Transcript: Doorstop - Inland Rail Forum - Brisbane QLD - 21 May 2019
Dr Andrew Higgins, CSIRO TraNSIT leader
Mr Les Williams, chairman, Growcom Queensland
Mr Kirk Coningham OAM, CEO, Australian Logistics Council
Mr Blair Batts, General Manager, InterLink SQ
Subjects: Cost savings from Inland Rail; federal election; NSW election
Today is a very historic day and a very important day. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, better known to one and all as the CSIRO, has just announced its findings of an Inland Rail analysis study it has done which shows that the actual saving for tonnage for the Inland Rail once completed is more likely to be about an average of $76 rather than what was initially thought to be only $10.
This is a significant saving. I can well recall at one of the many forums I’ve attended for the Inland Rail in northern NSW: One farmer, whilst pleased at the fact that it was going to be a $10 saving per tonne, quite frankly told us well that’s not enough. Well the CSIRO has done some investigations, has done a lot of work into looking at just how much the saving is going to be.
For horticulture and for food processing it’s going to be up to $94 per tonne, but on an average $76 per tonne. That means more money into farmers’ back pockets, more money for small business. We all know as the Federal Liberal and Nationals’ Government that when we invest in infrastructure such as the $9.2 billion that we’re putting into Inland Rail, there are going to be efficiencies, productivity gains but most importantly savings gains.
It’s great to be here with Dr Andrew Higgins from CSIRO, heading up the team who has done this research. I will ask Dr Andrew Higgins to make some comments and then we have some other key stakeholders from this report and for whom the Inland Rail is so critical who will also add to the remarks.
Thank you Deputy Prime Minister. This is a really exciting study. It is a pilot study and it shows some very significant savings for agriculture from Queensland or Victoria or vice-versa that are going to be potentially using Inland Rail. It’s not just about Brisbane to Melbourne; there’s a wide range of other agriculture from southern Australia to northern Australia that could potentially use this valuable asset in the future. So this is the first stage of a large study. We are now going to be extending this pilot out to the whole corridor, looking at a broader range of commodities such as grains, cotton, minerals – any broader general freight. It’s really going to give a holistic picture of the benefit of Inland Rail in terms of cost reductions, and also what it might look like under future scenarios of production or future scenarios of other sorts of investments that may further increase the benefits of this Inland Rail to those who may use it.
Les Williams, the chairman of Growcom, Queensland fruit and vegetable growers. Growcom supports this initiative. Anything that makes freight more efficient and cheaper for horticultural producers is a good thing. We commend the Government for committing to this project.
I’m Kirk Coningham from Australian Logistics Council. We look at the end-to-end supply chain and I think that this is a really exciting piece of the puzzle, to say that the numbers are stacking up. What we need is to see the numbers stack up in a business sense for these major investments, and it’s great to see that those numbers are telling the right story. We hope now that this gives further weight, strips away the politics and means we can get on with this really nation-building piece of infrastructure.
We believe that the freight task from the eastern seaboard is going to escalate to about 32 million tonnes of cargo by 2030. The task is enormous. What we’re doing now is making sure that we’re up to that task and which means we’re up to the task for business, for farmers, for our country. So we’re well behind this incredibly important piece of infrastructure.
Blair Batts, General Manager, InterLink SQ. We’re the proponents of an intermodal facility in Toowoomba which will be a key location on the Inland Rail – very similar to Parkes that we’ve just spoken about today and included in this study. A lot of the findings that have come out of this study I think we will find very similar in Toowoomba. So I congratulate the Government and the Minister and CSIRO on this piece of work and look forward to seeing the results around Toowoomba.
So are there any questions about the Inland Rail for either CSIRO or me, then I’m happy to take any other questions about any other topic.
We have that figure per tonne; is there an estimated yearly saving figure for industry?
Currently there’s a figure based on horticulture and processed food like your boxed meat, your boxed rice and dairy products and that’s $70 million per year savings, and that’s just for starters. When we extend it to broader commodities we will be able to get a broader picture of what it means for all freight that can potentially use Inland Rail.
And one of the really exciting aspects of it was that they modelled driver fatigue, CSIRO modelled all sorts of things, and what they found was that there were going to be 63,000 fewer trips on that section of the Newell Highway. Of course 63,000 fewer trips by trucks means a significant saving in road maintenance but a significant increase in road safety.
Now we know that the freight task is going to double in this nation over the next 20 years. So if we can get more freight off the roads and onto rail that has to be seen as a good thing. There will still be plenty of work for the trucking companies, don’t worry about that. They are the lifeblood of the nation. This significant investment is going to mean such a difference for road safety but such a difference for the freight task, to make sure that our delivery is more productive and more efficient.
What do you say to those who are accusing you of withholding information from farmers about the Inland Rail route?
There’s no information being withheld at all. We have been totally transparent. That’s why one of my initial tasks, one of my initial achievements I will say, was to appoint Warren Truss, the former Nationals Leader and former very renowned Infrastructure and Transport Minister, to the position of Chair of this Inland Rail project and Richard Wankmuller, internationally renowned, as the CEO of the project. We are conducting forums. We are conducting them right up and down the 1700 kilometres of the Inland Rail. It’s a corridor of commerce. We want to make sure that we get it right.
But this has been talked about for many many years, decades in fact. The initial plans for the Inland Rail – Richard Wankmuller once showed me plans that were dating back to the early 1900s if not before. So we need to get on with it. We have an aversion almost in this country these days of building big nation-building infrastructure. That’s why the Liberal and Nationals’ Federal Government is getting on with building the Inland Rail, getting on with building Snowy Hydro 2.0 and getting on with investing a record $75 billion of infrastructure around this nation. We want to make sure that people get home sooner and safer. We want to make sure that for our processing for food, the shelf life is kept – 24 hours, we reduce the time from paddock to port and to markets – and helping our domestic supply chain as well. So it’s all getting on with the job of building the Inland Rail. I mean we’re doing it.
There are landholders who are threatening to rip up their land access agreements. Will you be compensating people who have developed this land?
Of course there’s always going to be a compensation package when there is land acquisition, but we’re negotiating with those people; we’re talking to them; most importantly we’re listening to them. And we will work with them co-operatively, collaboratively. But we need to get on and build this nation-building infrastructure. The farmers are going to be the biggest beneficiaries of it. I appreciate that some landholders yes indeed will be impacted. I understand that. I come from a generational farming family so I know what it’s like to protect your land and love your land. But we also need to ensure that we increase our trade, make sure that those farmers who in the majority who will absolutely benefit from this – regional farmers, regional small business people – we need to get on with the job and we’re doing just that.
Will Members of the National Party Room be engaging in preference deals with One Nation in the upcoming federal election?
Preferences are worked out at a local level in The Nationals. They always have been, they always will be.
Will you be stepping in to stop any Queensland MPs from doing any deals with One Nation?
I say again, I would urge and encourage voters to preference the Liberals and Nationals and in Queensland the LNP first and foremost. But obviously we’ve always preferenced according to our local electorates. We’ve always done that, working through our State-based organisations. The Nationals is a State-based organisation. We come together as a federated body, obviously with The National Party of Australia at a Commonwealth level. But the fact is they are worked out at a local level. I would in fact encourage people to put The Greens last. I think they’re much more of a danger than any other political party to our social fabric and to all the things that the National Party holds near and dear. The Greens are a threat to making sure that farmers have the right to farm, making sure that farmers are able to take the advantage and benefit of such things as the Inland Rail. The Greens are the greatest danger to people who want to live in the regions, people for whom the regions are so important. The Greens are our biggest danger.
Turning to the NSW election, have you basically given up on regional seats like Barwon in that election?
That’s just a ridiculous question. We have outstanding candidates right throughout, right throughout NSW – Andrew Schier in Barwon – we have so many good candidates. I’m delighted that even in my own electorate we have Steph Cooke, Kate Hazelton, Mackenna Powell, and Austin Evans doing a fantastic job for and on behalf of The National Party – getting out there and listening to people.
The Nationals have delivered big time in NSW. You look at the 48 hospitals and MPSs – that delivery didn’t come in the 16 sorry years of Labor. Never, not once, did Labor look over that sandstone curtain that is the Great Dividing Range. The Nationals have. John Barilaro has delivered in spades. The $4.2 billion from the sale of Snowy Hydro – that is going wholly and solely to regional NSW: not Newcastle, not Wollongong and certainly not Sydney.
That sort of delivery does not come without a strong Nationals voice in Government. I look forward to all of those Members I mentioned, including a successor for Kevin Humphries, taking their place in Macquarie Street and continuing to work hard for and on behalf of the people of NSW and particularly those who love the regions and who live in the regions.
Are you worried that The Nationals’ backing for some gun laws in the past will hurt your NSW colleagues this weekend?
The Nationals have always stood firm on making sure that safety and national security are paramount. Tim Fischer, working in conjunction with John Howard, was the one who made sure that tougher gun laws were invoked in 1996 following the Port Arthur massacre. That has come because The Nationals in Government recognised that we had a problem, we had an issue and we helped to address that issue. That’s what The Nationals do. We put the nation first. But we also make sure that the regions are very well looked after; if it’s in the regions’ interest it’s in the national interest. When the regions are strong, so too is our nation. And we will continue to do that. We will continue to speak up. We will continue to fight and strive hard. And I look forward to a re-elected Berejiklian-Barilaro Government doing exactly what regional NSW and the State of NSW needs.
Thank you very much.