I have received a letter from the NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, the Hon David Campbell, inviting me to become a member of a Freight Advisory Council. According to the Minister there is an opportunity to identify initiatives and plans to tackle both the current and future freight challenges that face this State. Without the efficient movement of freight out local and State economies will be unable to both grow and prosper.
This Council has been at the forefront of [pushing the need to meet the State freight challenges – to get containers in and out of Port Botany with a focus on rail, to get local freight oriented industries viable and growing, to integrate air freight into our local environment and, most importantly, prevent container trucks from strangling our local streets and roads. Perhaps more than any other area of Sydney we see both the positives and the negatives of the freight industry. We’ve seen initiatives by companies such as P&O Trans Australia introducing a new rail freight service for containers, removing in one fell swoop some 646 trucks off our roads.
What P&O Trans Australia has done must be replicated by other freight and terminal operators so that the 40% movement of containers by rail – an undertaking integral to the approval of the third terminal at Port Botany can become a reality – and not just a myth. It’s interesting that the 40% commitment is one of the terms of reference for the Freight Advisory Council.
Before I get into the terms of reference of the Advisory Council there is one point I wish to make abundantly clear. By my agreeing to join the Advisory Council, and given that the Minister and I both represent the same political party, let the State Government and the Minister be under no illusion that I will be a “yes man” to State Government transport policies. I and this Council have been perhaps the most strident critics of the State Government’s handling of the fall out from the new terminal at Port Botany, the lack of long term planning of how to handle the increase in containers passing through our area and the associated lack of inland container terminals. My criticism will not be muted.
My demands that freight be dealt with by co-operation and consultation between the three tiers of government remain and will be pushed through every avenue at my disposal. I note that the State Government is committed to developing its NSW Freight Strategy in the course of this year. I also note that the Australian Government is developing a National Ports Strategy and Freight Network Plan. Developing plans is one thing. Actually delivering on them is another. My involvement with the Freight Advisory Council will be focused on delivery – not just developing plans.
The Advisory Council will be made up of people with knowledge of or involved at senior levels of the freight industry as well as the Director General of the Department of Transport and Infrastructure.
Its role is to provide advice throughout the development of the NSW freight strategy and on a range of issues, including:
- Challenges to be addressed in the short, medium and longer term including geographic, economic, social, environmental and financial
- Key trends and developments, including those at a national and international level that will impact on options for the efficient movement of goods
- Regulatory and/or policy impediments
- Supply chain issues – port linked, rural/regional, metropolitan and intercapital
- Existing and planned infrastructure projects and initiatives – likely impacts, ongoing gaps
- Meeting the 40% rail freight target for Port Botany – actions needed in the short to medium term
- Industry engagement
Some of this is not rocket science. It is common sense – something that is sometimes lacking in the development and delivery of government policy. What is needed as far as the 40% of the containers that pass through Port Botany to be loaded onto a rail services is the efficient and effective creation of distribution centres in western Sydney, the eventual destination of the majority of the containers. For that, as I told council and as I wrote last month, not only is there a need for the Yennora and Enfield terminals to be fully operational but also some resolution on the proposed Moorebank terminal.
And to achieve that, we need both the Federal and State governments to work together because, without them acting in concert, there will not be an optimal solution to a growing problem. These are just some of the issues that I will raise in the Freight Advisory Council. I am pleased to be part of this advisory body because, through it, I feel that I can advance issues that we in this City face each day and which must be resolved in a State-wide approach.
There are, I believe, real local benefits which our community can receive through my involvement in the Freight Advisory Council.