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Introduction and overview

1. Year in review

Secretary reports

I have much pleasure in delivering my third report as Secretary of the Department of Transport and Regional Services.

Our operating environment

The services and funding the Department provides affect every Australian household in one form or another. The Department's responsibilities cover the safety and security of our transport, the quality of the roads and local council services, access to goods and services from interstate and overseas, and the ability of communities to mitigate and recover from natural disasters. Programmes delivered on behalf of the Australian Government include services to territories and to local governments.

Transport infrastructure connects Australia with domestic markets and the global economy and is a key determinant of our economic growth. With increasing globalisation and reliance on international trade, Australia's prosperity depends on having a transport system that is safe and secure, efficient, competitive and sustainable.

The people living in regional, rural and remote Australia account for over one-third of Australia's total population and two-thirds of Australia's export income. Australia's regions have made, and continue to make a major contribution to Australia's economy and way of life. Australia's future prosperity and well-being depends to a significant degree on the strength of its regions.

The past year has been a productive one for the Department in addressing key Government priorities and implementing programmes to deliver on its legislative, regulatory and government policy undertakings, all focused around the core responsibilities of fostering a safe, secure and sustainable transport system and assisting regions to manage their own futures.

Our key achievements during 2006-07 are summarised below under thematic headings with more detail provided by business division, along with reports on financial, environmental and social performance during the year. Detailed reports on performance against published performance indicators appear in Chapters 3 and 4 while Chapter 5 provides a detailed report on management and accountability.

Strengthened regional programmes

In addition to continuing the regional programmes process improvements during 2006-07, the Department facilitated a national conference of Area Consultative Committee (ACC) chairs, and implemented changes to ACC boundaries. Work also continued on the National Regional Evaluation Framework and the Department's role as the lead agency for the East Kimberly Indigenous communities Council of Australian Governments (COAG) trial.

Support for territories and disaster relief

A new collective agreement for Indian Ocean Territory (IOT) staff was successfully negotiated, market testing of IOT Health Services completed and relief assistance to victims of natural disasters in many parts of Australia was provided.

Transport safety

Through the Australian Transport Safety Bureau the final report into the 15-fatality Lockhart River aviation accident was completed. Indonesia was assisted with investigation of the March 2007 Garuda 737 aircraft fatal accident, and the Safety Investigation Information Management System for aviation was launched.

Transport security

In March 2007, the Department successfully managed the introduction of liquid, aerosols and gels (LAGs) aviation security measures, with minimal disruption to the travelling public, and on 1 January 2007 implemented, the Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) scheme.

Aviation and airport developments

A number of significant international air services agreements were progressed, particularly for the United Kingdom and the Middle East, and a substantial rationalisation of the framework for domestic airspace management was completed. In addition the Department increased its international engagement on transport issues including assuming the chair of the APEC Transportation Working Group and supporting the March 2007 meeting of APEC Transport Ministers in Adelaide (see Case Study).

Infrastructure planning and investment - AusLink

The Australian Government spent $2.77 billion on land transport infrastructure during 2006-07. Corridor Strategies, which establish the AusLink national network priorities, were developed for each of the 24 National Corridors, and will form a basis for future AusLink funding decisions. The success of AusLink 1 was recognised by the government's May 2007 budget announcement of the commitment of over $22 billion for AusLink 2.

Maritime and land transport

The Department provided advice to government in regard to Productivity Commission inquiries into Part X of the Trade Practices Act, the Tasmanian Freight Subsidy arrangements and into Road and Rail infrastructure charges. In addition the Department, through the Australian Transport Council, supported COAG transport reform objectives, and was the lead agency for developing legislation to reduce the impact of shipping on the marine environment.

Portfolio strategic policy and research projects

The Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics, including the Strategic Projects team, supported the work of the Department and portfolio during 2006-07 through the provision of advice and published economic analysis and information on transport issues and issues affecting regional Australia.

Management and accountability initiatives

Significant advances were made in improving accountability with the introduction of an electronic system i-Delegate that allows employees to readily check their powers and decision making authority under approximately 120 pieces of legislation. A new strategy to build leadership capability (see LEADS Case Study) was developed and launched, and communications were enhanced through the development of a communications framework and the introduction of a quarterly magazine and a DVD for use with stakeholders. Accommodation lease extensions that reflected the government's new energy efficiency policies were negotiated and the Department's central and regional offices were refurbished. Performance management also received considerable emphasis with implementation of the Collective Agreement that came into effect on 30 June 2006.

In summary

2006-07 represents a year of significant achievement by departmental staff in addressing and implementing the Government's policy and programme initiatives, and in enhancing our capability to continue to do this. Our success this year was as a consequence of the dedication and professionalism demonstrated by staff of all levels across the organisation both in our central office in Canberra and in our regional offices.
I thank all departmental staff for their contribution over the past year.

Signature of Michael J. Taylor

Michael J Taylor

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