Infrastructure and Transport portfolio
Department of Infrastructure and Transport
This chapter contains the key issues discussed during the 2012-13 Additional
Estimates hearings for the Infrastructure and Transport portfolio. A complete
list of the topics discussed, and relevant page numbers, can be found at Appendix
The committee heard evidence from the department on Tuesday,
12 February 2013. The hearing was conducted in the following order:
- Australian Rail Track Corporation
- Infrastructure Australia
- Nation Building—Infrastructure Investment
- Surface Transport Policy
- Australian Maritime Safety Authority
- Policy and Research
- Major Cities Unit
- Office of Transport Security
Aviation and Airports
- Airservices Australia
- Civil Aviation Safety Authority
- Australian Transport Safety Bureau
The committee began by discussing what actions the department is taking
to address the recommendations of the departmental capability review. The
Secretary, Mr Mrdak advised the committee that an action strategy had been
lodged with the Australian Public Service Commissioner, which included a number
of steps principally focused on three key areas:
- strategic direction;
- performance management; and
- regulatory activities.
Mr Mrdak told the committee that he did not see the need for a formal
corporate plan to set out the Department of Infrastructure and Transport's
strategic direction; instead he is considering a corporate direction statement
to better communicate with industry groups.
Officers informed the committee that the current staff performance
management system has been very focused on providing training to managers. The
current performance management framework is focused on the one-on-one
relationship between the supervisor and the person reporting to them. The
committee heard that the department would like to change the performance
management framework to expand the number of people involved in the process.
The committee asked for an update on the work that is currently being
undertaken by consultants, including information on the largest consultancies. Officers
told the committee that the two largest consultancy projects are the second
airport for the Sydney region and the high-speed rail study.
The committee heard that the consultancy work for second airport for the
Sydney region has focused on analysing the social, economic, environmental and
engineering impacts of creating an airport at the site in Wilton.
The committee heard that the phase two report into the high-speed rail
study is due for completion shortly. Officers discussed the structure of the
report, which will contain the following information:
- capital cost estimates for the preferred options;
- financing options;
- revenue forecasts; and
- an overall assessment of the economic and financial viability of
high-speed rail network.
The committee sought an explanation from the department as to why the
answers to questions on notice from the October 2012 Supplementary Budget
Estimates were two months late. Mr Mrdak, explained to the committee that the
department met many but not all of their timeframes.
Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)
The committee sought an update on the proposed inland rail route. Mr Fullerton,
Chief Executive Officer, told the committee that the bottom section of the
inland rail from Melbourne to Parkes has been upgraded. The ARTC also acquired
the Werris Creek to North Star section of track which forms part of the
proposed inland route. The committee further heard that the Government has made
a commitment of $300 million in the Nation Building Two program for the
proposed inland route.
The committee asked officers to explain the ARTC's recent takeover of
the Sydney metropolitan freight network. Mr Fullerton, explained that the
takeover of the network includes the Port Botany rail line. The committee
sought further information on the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal and how the ARTC
plans to solve the congestion problems surrounding Port Botany.
Infrastructure Australia / Nation Building—Infrastructure Investment
The committee discussed the National Freight Strategy. Officers told the
committee that the Ministerial Standing Committee on Transport and
Infrastructure decided to transition the strategy from Infrastructure Australia
to the department, as Infrastructure Australia has provided its advice and
analysis and now it is the role of the department to work with state and
territory administrations to establish an implementation plan.
In continuing its interest from previous estimates hearings, the
committee sought an update on the following infrastructure projects:
- Toowoomba Range crossing;
expanding the Warrego highway;
- Roads to Recovery budget for Western Australia;
- Yeppen floodplain;
construction of Maranoa Bridge over the Mitchell River;
- Pacific Highway;
- Blakey's Crossing at Townsville;
- Scone level crossing;
Mackay ring road;
- Great Eastern Highway;
Great Northern Highway; and
The committee discussed the following Nation Building Two projects, specifically
the funding commitments and whether the projects were contained in the
- Parramatta to Epping rail link;
- Moreton Bay rail link;
- Princes Highway West;
- Tasman Highway;
- Legacy Way Northern Tunnel link; and
- F3 Sydney orbital.
The committee inquired about budget cuts for the Nation Building Two
program. The department advised the committee that the government is yet to
take critical budget decisions around the overall shape and size of the
The committee discussed the draft Public Transport Strategy. Mr Deegan,
Infrastructure Coordinator, informed the committee that the Public Transport Strategy
is regarded by Infrastructure Australia as an urban transit strategy, which
will include a comprehensive overview of the different forms of road and rail public
transport. The Public Transport Strategy will be released in 2013.
The committee discussed the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator legislation
(the Regulations) that has commenced operation in Queensland, which is the host
jurisdiction. Officials told the committee that once the Queensland Government has
passed the second tranche of bills, which occurred on Thursday, 14 February 2013,
then other jurisdictions have the opportunity to pass enabling legislation. The
only state yet to agree to the Regulations is Western Australia.
Officials told the committee that they identified 600–800 variations
from previous state-based heavy vehicle laws. The introduction of the
regulations is estimated to improve the productivity benefit by up to
$30 billion over 20 years.
The committee sought a progress report on the work being completed on
the Midlands Highway. Mr Jaggers, Executive Director, outlined the following key
projects for the Midlands Highway which have received funding:
- Brighton bypass;
- refurbishment of Bridgewater Bridge; and
- planning for the Baghdad bypass.
The committee asked officers whether the department had carried out a
cost estimate to duplicate the Midlands Highway. Officers explained that the department
had not carried out an estimate, although they believe that the Tasmanian government
Surface Transport Policy
The committee sought further information regarding the availability of
funding for the Seatbelts on Regional School Buses Scheme. Officers told the
committee that the scheme for 2012-13 had been allocated $1 million of
funding and received
50 applications, which are currently under assessment and are expected to be
finalised by April 2013.
In continuing its interest from previous estimates hearings, the
committee asked the department whether costings had been prepared to extend the
Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES) to all freight goods. Officers
advised that the committee that preliminary work has begun in relation to
expanding the freight categories, which will be included in the review of the TFES
program and the freight rates. The committee heard that the TFES program review
is about to commence.
The committee asked whether there have been any cuts to the TFES.
Officials informed the committee that there has been no reduction in funding, as
the scheme is a demand-driven program.
The committee discussed whether the department is currently considering
any proposals which support an export shipping service specifically from Bells
Bay, Tasmania. Officers explained that they are aware of proposals; however,
there are currently no formal proposals in front of the government.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)
The committee discussed the Marine Orders Part 3 Issue 7,
which determines the qualifications required of seafarers and how the change in
qualifications compares to international standards. Officers explained that AMSA
is generally consistent with international standards, and in some cases, the
Australian standards are higher. The committee sought further information on
whether there has been any proposals put forward to reduce the period of
training a cadet requires to become a marine engineer watch keeper from three
years to one year. Mr Peachey, Chief Executive Officer, told the committee that
no proposal had been suggested as:
The engineers in AMSA have a common interest here to ensure
that standards are appropriate and deliver the safety objectives that we are
bound by. We have an overriding obligation to ensure that we are consistent
with international conventions relevant to these matters, in particular the [Standards
of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping] convention.
The committee asked officials whether AMSA has been involved in or made an
application to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water,
Populations and Communities (SEWPaC), to destroy illegal entry vessels in the
waters off Christmas Island. Officials advised the committee, that they have
had no involvement and made no application to SEWPaC to destory illegal entry
Mr Mrdak, sought to clarify on behalf of AMSA, evidence that had been
provided to the committee in relation to the destruction of illegal entry
Earlier today AMSA advised the committee...that AMSA was not
involved in the dumping of asylum seeker vessels. Although there is no
obligation to advise AMSA, advice of the dumping of asylum seeker vessels is
occasionally provided in the context of winding up a search and rescue
operation in which vessels from Defence or Customs and Border Protection have
been participating. AMSA does not keep specific records of the dumping of
asylum seeker vessels.
Policy and Research
The committee asked the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional
Economics (the Bureau) to explain how its yearly research plan is developed and
what opportunities there are for organisations, such as state governments and
businesses, to suggest research projects. Officials told the committee that the
primary customer of the Bureau's work is the minister and the department. As
such the Bureau liaises with divisions across the department to identify
research needs for the coming year, which are approved by the Secretary.
The committee sought further information from the Bureau on several
- a breakdown of staffing levels;
- 2012-13 research projects;
- categories of research work;
- research on the state of local, state and federally controlled
bridges across Australia; and
- projects currently underway with the Department of Regional
Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport.
Major Cities Unit
The committee asked officials to explain why in the draft Walking,
Riding and Access to Public Transport Report; it states that Sydney has not
experienced the same growth in cycling as Melbourne. Ms Ekelund, Executive
Director, told the committee that:
One of the major disincentives to cycling is safety
concerns—whether they are real or perceived concerns about safety—one of the
best ways to relieve the concerns is to invest in protected cycling
infrastructure...and certainly the city of Sydney itself has seen quite a lot of
controversy because not everybody is appreciative of the infrastructure that it
is putting in there. Local government in Sydney has also been working
collectively to establish a network of cycling infrastructure that spans 14
The committee also asked the department for an update on process to
finalise the draft Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport Report.
Officials told the committee that once submissions have been assessed, then
relevant areas of the department will work together to decide what options may
exist and the level of funding required. The report is expected to be finalised
before the end of the current financial year.
Office of Transport Security
The committee asked officers to explain whether a Maritime Security
Identity Card (MSIC) is required to work in Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone
(EEZ). Officers told the committee that a MSIC is required to work in the
security designated areas of the EEZ; however, individuals could work in other
areas of the EEZ without a MSIC.
The committee briefly discussed the issues of illegal access to the port
in Fremantle in an attempt to stop operations, particularly live cattle and
sheep loading, and security vetting of labour hire subcontractors.
Aviation and Airports
The committee discussed the master plan at Jandakot Airport and whether the
development of the commercial precinct is taking precedence over the aviation
related development. Mr Doherty, Executive Director, told the committee that:
Under the master plan process we are certainly concerned to
ensure that provision is made for the growth and development of the
airports...they also include a measure of development for non-aeronautical
purposes, and part of the reason that balance is important is the commercial
realities of funding the work under the privatised scheme that we have.
The committee asked for an update on the work that the National Airports
Safeguarding Advisory Group (NASAG) has taken since the guidelines were agreed
in 2012. Officer told the committee that NASAG will prepare a report in
May 2013. The report will provide ministers with an overview of NASAG's first
twelve months of operations and if any reforms to the group are required.
Officers were asked what advice and action they had taken in relation to
the Queanbeyan City Council's decision to rezone the land at Tralee. The
committee heard that the department sought and provided legal advice to the Minister
for Infrastructure and Transport regarding recourse for the Commonwealth to
intervene in the decision of the New South Wales Planning Minister.
The committee asked whether the department or minister had published a
formal response to the recommendations of the Joint Study on Aviation
capacity in the Sydney region. Mr Mrdak, explained that the Minister for
Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon. Anthony Albanese MP released a statement
setting out the government's position on some of the key outcomes of the joint
study. The department is currently concluding three pieces of work, which will
provide the next stage of advice for the government.
The committee also sought information on the following topics:
- Moruya Airport;
- consideration of another environmental impact statement being conducted
on Sydney Airport;
- Jandakot Airport lease arrangements; and
- Bankstown Airport.
The committee discussed the Operational Performance and Capacity Assessment
for Perth Airport Report and sought further information on the cost of the
report, as well as the delay between receiving the report and releasing the
report to the public. Officers told the committee that the delay in making the
report public was due to Airservices Australia receiving the report in draft
form and then holding consultations with industry and the various stakeholders
involved to develop a strategic and action plan for each site in the report.
Officers told the committee that the most critical initiatives for Perth
Airport identified in the report was to alleviate the runway occupancy times,
to effectively increase the airport's capacity. The committee heard from
Mr Hartfield, Executive General Manager, that currently Perth Airport
experiences three peaks of demand caused by the first morning peak:
The first peak is in the
morning...where there are about 110 aircraft overnight at Perth, every night.
About 90 of those aircraft want to depart between 5.30 and 8.30 in the morning,
in a three-hour period. All of those aircraft are departing and if we are in
what I would call a departure mode, we can get away about 40-odd aeroplanes an
hour... depending on how the traffic flows for the day, it gets into that
afternoon peak which has a lot more airline or regular public transport traffic
in it, and that is where we are seeing the excessive peaks and the excessive
The committee sought an update on the number of airspace closures due to
a lack of air traffic controllers. Ms Staib, Chief Executive Officer, tabled
the number of occasions between 1 July 2009 and
10 January 2013 when airspace has been closed, and told the committee
this equated to approximately 65 flights out of 12 million.
The committee asked officers to provide an update on the following
- concerns about staff turnover, including bullying and harassment
within Airservices Australia;
the appointment of Mr Greg Hood;
- corporate sponsorship by Airservices Australia;
Archerfield Airport; and
- freedom of information requests.
Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
The committee discussed CASA's current tender for indoor plants.
Mr Jordon, Chief Operating Officer explained that the tender is for the
maintenance of existing plants for the next three years and not for additional
plants. The committee was interested in how this tender fitted within the
increase in the efficiency dividend, as plants for Senators and Members were
removed as cost cutting measure.
The committee asked officers to explain the potential threat to aviators
from the new wave of industrial wind turbines. Mr McCormack, Director of
Aviation Safety told the committee that if wind farms are within 15–30
kilometres of an airfield, then it is the responsibility of the wind farm
owner/operator to ensure the wind turbines do not impinge on the safety slope,
which leads into the runway. If this does occur CASA has the power to make wind
farm operators/owners place lights on the turbines.
The committee asked in relation to the Federal Aviation Administration Audit
conducted in late 2009 for an update on the items, which were found to be
deficient. Mr McCormack informed the committee that the major issue was that
CASA did not have sufficient training in place for the inspectorate. In
response to the audit, Mr McCormack explained that a training school in
Brisbane has been setup, where all inspectors undergo training to supplement
their on-the-job training.
The committee sought further information on the following topics:
- Portfolio Budget Statements;
- recreational aircraft registration; and
- aviation treaties.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)
The committee discussed the ATSB's Portfolio Budget Statements, and
sought more information on the budgetary pressures and areas where key savings
have been made. Mr Dolan, Chief Commissioner explained that the ATSB is largely
a staff driven organisation, which requires the agency to carefully manage its
future staffing arrangements.
The committee asked officers if the expected level of training for
investigators has changed due to budgetary pressures or whether it remained
similar. Mr Dolan, told the committee that the ATSB has slightly changed the
work level standards for investigators, which was not as a result of cost
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