Speech: The challenges of a growing population and the role of Ports in facing those challenges

Posted on
May 21, 2019
Opening exert from the transcript. Full transcript available below.

Mr Chairman, on behalf of the Board of Ports Australia I wish to thank the Committee for this opportunity to present to the Inquiry into the Australian Government’s role in the development of cities.

In addition to the written submission we made to the inquiry in 2017, we wish to provide the Committee with an update on the progress of matters raised, together with some additional information that I am confident will assist the Federal Government to identify the ensuing challenges facing the movement of freight but also to leadership role we believe can be taken by Government in minimising the negative impacts that are likely to occur as a result of the freight tsunami headed our way.

All Members of this Committee are well aware of the projected population growth figures for Australia over the next 12 years:

  • Highest growth rate of major OECD countries currently, growing at 1.6% per annum
  • A population base expanding from 24 million to 30 million
  • Capital cities will house up to 69.3% of the entire population in that time – growing further to 73.4% in just over 40 years.

Correspondingly, as population grows, so too does demand. However, alarmingly, as the Government’s National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities Discussion Paper highlighted that the total road freight task in all capital cities is forecast to increase by 2.33% per annum; from 40 billion tonne kilometres back in 2008 to 66.60 billion tonne kilometres within the next 12 years.

To put that into perspective Australia’s Shipping Container Freight movement are expected to grow by 165% over the same period; Non-containerised freight is projected to grow by 138% over the same period.

The overwhelming majority of containerised freight will be delivered to one of four capital city ports; Melbourne, Port Botany, Brisbane or Fremantle, with Sydney and Melbourne accounting for around 70% of containerised freight.

In total the domestic freight task of the nation, that is, moving freight around the country which includes exports and imports, natural resources, shipping containers, bulk goods such as machinery, imported motor vehicles, agricultural goods, general cargo to name a few… in 2016 totalled 738 billion tonnes kilometres – 15% of this was moved by Coastal shipping; Rail 56% and road 29%.

And of those figures, Coastal shipping contribution to the domestic freight task has grown, over the last 25 years by 1% - Rail has grown by 210% and Road 61%.

For a Maritime nation with over 70 ports strategically located right around our country, each with road and rail access, each with maritime related industry nearby, in either a capital city or regional town….a continuation of this imbalance surely is not in our national interest.

In fact, the terms of reference for this committee underlie the belief, in my members, that improved utilisation of our nation’s port structure and maritime network will add to the sustainability of existing cities and also help to grow, in a sustainable way, existing regional towns and cities.

Embracing the use of our nation’s coastal sea routes, ‘the blue highway’ we believe can deliver

  • A cost effective and efficient method of moving freight, particularly, non-time specific freight around our country.
  • Help to reduce long distance truck movements which commence within our cities and thereby reduce congestion
  • Reduce unnecessary long distance truck movements from country and regional roads by moving the heavy vehicle collection point closer to the delivery location
  • Improved health and safety of trucks drivers by reducing long haul distances
  • Improving road safety and travel times by reducing the number of truck on our city roads
  • Reduce degradation of country and regional roads and associated repair costs by reduced long haul heavy vehicle travel along major freight routes
  • Improved environmental outcomes, both noise and air quality, particularly in capital cities and regional towns on major road freight routes
  • Increased job opportunities in regional port cities or nearby communities by increasing job demand through port expansion and diversification
  • Limit the migratory flows from regional centres to our cities through job creation
  • Help alleviate housing affordability pressures through a more sustainable population growth in our cities while attracting some to regional centres.

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