isn’t much to say about trucking in deputy prime minister Michael McCormack’s first speech as infrastructure and transport minister at a transport and logistics event.

But don’t hold your breath for much from the opposition – shadow minister for infrastructure, transport, cities and regional development Anthony Albanese didn’t have much to say about it either.

Addressing the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) dinner last night, McCormack says he expects the national freight task to double over the next 20 years – and reminds attendees that the government had committed $75 billion over the next 10 years to ensure our transport infrastructure is up to the task.

But while McCormack was keen to discuss the contributions promised to freight routes – including upgrades to the Pacific Highway, the Bruce Highway and the Outback Way from Winton in Queensland to Laverton in WA – little was said about trucking policy.

Industry groups have previously highlighted priority areas that a transport minister would have to deal with, including mandating safety technologies on vehicles, traffic congestion in urban areas, access restrictions for high productivity vehicles and a lack of national consistency in regulatory requirements and enforcement.

The closest McCormack came to this was in acknowledging the contribution made by the ALC to the Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities, which is due to report to government with its finding this month.

"I look forward to receiving the final report soon which I expect to clearly outline themes you have focused on today in your panel discussions around integration, measurement, planning ahead, delivery and communication," he says.

"The report will be key to the development of a strategy I will consider with my State and Territory counterparts at the Transport and Infrastructure Council meeting in November this year."

To this, Albanese says,while he was supportive of the government’s commitment to reviewing the strategy, much of the work had already been done in the National Land Freight strategy, which he released as iInfrastructure and transport minister in 2012.

"To be blunt, the process we are now going through is little more than an exercise in reinventing the wheel and slapping a slightly different name on it," he says.

"Worse still, by the time the Government finally releases its strategy, which is not expected until the end of this year, we will have wasted more than five years."

In moving forward, Albanese said that rail needed to take on an even greater role in freight transport, saying it was the "backbone" of the national freight network.

"That is not to diminish the indispensable role of road transport … but when it comes to moving large volumes of freight over long distances, rail has significant advantages," he said – naming these as safety, cost and energy efficiency.

"The modernisation of the nation’s rail freight infrastructure must continue," he said.

That said, Albanese adds a point of concern about the Inland Rail Project, saying there were "serious questions" over how the project would be funded.

"The Government needs to take a step back and ensure they have got the fundamentals of this project right from the outset," he said.

"Otherwise in the years to come Inland Rail will be studied alongside Westconnex for how not to deliver a major infrastructure project."


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