Following the announcement of the 2021-22 Federal Budget on Tuesday 11 May, many key industry players have sung its praises, while others have voiced their concerns. Here’s what some of the industry has to say about the funding announcements from this year’s budget.

Rail funding welcomed

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) welcomed new rail funding in the Federal Budget as the industry continues to support the nation’s economic growth and recovery.

The ARA also commended new innovation initiatives, which could deliver further benefits if extended to industries like rail as part of their implementation.

ARA Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Wilkie, said the Government’s $2 billion initial investment in the Melbourne Intermodal Terminal would deliver significant benefits to the freight sector.

Additional funding for key rail projects such as WA’s METRONET, Queensland’s Gold Coast Light Rail, the Canberra Light Rail and SA’s Gawler Rail Line Electrification project were welcome investments in the passenger rail network.

“While the past year has been a challenging one, people are returning to rail and the network needs to be ready to meet future demand,” Ms Wilkie said.

While the ‘patent box’ initiative to drive new innovation was to be commended, Ms Wilkie encouraged the Government to consider broadening its focus to include additional industries.

“The rail industry lags its international counterparts when it comes to technology and innovation, in part due to a lack of national research investment and focus,” Ms Wilkie said.

“Initiatives like the ‘patent box’ could drive greater investment in rail innovation and maximise the significant investment in rail infrastructure to come over the next 15 years.”

Intermodal terminal to keep Inland Rail services on track

Port of Melbourne welcomed the $2 billion Federal Budget commitment for the creation of a new intermodal terminal to accommodate future Inland Rail services.

Port of Melbourne said it supports the increased use of rail to enable the more efficient movement of goods, as evidenced by its $125 million Port Rail Transformation Project (PRTP) as part of a suite of major initiatives to sustain the port’s standing as a world-class facility. 

The PRTP is designed to enhance existing infrastructure and build new rail infrastructure within the port precinct to connect to metropolitan and regional intermodal freight terminals.

Port of Melbourne CEO, Brendan Bourke, said Inland Rail needs to connect efficiently with other freight infrastructure, including the Port of Melbourne and metropolitan and regional intermodal freight terminals. 

“Connection of Inland Rail to the Port of Melbourne, including a direct freight connection to Webb Dock, is essential to meeting the long-term demands of consumers and business,” Mr Bourke said. 

“The proposed funding for a Melbourne Intermodal Terminal is a positive step towards that aim. 

“As the manager of the port, we will continue to invest along with industry and government to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of the port supply chain.”

Freight funding a win

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) welcomed the investments in the National Freight Data Hub and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator announced in the Budget.

ALC CEO, Kirk Coningham, said that assisting the Government in developing a Freight Data Hub that enhances freight chain productivity is an ALC priority.

Mr Coningham said, “The capital injection provided to the Data Hub project in tonight’s Budget gives industry the confidence that the Government is committed to developing a system that will assist the efficient movement of freight from one end of the supply chain to the other. ALC stands ready to assist in bringing this project to fruition.

“The investment in the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is also important. 

“Funding engineering assessments of local government road infrastructure will assist road owners to make the right decision when considering requests for road access by heavy vehicles rather than making conservative decisions denying access so as to protect the infrastructure from damage.”

Airports need international borders to open

Australian Airports Association (AAA) Chief Executive, James Goodwin, said the new and extended key aviation support programs have kept aircraft flying and airport workers in jobs.

“The extension of the regional and domestic aviation support programs announced in March continue to keep critical air routes open meaning aviation staff stay in work and Australians can continue to travel to where they need whether it’s for health, education, work trips, visiting family and friends or taking that much-needed holiday,” Mr Goodwin said.

While support programs have certain benefits for the aviation industry, Mr Goodwin said they were not yet in the clear without international borders open.

“While many of our airports are seeing a sharp increase in passenger numbers, we must remember a full recovery is still some time away,” Mr Goodwin said.

“Across Australia domestic passenger numbers are still 40 per cent lower than pre-COVID levels.

“The government has missed an opportunity to support our regional airports and remote airstrips with no new funding for the Regional Airports Program (RAP) and the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program (RAUP).

“Without international travel, the airport sector and the broader economy will not make a full recovery.

“The positive domestic economic outlook is masking continuing concerns in the aviation industry with most airports still operating at significant losses.

“We urge the Australian Government to work with industry and develop a plan to slowly and safety reopen the borders, starting with more travel bubbles with other COVIDSafe nations, similar to the arrangement we have with New Zealand, which is working well.”

Growing Perth Airport’s connections

Perth Airport Chief Projects and Development Officer, David Eden, said the funding for the Great Eastern Bypass, Kalamunda Road, and Leach Highway-Welshpool Road interchange, will deliver a win for commuters and the WA economy.

“Perth’s population continues to grow and our road network needs to grow with it,” Mr Eden said.

“These projects will deliver big benefits for commuters. At the same time the works on Great Eastern Highway and Kalamunda Road will help unlock the enormous economic potential of the Airport North Precinct.

“Airport North has been earmarked in several Perth Airport Master Plans for future commercial and industrial development.” 

Energy response a mixed bag

The response to the Budget from the energy industry has been mixed.

APPEA Chief Executive, Andrew McConville, said support for gas-related strategic basins is a big tick, as is the announcement for new hydrogen and carbon storage initiatives to help lower emissions.

“Increased funding for gas infrastructure of $173.6 million in the Northern Territory on top of the $58.6 million will mean more supply for the domestic market and that will help keep prices competitive,” Mr McConville said.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said the Budget was a missed opportunity for the Federal Government to embrace Australia’s renewable energy sector and follow the lead of international, state and territory counterparts to use the clean energy transition to drive job creation and economic recovery.

“If this truly is the infrastructure budget, Infrastructure Australia has identified that there is a need for major transmission upgrades to supply network access to renewable energy zones as a high priority, particularly in light of retiring thermal generation,” Mr Thornton said.

“The lack of transmission investment is now one of the most critical challenges facing Australia’s energy industry.

“It’s disappointing that in a ‘nation-building’ infrastructure budget, upgrades that will enable the access and security of clean, low-cost power have not been prioritised.”

Tasmanian Government gets tough on traffic congestion

The Tasmanian Government welcomed the announcement of funding for new congestion busting projects in the 2021-22 Federal Budget, as well as the plan for delivering the intergenerational infrastructure included in the plan to secure Tasmania’s future.

The Tasmanian Government said this commitment, along with its election commitment to invest $416.5 million over the next seven years in road infrastructure, will mean safer travel, reduced traffic congestion and travel time, as well as thousands of jobs for Tasmanians.

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