Review of Activity

2016-17 turned out to be something of a pivotal year for the Council, bringing with it a new Minister, a new Chair and a new corporate status.

The State Election held in March 2017 saw a change of Government and a Labor administration taking office. When the new Cabinet was sworn in, Hon Rita Saffioti was appointed as Minister for Transport, to whom the Council now reports. In the period since, the Minister has engaged strongly with the Council on the freight policy agenda that she brings to the position. This has substantially influenced the Council’s discussions since that time.

Going further back, however, the start of the 2016-17 year saw the retirement of longstanding Council Chair Dr Fred Affleck and his replacement by Ms Nicole Lockwood. Ms Lockwood holds positions on a wide variety of Government boards and related bodies, important among them from the Council’s viewpoint being that on Infrastructure Australia. This particular position brings with it a broad national network and a valuable insight into Federal funding process for key freight infrastructure.

During the year, the Council also became an incorporated entity with a more arms’ length relationship with Government. While the Government will continue to provide funding and other support to the Council, it was felt that incorporation would give the body greater independence in advising the Minister on policy issues.

Council attention during the first part of the year prior to the State Election had a particular focus on road transport issues, with discussion about the establishment of a strategic road freight network in the State, the conduct of some ground-breaking road transport trials and reinforcement of the Government’s position on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

Across this same period, there was also increasing interest by the Council in the Federal Government’s National Supply Chain Study. This interest was reinforced with the appointment of the Council Chair to the Industry Panel overseeing the study. Subsequent Council focus has been on providing a Western Australian view of supply chain issues to those conducting the study and this has been usefully reinforced by the Chair’s direct involvement in the work.

The post-Election period has seen considerable Council effort going into meeting the new Minister’s request for advice on making the container supply chain centred on Fremantle Port more efficient. This is a major piece of work being conducted in partnership with the Minister’s own Departments and agencies. It has identified key activity streams impacting supply chain efficiency and particular measures to lift related performance.

A number of supply chain shortcomings have been found to be influenced by Government land use planning policy, with issues such as the protection of freight corridors, the supply of industrial land and connectivity issues prominent. In that respect, the Council is encouraged by the fact that our Minister not only holds the transport portfolio, but also has responsibility for planning and lands. As a result, she has all the levers at her disposal to initiate change should the policy advice coming to her be sufficiently compelling.

In addition to the described project work, the Council remains active with other key activities fundamental to the freight industry’s interests, including:

  • representing industry views in a wide variety of forums and discussions;
  • providing liaison opportunities between members, especially industry/Government interaction;
  • ensuring that information important to members’ operations is regularly discussed;
  • maintaining networks, otherwise unavailable to Government; and
  • raising the profile of freight with policy advisors and implementers, especially those unfamiliar with related issues.