ARA hails Federal Budget rail focus

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has spoken in support of the $20 billion investment in rail announced by the Federal Government’s in the 2017–2018 Budget.
“The Government’s renewed commitment to rail, including through its $10 billion National Rail Program for urban and regional passenger rail, underscores its importance to Australia and is welcomed by the rail industry,” said Danny Broad, CEO, ARA.
“ARA congratulates the Government’s strong funding commitment to rail in the 2017-2018 budget to boost economic activity and improve the liveability of our cities.”
In particular, Broad applauded the Government’s commitment to Inland Rail through its $8.4 billion equity injection to the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
“The Government’s $8.4 billion commitment to Inland Rail is critical to supporting the delivery of this iconic national freight project,” he said.
“Linking Victoria and regional NSW with Queensland will help get freight off the road and onto rail, address rising congestion in Sydney and will deliver thousands of jobs, many in regional Australia.
“This project will deliver a strong economic contribution to the nation and will enhance productivity and increase consumer freight options.”
Broad noted that the Government’s intention for a public private partnership to progress the Toowoomba to Kagaru tunnel section would the most challenging aspect of the project.
“Whist this capital injection to the ARTC is welcomed, the fact remains that significant work needs to occur to ensure the Inland Rail project comes to fruition,” said Broad. “This includes maximising the economic benefits of this project by delivering efficient linkages that directly connect the railway line to the Port of Melbourne and Port Brisbane.”

Operators win in Victorian Budget

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has welcomed several initiatives outlined by Treasurer Tim Pallas in his third State Budget that will help freight operators under pressure from expanding road user charges and shrinking margins to realise productivity gains, and experience greater success.
Chief among these, according to VTA CEO Peter Anderson are $556 million for improvements to Victoria’s regional road network, including $41 million to upgrade 17 bridges on freight routes to handle High-Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFVs); a $1.45 billion Regional Rail Revival package to upgrade rail networks in Gippsland, Central Victoria, the Surf Coast and the state’s south west; $700 million over four years to upgrade the M80 Ring Road; $556 million for improvements to Victoria’s regional road network, including $41 million to upgrade 17 bridges on freight routes to handle High-Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV’s); a $300 million commitment to connect the Mornington Peninsula Freeway with the Dingley Bypass via a new Mordialloc Bypass; a $100 million commitment to fund planning and pre-construction activities for the much-needed completion of the M80 Ring Road via the North East Link; and $58 million for vital maintenance on the West Gate Bridge.
“All up, the Budget contains close to $2 billion for new construction and upgrades to Victoria’s road network, which is vital for the freight industry to move goods and keep the economy ticking over,” said Anderson.
“Payroll tax relief for SMEs in regional Victoria will encourage significant investments in those businesses, and generate jobs and growth.
“The $100 million investment in pre-construction and planning for the North East Link is welcome news, and comes after 18 months of concerted lobbying by the VTA and business and road user groups for a commitment to the connection with serious funding.”
Anderson added that the Regional Rail Revival package outlined in the Budget is a vital part of a suite of initiatives either planned or under construction to reduce congestion on roads throughout the state, by offering alternatives to passenger vehicle use and freeing up the road network for freight movements.
With the project contingent on federal funding, however, the VTA has encouraged the Victorian and Commonwealth governments to set aside their political differences and reach an urgent agreement on Victorian infrastructure funding, which continues to significantly lag behind other states.
Road congestion and inadequate road and rail infrastructure remain the number one impediment to better productivity among freight operators.
“The State Budget handed down today contains much for the industry to be encouraged about, and we thank the Government for listening to our concerns,” he said.

ALC, ARA call for Budget support for Inland Rail

Michael Kilgariff, Managing Director of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has spoken out ahead of the release of the 2017/18 Federal Budget, noting that Budget support is the “best chance” the Inland Rail project has of moving into the construction phase.
“It is already clear that infrastructure development will be a central theme in this year’s document,” Kilgariff said.
“This project is a long-held priority for ALC, as it is for many in the freight and logistics industry. That’s why it was a core focus of ALC’s pre-Budget submission.”
Danny Broad, CEO, Australasian Railway Association (ARA), also stressed the need for Inland Rail investment. “The ARA outlined in its pre-budget submission that a significant financial commitment is needed in order to boost rail efficiency and urban liveability,” Broad said.
“The ARA has indicated that a firm commitment by the Commonwealth to vital infrastructure, such as Inland Rail and rail to ports is necessary.
“Inland Rail will increase Australia’s GDP by $16 billion. It is profitable from day one – for every $1 the Commonwealth invests there is a return of $2.60 to our economy. Inland Rail will inject 16,000 jobs at its peak, retaining 700 jobs every year over the life of the project. Inland Rail will reduce congestion on our roads with fewer heavy vehicle movements and improve our nation’s environmental sustainability.”
“An ongoing commitment to increasing urban and regional rail projects is also necessary. The ARA looks to the Commonwealth Government to work with State and Territory Governments as partners in investing into rail. Ongoing financial support needs to be provided to enhance our liveability in our cities and growth corridors.
“We urge the Commonwealth Government to also take action on road pricing. The Commonwealth needs to act on mass-distance-location charging mechanisms for heavy vehicles along major interstate routes which compete with rail. The playing field on this issue has been unequal for far too long. Options for independent price regulation of heavy vehicle charges need to be commenced, including trial elements of heavy vehicle road reform.
The Inland Rail project is expected to receive an allocation of $1 billion in the Federal Budget.
Kilgariff also said that funding to equip authorities such as Infrastructure Australia (IA) with the resources necessary to undertake their core functions will help the development of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.
“IA is particularly important in this regard, as its professional and apolitical approach helps to ensure that infrastructure development remains subject to rigorous, evidence-based assessments, and that projects ultimately deliver the best economic and social outcomes for the community,” he said.
“As in previous years, ALC will be closely monitoring what emerges on Budget Night, and will provide commentary regarding its impact on the freight and logistics industry.”
The 2017/18 Federal Budget will be announced on the evening on Tuesday 9 May, 2017.

Infrastructure funding boost in budget

The Australian Logistics Council has welcomed the strong infrastructure focus in the 2013/2014 Budget.

As part of his $100 billion nationwide infrastructure blueprint, the Treasurer has committed to funding big projects around the country.

Victoria will receive $3.8 billion for projects including Melbourne Metro rail, Ballarat freight hub and upgrades to the Monash Freeway.

NSW has benefited from a $2.7 billion injection to fund improvements to the New England Highway, extensions of both the M4 and M5 and upgrades to roads on Mt Ousley.

Queensland has been handed $2 billion plus $4.1 billion for the Bruce Highway. Projects will include Gateway North upgrade and widening of the Ipswich motorway.

Western Australia is set to receive $1.1 billion plus $500 million for public transport with the Tonkin and Leach highways both set for upgrades.

In other states, South Australia has been flagged for $577 million, Tasmania $180 million, the Northern Territory $160 million and ACT $144 million.

The ALC said a strong infrastructure spend will ensure supply chain efficiencies are improved.

 “A strong financial commitment to improving our road and rail links is critical to improving freight efficiency and productivity levels in the industry,” said Michael Kilgariff, ALC Managing Director.

“The Government’s intention to boost infrastructure spending under Nation Building 2 is welcome but we also note a number of major projects are contingent on partnership arrangements with the states and also on coming to commercial agreements with the private sector.

“Nation Building 2 will be critical to meeting our future freight challenges, and so ALC looks forward to future governments taking this program forward and ensuring the proposed projects are delivered in a timely fashion to improve supply chain efficiency.

“This will depend in part on the government putting in place appropriate taxation measures to encourage greater private sector investment in freight infrastructure.

“We therefore encourage the work of the Infrastructure Finance Working Group to continue so governments can leverage much needed private capital in freight logistics infrastructure,” he said.

Kilgariff praised the Government for including ‘Moving Freight’ as one of its four core themes under the Nation Building 2 program.

“ALC hopes this more formal recognition of freight in the Nation Building 2 program will help to ensure funds are targeted at freight logistics projects which are in the national interest and have broad and lasting economic and social benefits,” he said.

“Infrastructure projects must have a greater focus on improving supply chain efficiency and increasing capacity on key freight routes, particularly in our major cities and around our ports.

“In this regard, we welcome the proposed investment in track upgrades around Port Botany in Sydney which are critical to supporting growth in containerised freight from the Port, as well as the future expansion of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in Sydney’s west.

“To maximise efficiencies across the network we also need to harness 21st century technologies and so industry also welcomes the funds allocated to progress the Advanced Train Management System.

Kilgariff said the funds allocated to progress an inland freight route was sensible, long term thinking.

“With growing levels of congestion in our cities, it is abundantly clear that greater effort is required by both industry and government to get more freight onto rail, particularly along the north south corridor,” he said.

“The money set aside to undertake further environmental work and to protect corridors for the inland freight route will help to ensure the line can come to fruition which it is economically feasible to do so.”

In announcing the funding, Treasurer Wayne Swan said he the government would partner with both the private sector and state governments to deliver the infrastructure.

"These investments will boost productivity, build capacity, improve safety and relieve congestion," he said.

"As well as improving the quality of life in our communities across the nation."

Bright future for freight in Australia: Budget

The future of freight in Australia looks strong under the 2012-2013 Federal Budget plans. Key changes affecting the freight industry, according to Australian Logistics Council (ALC), are:

Sydney’s freight logistics hub

Australian Logistics Council (ALC) said the Federal Government’s Budget proposal to develop a multi-billion dollar freight logistics hub in Sydney’s west affirms that the freight industry has a solid future in Australia.

The freight industry’s peak industry body said the proposal recognises the importance of freight to Australia’s future economic prosperity,

“The Government’s proposal to develop a multi-billion dollar freight logistics hub in Sydney’s west shows a welcome reversal in the trend where freight is treated as the ‘poor cousin’ when it comes to infrastructure planning,” said ALC managing director, Michael Kilgariff said in a statement.

“ALC believes Moorebank is one of the jewels in the freight logistics crown – the challenge is to ensure this key ‘inland port’ is developed in such a way that maximises its potential.

“The entire site needs to be developed in a manner that most efficiently facilitates the movement of freight to and from Port Botany within the shortest timeframe.”

“ALC believes the key to this is developing the entire site ‘englobo’ as a strategic transport hub that uses a whole of precinct approach to maximise the use of such a rare and valuable asset.”

Kilgariff said the transport hub should be developed in a way that maximises efficiency and productivity, recognises its key strategic location near the M4, M5 and Port Botany rail freight line,

This is because the hub will play an important role in supporting the national freight effort, which is expected to double by 2030 and almost triple by 2050, he said.

Three new regulators: heavy vehicles, rail and maritime

The Government has also allocated $38 million to establish national regulators for heavy vehicles, rail safety and maritime safety as part of its budgetary plans.

The spending is considered to be a critical microeconomic reform policy and is estimated to be worth $30 billion to the nation over 20 years.

Kilgariff said the ALC welcomes the Federal Government’s funding commitment to establish the three new regulators.

Nation Building II program

The ALC will be working with the Federal Government on the design of the Nation Building II program which is due to start in 2014/2015.

The Nation Building Program is a Federal Government initiative with the purpose of overseeing the provision of funding for projects and programs aimed at improving the performance of land transport infrastructure.

Kilgariff said the Nation Building II program must have a greater focus on making Australian supply chains more efficient in order to keep economic and markets factors in balance. For example, he said, lower prices on supermarket shelves to help keep the lid on inflation and keep interest rates down. 

ALC said it will be working more closely with Government to identify proposals for action to improve transport efficiency as it develops its Nation Building II program.

“This greater level of government/industry engagement was a key recommendation of ALC’s recent report Towards an Efficient Freight Future, which also found there has been a lack of progress to address a number of key supply chain blockages and that further action is needed to ease constraints to transport efficiency,” Kilgariff said.

The government is investing $36.0 billion on road and rail infrastructure through the Nation Building Program over the six year period from 2008-09 to 2013-14.

The Towards an Efficient Freight Future report is available on the ALC website.

Budget 2012: Gains and pains for the industry

With an eye on the polls the government appears to have set out a relatively pain-free budget. But what's in the fine print for industry?

New innovation centre for Australian manufacturing

A new $29.8 million Manufacturing Technology Innovation Centre is expected to bring together researchers and manufacturers to drive innovation through new and improved industrial products and processes.

The new Manufacturing Technology Innovation Centre will create, foster and leverage innovative Australian industrial design, engineering and product development, including through the spread of leading edge technologies, business processes and technical knowledge.

Skills Training

Retain $15.6 billion investment in skills and training over the next four years. The Government will also invest $18.1 million over four years to establish three Australian Skills Centres of Excellence in partnership with industry and training organisations.

The new centres aim to establish benchmarks of teaching practice and performance in selected fields of vocational education. Commonwealth funding will be supplemented by co-investment from industry or state and territory governments.

Workforce Support

An investment of almost $55 million over four years to train more Australians to meet the future skills needs of the new economy.

A $35 million investment will support mature age workers to reskill or upskill, with a further $19.4 million funding to provide training to newly qualified tradespeople to help them establish their own businesses.

The new $35 million funding will be available from 1 January 2013 for businesses to provide training to new and existing workers aged 50 years and over. It is expected that at least 7260 mature age workers will benefit from this measure.

Employers hiring mature age workers for three months will be given a $1000 bonus.

However, the Government will discontinue the $1500 standard employer commencement incentive payment for existing worker Australian Apprentices in non-National Skills Need List occupations but increase the standard completion incentive by $500 to $3000. New employee Australian Apprentices and existing workers in National Skills Need List occupations will not be impacted by this change.

Tax reforms for small business

Provision of $27.5 million to extend the Small Business Advisory Service (SBAS) program for a further four years to continue supporting small businesses with advice and assistance.

The Government will also introduce a loss carry back initiative in 2012-13 to provide tax relief to companies struggling due to the high dollar. The loss carry-back will allow businesses to ‘carry back’ their losses, to offset past profits and get a refund of tax previously paid on that profit.

The new loss carry-back is estimated to benefit around 110,000 companies in its first four years.

Funds for Science and Research

Funding for science and research in universities will be increased by $126 million in 2012-13.

More University Places

An extra $23.4 million over the next four years to assist students from disadvantaged backgrounds or needing additional preparation to make the transition to university.

The Budget will increase the amount of loading paid to universities for enabling courses. By 2014, this funding will have increased the value of the loading by 50 per cent to $3068 for each full-time enabling place. These courses are provided free to students who need additional help preparing for a university course.

Reduced Defence Spending

The massive $5.5 billion cut in military spending impacts purchases of big ticket items and other hardware. But there is aslo a $1.2 billion cut in the capital works progaram which could have a flow-through effect on companies involved in defence-related projects.

No Company Tax Cut

The Government has reneged on its pledge to reduce Company Tax from 30 percent to 29 percent. The Australian Industry Group says this erodes industry's incentives to invest and innovate and that businesses in manufacturing will be hit hard.

Truckies still rejoicing after Budget announcements

Thousands of truck drivers are set to benefit from massive infrastructure projects announced by the Federal Government recently.
Major construction works announced in the 2009-10 Budget include A$28 billion in road projects over six years from 2008-09 to 2013-14.
Of this amount, A$3.4 billion is to be invested in 2009-10 with four major projects making up the bulk of the spending.
Co-founder and operator of Barker Transport, Ed Barker, says the announcement is great news to those who are working in the Australian transport industry.
“It is definitely good news for everyone who is involved in transport. Trucks are a crucial part of everyday infrastructure. Updating and improving the road network is essential.”
“As routes are updated more truck drivers are able to help deliver consumer goods to drought stricken areas, move dangerous waste and more. Truckies really are the life blood of the Australian economy,” he said.
Working in the transport industry for 25 years, Ed says he understands the amount of pressure truck drivers face on a daily basis. He started Barker Transport with his wife Michelle fifteen years ago after being made redundant.
“The job itself is quite stressful without having to worry about the amount of work around. I think this will really help take a lot of stress off truck drivers and encourage more people to go into it as a career,” he said.
Chairman of the Australian Trucking Association, Trevor Martyn, has said the announcement will mean lower costs for families at the supermarket checkout.
“Every Australian family will also benefit, long after the current recession is just a memory. Better roads lead to lower costs at the supermarket checkout, because the trucking industry delivers every item in every Australian’s supermarket trolley,” he said.

New bucket for the interest on surplus

According to The Australian newspaper, the Federal Government is be preparing to unveil an innovative plan in the May budget to invest likely future surpluses for the specific benefit of Australia’s infrastructure.

Surpluses would be given to the government existing wealth fund, the Future Fund, to manage, but investment earnings would be directed to infrastructure projects overseen by a new entity called the Building Australia Fund.

The fund is expected to receive the lion’s share of this year’s surplus, which economists expect to reach at least $15 billion.

"We are committed to delivering on the Building Australia Fund because Australia desperately needs more investment in productive capacity, and particularly in infrastructure," Mr Tanner is reported as saying.

When Labor first promised the fund in 2005, it had aimed to divert earnings from the Future Fund towards infrastructure.

However, the Future Fund requires only a small additional investment before it has enough money to cover its original goal of financing public servant superannuation. The government is now expected to model the fund on the Howard government’s Higher Education Endowment Fund, whose assets are managed by the Future Fund.

The Government’s new statutory authority, Infrastructure Australia, chaired by Rod Eddington, will guide the projects that are supported. The infrastructure industry expects the fund to focus on projects that do not work as public-private partnerships. Industry advocates hope this might include big projects such as a new inland rail route between Melbourne and Brisbane.


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