President’s column

THE NEWLY appointed Federal Minister for Local Government and Regional Development, Darren Chester, will make his first address to our sector at next week‘s National Local Roads and Transport Congress.

It promises to be a rewarding and insightful event – and not just because our keynote speakers have ideas and expertise to burn or because the Congress venue, Albany, is rich in scenery and history. 

In a speech last week in which he outlined the Turnbull Government’s commitment to a new five-year productivity improvement plan, Treasurer Scott Morrison put road funding reform firmly on the political agenda.

We in Local Government recognise – and have been saying so for many years –  that investing more in our roads and road-related infrastructure will boost economic and social outcomes.

For the Turnbull Government to explicitly reiterate this – and to commit to working with the states and industry to determine how best to fund and deliver Australia’s future roads – was welcome news.

The Productivity Commission’s ‘Shifting the Dial‘ report, which will form the basis of the Federal Government’s productivity drive, was equally encouraging. 

It highlighted Local Government’s importance in our three-tier Federation structure, and argued persuasively for councils to be given greater recognition and support to meet their communities’ disparate needs.

While it's terrific to have this level of recognition and support – how can we work with the Commonwealth to make a difference?

The theme of the 2017 Congress – Shaping Transport’s Future – provides a perfect platform.

In fact, Minister Chester, who is delivering a keynote speech on Tuesday wearing his hat as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, may well be quizzed on the sidelines about the implications of Mr Morrison’s speech for Local Government.

Minister Chester is also likely to give an update on the Federal Government’s inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities, a draft report of which is due in December. If so, his address will warrant close listening.

A major plank of the 2017 Congress is, of course, road funding reform. Adrian Kemp, an economist with hands-on experience of pricing and regulatory reform in the energy, water and transport sectors, will be required listening for all delegates.

Using smart mobility and connected infrastructure to improve the productivity and safety of our road networks, will be another key component of the Congress. Dr Andrew Higgins, who led development of the CSIRO’s Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT), and Russel Whale, a design and engineering consultant with Arup, will explore this aspect of our collective transport future.

The City of Albany’s innovative approach to resolving local freight productivity and road issues (in partnership with Cooperative Bulk Handling, the Southern Port Authority, and WA Main Roads) will be show-cased on Day One. And rounding out our exploration of community infrastructure will be Andrew Reese, an engineer from Nashville, Tennessee with 35 years’ experience in storm-water management.

Beautiful scenery aside, the range of excellent speakers, technical input and case studies to be presented at the Congress will help councils deliver services and infrastructure even more effectively and efficiently. I look forward to seeing you in Albany on Monday.

Safe travels,