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Restoring Australia’s productivity
growth – panel discussion
is not an issue about investment – it is about the regulatory
context in which the ports and freight operate. For example, we
have a planning system that imposes operational constraints by
way of caps and limits, which constrains operators from utilising
existing assets more efficiently. These issues are compounded
by issues of urban encroachment. This is fundamentally a
planning challenge – we operate in an environment where
housing is prioritised over the needs of freight and industrial
uses. It is vital that we protect existing infrastructure and access
to ports, and preserve our industrial lands.
Another issue worth mentioning is the significant number
of global operators that either invest or operate in the port
space – they face very high costs of doing business in
Australia, particularly from underlying costs, such as land
taxes, regulatory compliance costs, labour costs and the cost
of utilities. All of these underlying costs are influencing their
investment decisions here.
Australia also has a fragmented port supply chain system.
There are many stakeholders operating in port and freight supply
chains who are constrained by the regulatory arrangements
that exist, where integration is secondary to competition. This
does not promote cost efficiencies, reduce costs or allow for
innovation and flexibility.
On a positive note, freight in New South Wales and at the
Commonwealth level has what is probably the highest profile
it’s had in a very long time – possibly even ever. It still needs to
be given a much higher priority, but it is in a much better place
than it has been in the last 10 or 20 years. That’s recognised
in transport departments in New South Wales, where we have
freight departments, and freight and ports plans. At the national
level, we are currently developing a national freight and supply
chain strategy. This recognition needs to continue generally, but
also in recognition of its importance to the economy.
BL: Thank you. Stephanie?
Dr Stephanie Fahey (SF): Austrade is responsible for
exports and promoting investment into Australia. There are
challenges that we’re facing in Australia today, particularly with
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) coming into Australia, and
specifically into the infrastructure sector. There is no doubt that
Australia’s economy has been built on FDI – one of the main
challenges is keeping Australia open for business. Another
challenge is maintaining the social licence to encourage foreign
investment to come and assist with the infrastructure being
developed. Australia cannot do this alone. We’re a relatively
small country with a population of 24 million. We’re the 13th-
largest economy in the world, but with such a small population,
we can’t save fast enough to invest in the infrastructure that we
need to remain globally competitive.
I think that one of the other issues is around not only
maintaining social licence, but also ensuring that we take the
whole economy forward with us. Look at what has happened in
the United States and the United Kingdom, for example; if we
L–R: Peter Harris AO, Dr Stephanie Fahey, Brendan Lyon and Marika Calfas
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