Australian Government investment in rail and road infrastructure in 2005-06 is $2.2 billion — a figure that will grow even higher in future years as the Australian Government continues to implement AusLink, the National Transport Plan. AusLink has radically transformed how Australia plans and implements the rollout of essential transport infrastructure, directly linking rail and road improvements with industry needs and growth.
Under AusLink, the Australian Government is investing $12.5 billion in land transport infrastructure. The Australian Government has a clear expectation that states and territories will invest in those projects on the AusLink National Network that provide benefits at the state or territory level. This means that, in many cases, project costs will be shared with state and territory governments.
The Australian Government will also, under AusLink, involve the private sector in developing and funding Australia’s infrastructure. This will enable important infrastructure projects to be completed in a more timely fashion and enable governments to take advantage of private sector expertise.
The Australian Government’s funding for its AusLink investment programme projects in 2005-06 will be available on the condition that the states and territories sign AusLink bilateral agreements. The AusLink investment programme projects account for $1.3 billion of the $2.2 billion in land transport spending announced in the 2005-06 Budget.
The condition will not affect the AusLink Roads to Recovery Programme, including its Strategic Regional Programme and funding for unincorporated areas, the AusLink Black Spot Programme, untied local road grants, the supplementary road funding for South Australian councils or the remaining project under the Federation Fund.
The AusLink agreements set out the Government's new approach to land transport planning and funding, and include the National Code of Conduct for the Construction Industry – a best-practice approach to workplace relations that will increase the sector’s productivity. The South Australian and Victorian Governments have already indicated their willingness to sign up to the Code.
The Government's AusLink investment programme projects include WestLink, the new $1.5 billion ring road for Sydney and a new 17 km northern gateway for Melbourne in 2005-06, extension of the Bruce Highway widening north of Brisbane, a new road and rail access for Adelaide and better port links for Melbourne and Perth.
Construction has started on the $518.2 million Hume Highway upgrade at Albury Wodonga — the largest single road project in regional Australia. Further funding has been allocated for works further north as the Australian Government sets about meeting its objective of duplicating the Hume Highway by 2012. The Australian and New South Wales governments are also exploring options for meeting the AusLink objective of a duplicated Pacific Highway by 2016.
AusLink will also cut east coast train transit times to introduce real competition between road and rail in the crucial overnight delivery market. AusLink will substantially improve road and rail access to ports at Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Gladstone and Darwin.
Development on the National Network is being augmented by ongoing Australian Government support for the Roads to Recovery Programme and National Black Spot Programme.
Bass Strait Transport Scheme
The Australian Government has budgeted $131.5 million in 2005-06 on rebates for shipping passenger vehicles and freight across Bass Strait in recognition that Tasmanian residents, companies and tourism operators are disadvantaged due to the transport costs associated with Bass Strait. The Australian Government’s subsidy schemes will continue to enhance tourism and trade opportunities between Tasmania and the mainland, and make a major difference to the ability of Tasmanian firms and operators to compete on a equal footing with their mainland counterparts.
Roads To Recovery Programme extended
The 2005-06 Budget confirms that the Australian Government will invest $1.35 billion in the AusLink Roads to Recovery programme — a vital injection of funds that is needed to build the future of Australia’s local road system. The Australian Government will spend $340.6 million on the programme in 2005-06.
Since 2001, Australia’s 698 local authorities have used $1.2 billion in Roads to Recovery programme funds on 14,500 road maintenance and upgrade projects.
The additional $1.35 billion applies as follows:
- $1.2 billion from 2005-06 to 2008-09 ($300 million in 2005-06) will be distributed to Australia’s local councils.
- $150 million ($40.6 million in 2005-06) is being allocated between unincorporated areas ($30 million) and projects of strategic regional importance ($120 million) to 2008-09.
The funding for local councils will be distributed according to the 2004-05 recommendations by the Local Government Grants Commission in each state and the Northern Territory. The Australian Government will notify each council of the funding it will receive under the extended programme. The $30 million funding over four years for locals roads in unincorporated areas will be paid to the Northern Territory and the South Australian, New South Wales and Victorian state governments. Of this, the Northern Territory will receive $16 million over the four-year period. Unincorporated areas are parts of states and territories where there are no councils and state governments provide local government services.
The 2005-06 Budget also commits the Australian Government to 21 strategic regional road projects. Details of all Roads to Recovery Programme spending are available at the Department of Transport and Regional Services website.
AusLink Black Spot Programme
The Australian Government will extend the AusLink Black Spot Programme until June 2008.
The Australian Government will spend an extra $45 million per year in 2006-07 and 2007-08 to extend the Black Spot Programme, which provides funding to improve dangerous sections of our roads. The Budget already includes $45 million for the programme in 2005-06, which will fund about 370 black spot projects. By 30 June 2008, the programme is expected to have funded 4,400 projects.
The Black Spot Programme is a key part of government plan to reduce the national road fatality rate by 40 per cent over the decade to 2010.
The Australian Government has also:
- Committed monies to the groundbreaking trial of post-licence driver education that will begin later this year. In New South Wales and Victoria 14,000 young drivers will undertake a special driver training course as part of the trial. The trial is the first step in a Government strategy to work with the states and territories to set up a compulsory national scheme for P-plate drivers by 2007.
- Announced in the 2005-06 Budget an additional $8.8 million over the next four years ($2 million in 2005-06) for improving and administering motor vehicle safety standards.
Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme (RASS)
The RASS scheme subsidises the costs of air operators contracted to deliver a weekly passenger and freight service (including essential medical, food, educational and other services) to around 225 remote communities in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Cape Barren Island in Bass Strait.
Following the outcome of a competitive tendering process in 2004, nine RASS contracts were awarded to six air operators to provide RASS services. The 2004-05 Budget provided an additional $7.7 million in RASS funding over the next four years until 2007-08. This level of funding will enable additional eligible communities to be admitted onto the RASS scheme.
Strengthening security at Australia’s regional airports
The Australian Government recognises that transport security at regional airports is a high priority. In August 2004 the Australian Government announced the $48 million Securing Our Regional Skies package to help regional airports and airlines to respond quickly to a change in threat levels.
During 2005-06 the Australian Government will continue to work with airports and airlines and law enforcement bodies to implement six of the seven measures designed to develop response capacity, capability and deterrence at regional aviation facilities. Funding of $8.3 million has been allocated for Securing Our Regional Skies in 2005-06. The initiatives include:
- Australian Federal Police Protective Service Regional Rapid Deployment Teams to enhance response capacity for airports.
- Joint training and exercise programmes for state and territory police.
- Delivery of a metal detection hand-wand capability (equipment and training) for 146 airports, to be implemented in the event of alert levels being raised.
- A trial of 24/7 closed circuit television surveillance at selected regional airports.
- Aviation security training for regional airline and airport staff.
- A targeted public awareness campaign to encourage the reporting of suspicious activity at regional airports.
The seventh initiative provided funding for the installation of hardened cockpit doors for charter aircraft with 30 seats or more and is close to completion.
Enroute Charges Rebate Scheme
The Australian Government has allocated $5.6 million in 2005-06 to continue the Enroute Charges Rebate Scheme. The scheme subsidise the enroute air traffic control charges paid by more than 40 regional airlines and other operators. Regional airline and aeromedical aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 15 tonnes or less, such as Saab 340s, Metros and Piper Chieftains, will continue to be eligible for the scheme.
Assistance will also be extended to services provided on sole operator routes by aircraft between 15 and 21 tonnes flown by operators wholly based in Western Australia. The extension recognises the circumstances involved in flying to regional Western Australian destinations, which require the use of larger aircraft.
The Australian Government will review the effect of Airservices Australia’s charges on regional airlines to make sure they are not impeding the continued growth of the sector. The Australian Government will consider the outcomes of the review in the lead up to the 2006-07 Budget.
Search and rescue
Australia’s search and rescue capabilities will be substantially upgraded as a result of a four year $54.7 million package which includes funding for four dedicated turbine engine search and rescue aircraft. The four contracted aircraft will significantly improve Australia’s national search and rescue capability. Australia provides search and rescue capability over 53 million square kilometres or 10 per cent of the earth's surface including Australia’s landmass, the East Indian Ocean, Coral and Tasman Seas and the Southern Ocean to Antarctica.