Byrne leads federal freight export recovery effort

Former Toll MD to oversee $110 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism

Byrne leads federal freight export recovery effort
Michael Byrne


In a scenario inconceivable just a few months ago, recently departed Toll Group managing director Michael Byrne has been tapped by the federal government to lead its Covid-19 export freight recovery effort.

The $110 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) aims to help the agricultural sector recoup shortfalls caused by Covid-19 by exporting its produce into key overseas markets, with return flights bringing back medical supplies, medicines and equipment. 

Byrne has been appointed IFAM’s international freight coordinator general.

He is tasked with aiding the federal trade and investment agency Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) establish arrangements with exporters, airlines, freight forwarders and industry bodies plus oversee the mechanism’s operations – including advising the Government of destinations, freight selection and prioritisation. 

IFAM will initially focus on the key markets of China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE, with four key departure hubs in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

A government statement lauds Byrne’s significant international logistics experience as managing director of Toll and Linfox, and non-executive director of Australia Post. 

Federal transport minister Michael McCormack says IFAM will help secure freight flights into Australia’s key export markets.

"This will help restore key freight routes for our farmers until commercial capacity can be restored again," McCormack says.

"We are doing everything possible to help our high-value agricultural and fisheries exporters get their produce on airplanes and into overseas markets.

"Everything we are doing as a Government in response to this pandemic is focused on saving lives and saving livelihoods and we know our agriculture industry is key to this."

Federal trade minister Simon Birmingham says the COVID-19 pandemic had led to major air freight shortages and had disrupted supply chains around the world.

"This mechanism will help re-establish supply chains for our exporters and keep freight routes open," Birmingham says.

"As a trading nation and with one in five jobs trade-related, we want to maintain Australia’s reputation as a reliable trading partner so that as countries recover, it’s our goods and services that can return to our overseas markets quickly.

"When these flights return there will be capacity for them to transport critical medical equipment and supplies which will be vital to the ongoing health response."

As part of the announcement, around $10 million in Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) levies will also be waived for all Commonwealth fishers.

The initiative is part of the $1 billion federal Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.

Byrne stepped down from Toll in November last year

It has been greeted enthusiastically by the Australian Logistics Council (ALC).

"Retaining access to key export markets throughout the Covid-19 pandemic is vital to protecting as many Australian jobs as possible," ALC CEO Kirk Coningham says.

"This announcement will not only support Australia’s agricultural producers but will also be welcomed by the supply chain partners they use to transport products to market.

"Keeping Australia’s export supply chains moving also supports road and rail freight services that feed into air freight exports."

"As the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically reduced aircraft movements around the world, those who ordinarily use air freight services to export agricultural goods into key markets have struggled to continue serving their customers.

"With more than 80 per cent of air freight ordinarily carried in the cargo hold of passenger planes, it is vital that we support those who need to use air freight services until normal commercial capacity can be restored.

"This is especially important for those exporting agricultural products to international markets and to support those importing vital medical supplies and equipment for Australians.

"The measures announced today will help to support those objectives and keep more Australians working in a challenging economic environment."


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