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NEW ALLIANCE CALLS FOR EMERGENCY FUNDING FOR RURAL ROADS
The newly-formed Rural Road Alliance is calling for an emergency funding package totalling nearly $5.5 billion in the upcoming Federal Budget.
The alliance – which represents diverse stakeholders from across regional Australia including farmers, transporters and local councils – has been formed in response to the critical challenges facing Australia’s rural road network in the wake of recent flooding and high rainfall.
The Alliance includes GrainGrowers, the National Farmers Federation (NFF), Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) and Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA).
Since January 2022, there have been 23 flood events, with 429 declarations across 277 local government areas (LGAs). In the last two months, the ongoing east coast flooding event has seen more than 82,000 kms impacted by flood-related closures across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia, while Western Australia has experienced the devastation of Cyclone Seroja.
The Alliance said recent flooding had taken a wrecking ball to regional roads, including the nationally significant Hume, Newell, Calder, and Western highways.
Natural disasters and extreme weather events have already cost the Australian economy $5 billion in 2022, according to Treasury estimates, as a result of widespread disruption to key industries such as agriculture.
GrainGrowers Chair, Rhys Turton, said the rural road network was now at breaking point.
“We’re already seeing recently repaired roads crumbling. It’s thrown a challenging grain harvest into disarray as farmers and transporters struggle to move grain from paddock to port,” Mr Turton said.
NFF Chief Executive, Tony Mahar, has labelled the damage as catastrophic.
“We’re looking for a substantial, long-term commitment. We can’t be left driving on decimated roads once the politicians and news cameras move onto the next disaster,” Mr Mahar said.
ALRTA Executive Director, Mat Munro said the damage was already undermining productivity and safety in the regions.
ALRTA Executive Director, Mat Munro
“Severely damaged roads are dramatically increasing the time and cost of moving freight to and from our rural production centres. It’s harder on our vehicles, it’s harder on our drivers, and it’s harder on our livestock. It’s holding back development of our regional communities and undermining safety and welfare for all users of country roads,” Mr Munro said.
ALGA National President Councillor, Linda Scott, said the ongoing impacts of climate change should prompt a fundamental shift in the way Australia funds, delivers and maintains its roads.
“The flooding, fires and cyclones we’ve seen over the past few years are unprecedented. What we need now is unprecedented funding – not just to repair our roads, but to strengthen them for future events,” Cr Scott said.
In the lead up to the 2023-24 Federal Budget, the Rural Road Alliance is calling for an emergency funding package totalling nearly $5.5 billion, including:
- A one-off injection of $1 billion over four years directed at regional road and infrastructure reconstruction for councils impacted by flooding and other natural disasters to ensure the rebuild is to a standard more resilient to future disaster events;
- $800 million a year over four years for the Roads to Recovery Program;
- $300 million a year over four years to address first and last mile freight productivity; and
- targeted funding through the Roads of Strategic Importance program to improve the long-term climate resilience of freight networks.
The Alliance said its proposed funding package was an opportunity for the Federal Government to stem the rapid deterioration of Australia’s rural road network, and to reduce the cost to the budget of future climate events.
ALRTA NATIONAL COUNCIL
ALRTA National Council met face-to-face in Melbourne on 17 February 2023.
Items discussed included PBS, telematics, road resiliency, heavy vehicle charging and industrial matters. ALRTA thanks representatives from NHVR (Scott Britton – Project Manager, PBS Review) and NTC (Ramon Staheli – Head of Economics) for presenting on regulatory proposals under consideration.
You can read more about ALRTA National Council decisions and submissions on these important topics in our weekly newsletter over the next few weeks.
ALRTA CALLS FOR IMPROVED INJURY REPORTING
ALRTA has again called for improved injury reporting following recent news that a New Zealand livestock transporter revealed 10 per cent of their drivers had suffered hits by sheep and 70 per cent had suffered hits from cattle. 57 per cent of the time a cattle-hit resulted in injuries that required time off work.
ALRTA’s 2021 injury survey found that 87 per cent of drivers had experienced some level of injury loading or unloading livestock in the previous five years. Reports were made to a work safe authority less than 7 per cent of the time.
Chair of the ALRTA Driver and Animal Welfare Committee, Graeme Hoare, said that reporting injuries is a vital part of improving work place safety.
Chair of ALRTA’s National Driver & Animal Welfare Committee, Graeme Hoare.
“Loading or unloading is the most dangerous part of a livestock transport journey,” said Mr Hoare.
“Our industry has developed an accepting attitude towards minor injuries with most people just getting on with the job and not bothering to report an incident or near miss. However, minor incidents are a warning that a major incident is waiting to happen.
“It is important to report and document all incidents or near misses so that facility owners are aware of the risks. You can’t fix problems you don’t know about.
“As much as facility owners have a duty to provide a safe workplace, persons who visit these workplaces have a duty to report safety risks. It is by working together that sites can be improved. If risks are still ignored, workplace authorities can be involved,” said Mr Hoare.
SKILLS SHORTAGES: CHARTING A PATHWAY TO SUCCESS
ALRTA has laid out a multi-part pathway for addressing the skills shortage crippling our industry, involving adding truck drivers to Australia’s Priority Migration Skilled Occupations List, establishing a two-year truck driver apprenticeship and modifying the National Heavy Vehicle Driver Competency Framework.
ALRTA National President, Scott McDonald
Read more about our strategy in PowerTorque Magazine here.
CLIMATE BILL IN JEOPARDY
The Albanese Government’s signature climate change policy is in jeopardy after The Greens threaten to block the bill. The government has committed to a 43 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. If passed, the laws would require Australia’s top 215 polluters to slash emissions by 5 per cent annually.
The Greens say they will scuttle the bill unless the government agrees to block future coal and gas projects in Australia. Stopping new projects will add more pressure on already sky-rocketing energy costs.
FEE-FREE TAFE FOR AG CAREERS
The Albanese Government is offering 13,200 free-free TAFE and vocational education and training places in 2023 across Australia.
The courses encompass a wide range of skill sets including livestock production systems, agronomy, ag technology and agribusiness management.
For more information click here.
ANOTHER BUMPER YEAR FOR AUSTRALIAN AGRICULTURE
The gross value of Australian Agricultural production for 2022-23 is forecast to be $85 billion – just shy of the record set last year.
Not a bad effort given the widespread flooding affecting production and transport right around Australia.
ABARES latest Agricultural Commodities and Crop Reports indicates that the winter crop will be the second largest on record at over 62 million tonnes. Livestock production is steady with an estimated value of $34 billion.
With commodity prices remaining relatively high, agricultural exports values are expected to break all-time records with a combined value of over $72 billion.
Check out the full ABARES report here.
LAST CHANCE FOR SAFETY PROJECT GRANTS
Applications under the NHVR’s $4m Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative close on 20 February 2023.
Federal Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister, the Hon Catherine King MP has said that:
“The Australian Government’s contribution to the latest round of HVSI funding is a golden ticket opportunity for the heavy vehicle industry and its supply chains to improve road safety at the coalface.”
“Ideas for project topics include driver or supply chain skills and training, vehicle safety technologies and improvements, or heavy vehicle educational tools and resources.”
“A new year is the perfect time to reflect and look at how we can improve day-to-day operations and safety on our roads.”
ALRTA has previously accessed HVSI funds to build effluent disposal sites, develop a code of practice, run a trial of a user-pay PAL unloading frame and to research innovate ways to access and assess telematics data to improve driver training.
To lodge an application click here.
SAVE THE DATES FOR 2023
LBRCA – 9-11 March 2023 – TAMWORTH NSW – Information & Registration
ATA TRUCKING AUSTRALIA 2023 – 29-31 March 2023 – SUNSHINE COAST QLD – Information & Registration
LRTASA – 16-17 June 2023 – Adelaide Entertainment Centre SA
LRTAWA/NATIONAL Combined Conference – 4-5 August 2023 – BUSSELTON – WA.
LRTAV – 11-12 August 2023 – BALLARAT – VIC
LRTAQ – 28-29 September 2023 – The Ville Resort, TOWNSVILLE – QLD