Tuesday 19th Dec, 2017

Report: Ports boss slams ‘short-sighted’ infrastructure spending

Photo: Port of Melbourne
Photo: Port of Melbourne

A confidential submission to a federal review into Australia’s freight and supply chain strategy has reportedly criticised governments for driving cash towards politically favourable infrastructure spending, over critical port investments.

According to a report in The Australian, Ports Australia boss Mike Gallacher is submitting the argument to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s formal review of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

There are 25 submissions currently listed for the Strategy. None are listed to have come from Ports Australia, but several have been submitted in confidence, from unlisted parties.

According to The Australian’s story, Gallacher believes Commonwealth and State Governments are under-investing in ports, despite the estimate a 1% increase in port efficiency could save $1.5 billion in reduced emissions and congestion costs, each year.

The recent Federal Budget was heavily focused on massive infrastructure spending, mostly focused on urban roads, passenger railways, and freight rail. Recent State Budgets have also focused heavily on urban infrastructure, and regional roads and rail.

“This has been the problem of successive governments, not just Malcolm Turnbull but a number of governments,” Gallacher was quoted as telling The Australian.

“The industry has been doing as much as it can but the inefficiencies in the port system are driving up the cost of doing business in Australia.”

Ports Australia’s submission specifically criticises recent spending on commuter infrastructure, according to the report.

“In terms of infrastructure, look at the road and rail spending in NSW – it’s focused on the commuter,” Gallacher reportedly said. “There isn’t the investment in freight or rail or a plan to handle heavy vehicles. There’s a lack of vision beyond the daily commute.

“There’s not been a solid plan by governments. When governments change there needs to be an agreed blueprint for what needs to happen on infrastructure spending that will survive the politics or the political nuance of the day.”