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Introduction and overview

1. Year in review

Secretary reports

I have much pleasure in delivering my first report as Secretary of the new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.

Our operating environment

Following the change of government in November 2007, the then Department of Transport and Regional Services was restructured, gained an additional outcome, and was renamed the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. These changes are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 2 ('About Us').

Through its three outcomes, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government plays a key role in assisting the Australian Government to equip Australia to face current and emerging economic challenges, in an environment of rapid change. This role includes:

  • delivering a transformational vision for the infrastructure of the 21st century;
  • fostering efficient, safe and secure transport systems;
  • developing and improving community infrastructure and services in regions, and
  • strengthening the role of local governments.

In achieving its three outcomes, the Department delivers a range of programs and services to Australians and provides policy advice to the Australian Government. These activities are underpinned by targeted economic analysis and informed by active engagement with stakeholders.

In this review I will touch on the Department's key achievements of 2007-08, as an introduction to a series of short reports summarising the significant activities of each division. I commend these reports, complemented by the full report on performance (in chapters 3 to 6), the audited financial statements and the detailed appendices, to the reader. Together they demonstrate that the Department maintained its high levels of performance while embracing new objectives for 2007-08 and beyond.

Infrastructure investment

The Department played an important role in the establishment of Infrastructure Australia, including developing its enabling legislation the Infrastructure Australia Act 2008. In addition, the Department commenced bilateral negotiations with the state and territory governments on projects and funding arrangements for the Australian Government's land transport investment program for 2009-10 to 2013-14.

Local government and regional engagement

The Department supported the establishment of the Regional Development Australia Interim Board and assisted with implementation of the Board's transition work plan. This was part of implementing the transition of Area Consultative Committees to Regional Development Australia committees from 1 January 2009. The Office of Northern Australia was established within the Department in March 2008 to provide high-level policy advice to the Australian Government on sustainable development issues across Northern Australia.

The Department continued to improve regional program processes in line with best practice and the recommendations of the Australian National Audit Office's 2007 performance audit of the Regional Partnerships program. These process improvements will be incorporated into the administration of the regional initiatives which were announced in the 2008-09 Budget.

Aviation policy and legislation

During 2007-08, the Department commenced the process of developing a national aviation policy which will guide the industry's growth over the next decade and beyond. The Australian Government's aviation white paper is expected to be released in mid-2009.

Two significant legislative changes relating to airport regulation were achieved during 2007-08. Changes to the Airports Act 1996 give the Minister more powers to investigate and place conditions on major development plans, while amendments to the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act 1997 have brought demand management at Sydney airport into line with international industry practice.

Transport safety

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released a number of reports with associated safety action, including its final report into the grounding of the bulk carrier Pasha Bulker at Newcastle, New South Wales.

The ATSB has played a leading role at the International Maritime Organization in progressing a new code for investigating marine casualties and incidents.

Although the final audit report of the International Civil Aviation Organization Universal Safety Oversight Program is yet to be received, the results are expected to recognise the ATSB as a best-practice agency in a range of investigation activities.

The ATSB also made a significant contribution in assisting Indonesia to build its transport safety investigation capability, as part of the Indonesia Transport Safety Assistance Package.

Transport security

Significant enhancements to transport security were achieved through:

  • the creation of the Accredited Air Cargo Agents Scheme;
  • the commencement of the Regulated Air Cargo Agent Security Training Quality Assurance Service;
  • the release of the 2008 Maritime Security Risk Context Statement;
  • the implementation of enhanced airside inspection measures;
  • the commencement of a comprehensive review of aviation security screening; and
  • the development of a national audit and compliance program guided by the Office of Transport Security (OTS) Regulatory Philosophy and the OTS Strategic Plan 2007-2010.

Strategic policy and research

A Climate Change Taskforce was established within the Department's Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) in order to lead the portfolio's engagement with the Australian Government's climate change policy agenda. BITRE also supported the Australian delegation to the inaugural International Transport Forum meeting held in Germany in May 2008 on the theme 'Transport and Energy: the Challenge of Climate Change'.

Governance

The Australian Public Service Commission included a case study on the Department's governance arrangements in its publication Building better governance, recognising the emphasis that the Department places on good governance. The Australian National Audit Office also noted the significant effort the Department had applied to enhance its financial reporting processes.

In summary

The past year was a time of significant change for the Department. We were able to meet the challenges of the departmental restructure and address our new priorities successfully because of the professionalism and commitment demonstrated by staff at all levels across the Department.

Signature of Michael J. Taylor

Michael J Taylor
SECRETARY

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