Transport Recommendations Must Be Actioned To Bring Rail Out Of Shambles

AgForce Queensland has called on state government to restore efficiency to the ‘shambolic’ state rural rail freight services by actioning 45 recommendations handed down yesterday by the Parliamentary Committee investigating ‘Rail Freight Use by the Agriculture and Livestock Industries’.

The recommendations, many of which were put forward by AgForce, will seek to ultimately redress exorbitant freight prices and expand the limited transport options currently provided to Queensland primary producers for movement of their commodities.

AgForce transport spokesman, Grant Maudsley, said poor rail freight access had for too long stifled agricultural productivity and the Committee was clear action must be taken by government as a matter of priority.

“As the Parliamentary Committee noted, rail services to the agriculture sector are in shambles with outdated and inefficient infrastructure, limited access to train paths and serious inefficiencies in the supply chain,” Mr Maudsley said.

“As the Committee rightfully said doing nothing is not an option.”

Key recommendations handed down included:

  • That a high-level, accountable executive officer be appointed to coordinate freight supply
  • chain logistics in consultation with government, the proposed freight authority and other
  • stakeholders;
  • That the proposed infrastructure taskforce ensure a state-wide rail infrastructure plan is
  • developed in consultation with stakeholders to, amongst other things, identify and prioritise
  • infrastructure requirements, given high priority to effective port access planning, identify
  • priority projects and include a strategic approach to future arrangements for larger scale
  • intermodal terminals as vital supply chain hubs;
  • Boost investment in rail infrastructure;
  • Preserve train paths, examine ways in which to make them more innovative, flexible and
  • transparent and allocate new train paths;
  • Ensure the subsidy of livestock rail freight through continuation of the Transport Services
  • Contract and that this subsidy be, at a minimum, maintained at current levels;
  • Review the Livestock Services Contract for flexibility, efficiency and costs;
  • Investigate the benefits of an additional subsidy for the freight of non-livestock agricultural
  • products such as grain, cotton and sugar where uncompetitive rail freight costs currently
  • push rural commodities onto the road network;
  • Plan strategically-located and interconnected hubs;
  • Investigate locations and facilities to increase containerisations with planned intermodal
  • terminals, inland ports and warehousing hubs;
  • Invest in rolling stock.

AgForce Grains President, Wayne Newton, said not only would an improved rail network improve agricultural competitiveness and profitability but would also more broadly enhance road safety, the environment and the economy.

“Research has shown one single grain train can take up to 500 trucks off the road,” Mr Newton said.

“With up to 80 per cent of current bulk grain and 100pc of containerised exports moving by road now, improved rail efficiency and use will reduce grower costs and dramatically improve road safety and reduce road damage.

“Additionally, congestion costs in Brisbane are estimated to be $6 billion by 2020 and up to $9 billion by 2055 if improvements to the transport system are not delivered.

“Rail is safe, it is clean and it must be improved for agricultural use to enhance both the rural sector and the greater economy.”

Queensland Leads The Nation In Jobs Growth

Jobs growth in Queensland has outstripped other states once again with today’s ABS labour force figures showing that four out of every five full-time jobs created in Australia last month were created in Queensland.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls said 18,200 full-time jobs had been created in May on a seasonally adjusted basis.

“Growth has continued over the last 12 months with more jobs created in Queensland than any other state over the last year,” Mr Nicholls said.

“Today’s solid result shows the Government’s strong plan to grow the economy and make it easier to do business in Queensland is working.”

Mr Nicholls said more than 60,000 Queenslanders had gained employment in the last 12 months, on both the seasonally adjusted and trend measures.

“More than 50 per cent of all jobs created in Australia over the past year were created in Queensland, using both trend and seasonally adjusted terms,” he said.

“The trend measure shows an increase of 60,400 jobs in the year to May 2014, while seasonally adjusted figures show an increase of 60,800 jobs.”

Mr Nicholls said the seasonally adjusted growth in jobs in May had impacted on the unemployment rate.

“There’s been a slight drop in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, down to 6.2 per cent,” he said.

“Queensland has also enjoyed the equal strongest employment growth of any state in May, on trend terms.

“Importantly, trend employment in Queensland has risen for 13 consecutive months.

“While 6,800 trend jobs were created in Queensland in the last month, the trend unemployment rate did increase slightly to 6.3 per cent, reflecting a strengthening participation rate.

“The State’s economy is on the cusp of strong growth but not all Queenslanders are sharing in that growth yet and we know there’s more to do.

“That’s why we’ve made the strongest and smartest choice to pay down debt and free up funds for job-creating infrastructure projects.”

Record Roll-Out For Flood And Disaster Funding

Giant earthen levees will rise, new drainage systems will be built and more early warning systems deployed through the Newman Government’s latest record investment in flood and disaster mitigation projects to protect Queensland families.

Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience Minister David Crisafulli said more than 40 councils would spend almost $52 million from the 2014-15 Disaster Mitigation and Resilience Funding program on more than 80 projects.

“Our strong plan to protect Queensland communities means we are working with local councils to literally move heaven and earth to protect and prepare families, homes and livelihoods,” Mr Crisafulli said.

“Families have been pushed to the brink in the past few years and we are doing everything we can to not only protect them but make them stronger and give them a brighter future.”

Mr Crisafulli said this year’s projects included new levees and temporary flood barriers, road-raising, major drainage and stormwater upgrades, improvements to evacuation routes and the installation of rainfall and river height warning systems.

“Over the next few days and weeks we will announce projects to protect hundreds of homes and businesses across Queensland that will provide permanent relief to local families that have lived for many years in fear of what Mother Nature might bring,” Mr Crisafulli said.

“The works will also provide a much-needed financial boost to communities through jobs and lower insurance premiums.

“It’s work that should have happened a long time ago, but Labor had no plan or policies for Queensland

“While we will never disaster-proof Queensland, we can protect people a lot better than the past.

“Disasters can strike at any time but the Newman Government’s strong plan to protect communities for the long term will ensure a brighter future for all Queenslanders.”

The 2014-15 Disaster Mitigation and Resilience Funding program is being delivered through the Local Government Grants and Subsidies Program-Flood Response, Royalties for the Regions and the joint Federal and State National Disaster Resilience Program.

“The former federal government delayed making this money to available to Queensland. I must thank Prime Minister Abbott for moving quickly to get this money into the State’s hands,” Mr Crisafulli said.

$250,000 Boost To Queensland Research

Research projects that could lead to a low GI sugar to help fight diabetes and tooth decay and another study that hopes to grow bones for bone grafts are a step closer today after they were awarded $250,000 in Queensland Government grants.

Science and Innovation Minister Ian Walker announced this investment under the 2014 round of the Queensland-Chinese Academy of Sciences (Q-CAS) Collaborative Science Fund. The amount will be matched by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“Today’s recipients fulfil the purpose of the Fund to undertake collaborative research projects in scientific areas with the greatest potential to benefit both Queensland and China,” Mr Walker said.

The two projects, receiving funding of $125,000 each, are a Queensland University of Technology study into Immune Responses in Biomaterial Development, led by Professor Yin Xiao, and a University of Queensland study into Sweet Sorghum for Valuable Sugars, led by Dr Luguang Wu.

“The biomaterial development project aims to design bone grafts for the regeneration of skeletal tissue,” Mr Walker said.

“The valuable sugars project aims to identify opportunities for sweet sorghum to be used to help produce sugars with low glycaemic and insulin indices, and low rates of tooth decay.

“Both projects highlight the ongoing innovative scientific and technical collaboration that will deliver future economic, social and environment benefits for Queensland and China.”

The Q-CAS Fund was established to support joint research by scientists in Queensland and at the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences. The State Government’s commitment to use knowledge and technology to grow Queensland’s economy was further strengthened today with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality.

Commission chairman Professor Shou Ziqi said he anticipated the three-year agreement would yield outstanding results.

“Building strong collaborative relationships with Queensland is of strategic importance to Shanghai,” Professor Shou said.

Mr Walker said it was particularly pleasing to be making the announcement today as the Queensland Government hosted a senior Chinese VIP delegation to mark the 25th anniversary of the Queensland-Shanghai Sister State relationship.

Premier Will Hodgman discusses The Tasmanian Budget

The Liberal Government is committed to fixing the budget and we are getting on with the job.

Labor and the Greens left a $1.1 billion budget mess, exacerbated by a $2.1 billion hit from the former Labor-Green government in Canberra.

That is why shortly after the election we took an important and deliberate decision to defer the budget until August 28.

This additional time was important to allow us to frame our own budget, not simply adopt one from a Labor-Green government voted out of office.

It allowed us to fully understand risks to the budget that were flagged by the former government, but not quantified.

And with a well-telegraphed tough Federal Budget coming, it allowed us to understand the ramifications for Tasmania and to plan for the challenges it presents.

Delaying the budget has not prevented us from delivering on our plan in the first 100 days, but it has helped us to better plan for the future.

I want to be very clear about what it will, and won’t be.

  • It will deliver our plan, and keep our promises;
  • It will set about fixing the Labor-Green mess;
  • It will be a disciplined and measured budget;
  • There will be sensible reform, to deliver better outcomes for Tasmanians from the resources we have;
  • There will be some tough decisions, but it will not be a slash and burn budget;
  • We will not hurt vulnerable Tasmanians; and
  • We won’t be acting in a way that damages business confidence.

Of course, our challenge will not be easy, but I can assure Tasmanians that whatever your perspective, the coming budget is not a budget to be afraid of.

Massive Boost To Boating Infrastructure In Eden

NSW Treasurer and Member for Bega Andrew Constance and Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay today announced a $10 million upgrade to the Port of Eden.

“The Port of Eden Infrastructure Improvement Program will deliver new boating infrastructure and improve maritime safety in Twofold Bay,” Mr Constance said.

“With its deep natural harbour, Eden supports an active commercial fishing fleet and provides an important anchorage for all types of seagoing vessels navigating the NSW coast.

“For many years the Port has also provided a place of refuge for competitors in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.”

Minister Gay said a key priority of the new program was to provide a safer anchorage for local and visiting vessels.

“One option that will be considered is the construction of a wave attenuator,” Minister Gay said.

“The Far South Coast Regional Boating Plan, which is currently being developed, will give focus to the upgrades at the Port of Eden.”

Mr Constance said the NSW Coalition Government recognised Eden’s proud maritime tradition.

“Eden is an active working Port, a premier location for whale watching and is an emerging cruise destination,” Mr Constance said.

“This new initiative will ensure Eden’s maritime character not only continues, but prospers into the future.

“This $10 million investment in the Port of Eden follows the $3 million commitment made by the Deputy Premier in March this year towards the extension the Port of Eden Breakwater Wharf.

“The extension will enable the port to accommodate more and larger cruise ships.

“This is not only great news for local and visiting boaters; it will also provide a significant boost to the local economy. This program will provide jobs during construction and will increase visitation to the region.”

Rural Communities Seeking More Details On Drought Commitment

In a very Sydney centric budget delivered by the NSW Government today, drought stricken farmers have not been overlooked, NSW Farmers said today.

The association said it was pleased to see an additional $13 million committed to drought assistance measures for farmers and regional communities to prepare and cope with drought although there were no details available at this stage.

Meanwhile, the budget for the Department of Primary Industries – the department responsible for the delivery of rural and regional services – of $1.3 billion has been maintained.

Association president Fiona Simson said that while it was good news that the department’s budget had not been cut, the focus for DPI and its key agency Local Land Services now needed to turn to the quality and flexibility of service delivery on the ground.

Meanwhile, rural and regional NSW look like their issues on the ground with roads and bridges have been given some attention in the NSW Government’s 2014-15 budget.

The budget for roads, maritime and freight increased $400 million from last year in one of the largest transport budgets in the state’s history. However, this investment is substantially below the $61.5 billion which has been committed to Sydney.

Regional and rural NSW will benefit from several areas of investment including:

• $6 million for rail infrastructure upgrades on key sites on Country Regional Network to improve freight train loading rates for grain
• $44 million – out of $277 million already allocated – to be spent this year to maintain and upgrade grains rail lines in country NSW
• $77 million – includes extending Bridges for the Bush program to support productivity and safety for road freight
• $50 million for western NSW freight productivity program including sealing work on Cobb and Silver City Highways and
• $37.5 million for Fixing Country Roads program in partnership with councils and industry.

Ms Simson said she looked forward to further details being announced on drought assistance by Minister Hodgkinson.

“It is very important that we don’t forget more than 50 percent of our state is in drought and that many farmers are still hurting despite the rainfall many parts of NSW have had recently,” she concluded.

Moves To Improve Home Warranty Insurance

The NSW Government is working to improve the sustainability of the home warranty insurance (HWI) scheme ensuring it continues to meet the needs of homeowners and the building industry in NSW.

Minister for Fair Trading Matthew Mason-Cox today announced that the Government will initiate a review of the scheme to keep it on a sustainable footing and ensure it provides adequate protection for homeowners while minimising costs for builders.

“Home warranty insurance is a key consumer protection in the residential building sector. It is the safety net that provides cover for consumers in the event that a builder dies, disappears or becomes insolvent.

“The review will consider a range of matters to ensure the sustainability of the scheme,” he said.

Home warranty insurance is mandatory in NSW for residential building work valued at more than $20,000, unless exempt.

The NSW Government currently underwrites the scheme which is funded by premiums and established under the Home Building Act 1989.

The review will build upon recent changes to the Home Building Act. This includes clarifying what constitutes minor and major defects thereby reducing conflict between builders and customers; tougher penalties including prison sentences for repeat offences and the removal of HWI for owner builders.

Mr Mason-Cox said it was important the scheme continued to meet the needs of the community and the building industry.

“I will set up a stakeholder working group to assist in developing options for the Government to consider,” he said.

“Refinements to the scheme will be progressed as part of a package of reforms relating to multiple occupancy of buildings, security of payments and community title in the first half of 2015,” Mr Mason-Cox concluded.

10-Year Cruise Development Plan For NSW Underway

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism and Major Events Andrew Stoner announced today that Sydney based company MI Associates has been appointed to work with Destination NSW to produce a 10-year Cruise Development Plan to ensure NSW captures a larger share of the economic benefits from the growth in the cruise market.

The 10-year Cruise Development Plan was a recommendation of the NSW Government’s Visitor Economy Industry Action Plan (VEIAP). Today’s announcement comes after the 2013 Cruise Industry Source Market Report, released by the Cruise Lines International Association Australasia in Sydney last week, revealed that the Australian cruise industry is now ranked number one in the world for market growth and penetration.

“The Cruise Development Plan will help NSW plan for the forecast growth in cruise ship calls and passengers numbers and to capitalise on opportunities to grow our State’s overnight visitor expenditure,” Mr Stoner said.

“In 2013-14 Sydney welcomed a record 261 cruise ships and in 2014-15 an additional 32 are booked to call into our Harbour City, including maiden calls from Celebrity Century and Carnival Legend.

“The plan, to be developed in consultation with industry, will forecast the growth in cruise ship arrivals and passenger numbers to ensure NSW is equipped to capture a larger share of the economic benefits, including providing food and other supplies to cruise ships, pre and post-cruise tours for passengers and developing financial models to identify capacity and infrastructure needs.

“The plan will complement the NSW Government’s investment in regional tourism through the new $110 million Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund by investigating capacity and infrastructure on the North and South Coasts, including ports such as Newcastle and Eden.

“This project will deliver on the Government’s long term commitment to ensure NSW has the capacity requirements, including port infrastructure, stevedoring and ground touring arrangements, in place to meet the forecast growth in cruise ships and passenger numbers over the next 10 years,” he said.

The NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, consulted with Trade and Investment, Roads and Maritime Services, Sydney Ports Corporation, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises and the Chair of the Visitor Economy Taskforce Cruise Advisory Group in the request for quotation process.

MI Associates will also partner with ICF GHK and Hill PDA in the plan’s development. ICF GHK has completed a number of cruise related assignments in the Asia-Pacific region. Projects include the Hong Kong Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Economic Assessment, formulation of a Cruise and Ferry Integrated Seaport Infrastructure Blueprint for Malaysia Assessment and the Shenzhen Prince Bay Cruise Terminal Market Assessment and Strategy.

The report is due to be completed by the end of 2014.

Vivid Sydney Breaks Record As Festivalgoers Exceed Population Of Adelaide

Vivid Sydney has broken its 2013 attendance record with more than 1.43 million people attending this year’s 18 day festival of light, music and ideas, NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism and Major Events Andrew Stoner announced today.

“Vivid Sydney attracted 79 per cent more attendees in 2014, with the total number exceeding the population of Adelaide and surpassing the total number of international tourists to Fiji last year,” Mr Stoner said.

“Vivid visitors came from across our State, throughout Australia and from around the world. There were more than 19,500 international travellers on Vivid Sydney travel packages, up 74 per cent on 2013, which is fantastic for our tourism industry during what was once a quiet winter period.

“Local retailers also benefited from the bumper attendance numbers, with many operators reporting huge increases in patronage due to Vivid.”

Mr Stoner said all Vivid precincts had proven popular with festivalgoers after expanding into five new precincts this year – Martin Place, the University of Sydney, Carriageworks, The Star and onto the Harbour, with ferries and commercial vessels lit up for the first time.

“Modulations at Carriageworks sold out during the long weekend and the Martin Place light installation, Emergence, featured more than 16,000 visitor ‘selfies’,” Mr Stoner said.

The largest festival of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere was also a social media giant in 2014. The Vivid Sydney Facebook page received over 870,000 likes, reaching an average of 2.8 million people per day and more than 3.4 million on launch day.

The Sydney Opera House sails were lit by 59 Productions, drawing praise from Jan Utzon, son of Sydney Opera House architect Jorn Utzon.

Jan Utzon commented: “Wonderful. Vivid has become a mature art form. My deepest respect and admiration to the creators of this magnificent show. My father, Jorn Utzon, would have loved to see his creation used in this way.”

Mr Stoner said Vivid’s reach went well beyond those who visited Sydney through the extensive media coverage it attracts.

“Audiences across more than 190 countries and territories also had the opportunity to marvel at Vivid from afar through extensive global media coverage. I personally encourage those viewers to come and experience Vivid firsthand in 2015,” Mr Stoner said.

“While it is too early to give exact figures, I am confident Vivid Sydney will have again delivered significant economic impact for NSW in terms of visitor spend and I look forward to announcing the extent of that impact in the near future.”

Vivid Sydney 2014 Facts and Figures:

  • Over 1.43 million cumulative attendees
  • More than 250,000 attendees to Darling Harbour
  • 19,500 visitors on Vivid Sydney packages
  • 9,700 visitors on Vivid Sydney packages from China
  • Media coverage in more than 190 countries and territories
  • More than 37,000 tickets sold for Vivid LIVE
  • More than 34,000 people attended Vivid IDEAS
  • More than 15,000 tickets sold for Vivid Music
  • Average Vivid Sydney Facebook reach – 2.8 million people a day (3.49 million on Vivid Sydney launch day on May 23)
  • 234,438 Vivid Sydney Facebook fans, a 57 per cent growth year on year
  • 873,995 likes on the Vivid Sydney Facebook page
  • More than 1,600,000 visitors to vividsydney.com
  • 60,559 downloads of the Vivid Sydney app and VividSnap
  • More than 95,000 images tagged with #vividsydney.com on Instagram
  • More than 50 musical events at Sydney Opera House, Carriageworks, the Seymour Centre and the Basement
  • More than 550 speakers at more than 180 creative industry events for Vivid Ideas
  • Vivid Light Walk: 56 installations brought to life by 140 artists from 15 countries
  • A kilometre of fibre optic cabling and 100,800 low power LED lights to light Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • 52 jets shooting water up to 20 metres into the air for Vivid Aquatique on Darling Harbour

Stills, video and time-lapse are available at: vividsydney.com/media-centre

New Hotel To Boost Darwin Accommodation

Darwin’s newest hotel, the $150 million Elan Soho Suites, is near completion and will officially open its doors to the public next month.

Tourism Minister Matt Conlan said the 301-room hotel in the CBD is one of a number of new properties opening this year, which will help ease Darwin’s hotel accommodation shortage.

“The 4.5 star élan Soho Suites hotel is a fantastic property which will greatly enhance the range of quality accommodation available in Darwin, particularly for visitors to the Territory,” said Mr Conlan who was given a tour of the hotel’s progress today.

“It’s no secret that accommodation for the holiday market in the Top End has been tight, but this hotel will help boost capacity which in turn will help bring more tourists to the Territory.

“The 301 room hotel will offer one and two bedroom apartments. At least a quarter of the rooms will be quarantined for the holiday, leisure and business events market – which is great news.

“By the end of 2014 more than 700 new hotel rooms and serviced apartments are expected to be available to the leisure market. This includes; the 301 rooms at élan Soho Suites, 238 rooms at Lee Point Village, 60 serviced apartments at Quest Berrimah, and 101 rooms at Argus on Shepherd.

“There are also a significant number of private apartments coming online this year, which will free up more rooms across the city for the leisure market,’’ Mr Conlan said.

élan Soho Suites General Manager, Steve Frichot, said the property is the Top End’s newest home-grown hotel – locally built, owned and operated.

“Opening this hotel shows the confidence we have in the Northern Territory and we expect our business to grow and flourish and we have plans for other hotels in the CBD,” Mr Frichot said.

“This is a state of the art hotel offering Wi-Fi in all areas of the building, a unique housekeeping logistics control system using iPods, Darwin’s first remote check-in facilities and Darwin’s first Korean Barbeque Restaurant.

“Attracting business events is also a key market for us, so we have a dedicated conference floor housing six event spaces which can accommodate up to 400 delegates.”

Mr Conlan said the NT Government was committed to boosting the number of tourists to the Territory as part of the vision to develop Northern Australia and deliver $2.2 billion in visitor expenditure by 2020.

Darwin At The Centre Of Northern Development

Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss says the Northern Territory is well-placed to drive the development of northern Australia.

Having released the Australian Government’s Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia last week, Mr Truss joined the Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles and Member for Solomon Natasha Griggs today to inspect Darwin’s port facilities.

“Darwin is shaping as Australia’s gateway to Asia—one of the fastest growing regions in the world, which will soon be home to half of the world’s middle-class by 2020. In terms of northern Australia’s development, Darwin is the linchpin,” Mr Truss said.

“This Green Paper reminds us that the northern Australia is vital to our national economy, with 55% (or $121 billion) of Australia’s exports shipped from our northern ports.

“The Northern Territory has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and investment activity is set to increase by 7% in 2014–15.

“According to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, the value of exports through Darwin’s port has increased with an average annual growth rate of more than 12% a year over the five years to 2012–13.

“And there is potential for increased exports from current and new mines in the Northern Territory, LNG from the Browse Basin and growing live cattle and beef exports. A new abattoir able to process up to 200,000 head annually is under construction south of Darwin.”

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles welcomed the Green Paper as a major step in planning the future of northern Australia.

“I welcome the opportunity to discuss the opportunities and challenges in the north and develop a framework for the development of Darwin and the Northern Territory more broadly,” he said.

“I am glad to see us leading this national conversation through our new Northern Australia Development office which was used by more than 650 people in May.

“Our port continues to hit new highs, more than quadrupling its loading and unloading capacity and setting a new record in December with the export of 70,000 cattle in a single month,” he said.

Member for Solomon Natasha Griggs said the launch of the Green Paper heralds the Australian Government’s commitment to new business and job opportunities in the Northern Territory.

“The new Coalition Government has wasted no time with getting on with the job of driving development across northern Australia,” she said.

“We moved quickly to restore confidence in the live cattle trade with Indonesia and establish new opportunities for the industry to broaden the trade around the world.

“This Green Paper is proof-positive that this government is committed to talking to local people about the growth and prosperity we want for our part of the country.

“I urge everyone with an interest in the future of the Northern Territory to get actively involved in the Green Paper process. It will make a real difference.”

Submissions close 8 August 2014. For an online copy of the Green Paper and to lodge submissions, visit: northernaustralia.dpmc.gov.au