Year in Review

Performance Snapshot

  • The Australian Government announced in the 2014 Budget a $50.0 billion national investment programme for the portfolio to deliver
  • The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics released Report 136 The evolution of Australian towns which studies regional change over the long-term
  • The Australian Government, in partnership with New South Wales, announced $3.5 billion for Western Sydney, known as the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan
  • The Heavy Vehicle National Law commenced in five states and one territory from 10 February 2014
  • A total of $1.2 billion in untied general purpose and local roads funding was provided to 565 local government bodies across Australia under the Local Government Financial Assistance Grants programme
  • The Department answered 764 parliamentary questions on notice
  • 381km or 58% of the final Pacific Highway length is now a four-lane divided road (as of June 2014)
  • The Department's Graduate Development Program was ranked number one in graduate programmes available in Australian Government agencies in the 2014 Top Graduate Employers rankings
  • The Department administered $8.7 billion in Commonwealth programmes
  • The Department led the development of an international vehicle standard on side impacts with narrow objects such as poles. In November 2013 the United Nations World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations adopted the global technical regulation on pole side impact.
  • The Department and its portfolio agencies led the coordination of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre to manage the Australian Government's support of the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. More than 80 staff worked in the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, established to coordinate the search for MH370 and to provide assistance to families affected.
  • On 30 April 2014 technology-based liquid, aerosol and gels screening commenced at the departure points of Australia's eight international gateway airports.
  • The Department administered the territories of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands and Jervis Bay, and managed national interests in the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and Norfolk Island.
  • On 15 April 2014, the Australian Government committed to Badgerys Creek as the site for an airport for Western Sydney. The Department provided policy advice to support the Australian Government.
  • 53 national road and national rail projects were completed.
  • A significant capital works programme was undertaken including new housing on Christmas Island, an extension to the Christmas Island Hospital, upgrades to the air conditioning of the Christmas Island Hospital and Cocos (Keeling) Islands health clinics and upgrades to existing infrastructure and plant and equipment in the Indian Ocean Territories, Jervis Bay Territory and on Norfolk Island.
  • In December 2013 29 graduates successfully completed the Department's Graduate Development Program.
  • $6.9 billion in direct and indirect grants were provided for the construction and maintenance of land transport infrastructure.

Secretary's Report

I have much pleasure in presenting the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development's Annual Report for 2013–14.

Following the election of the Coalition Government and the machinery-of-government changes in September 2013, the former Department of Infrastructure and Transport was restructured and renamed the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to reflect the additional responsibilities of regional development, local government and services to territories. These changes are discussed in greater detail in chapter 2, Department Overview.

The Department plays a significant and unique role in Australian Government administration, with a wide-ranging portfolio covering: infrastructure investment; policy initiatives to increase productivity; security, safety and regulation in road, rail, aviation and maritime transport; regional development; local government; and services to Australia's territories.

I am particularly pleased with our resilience and flexibility in taking a leading role in the diverse and complex areas that are described in this report. We have a strong emphasis on organisational and capability planning, and we constantly strive to develop and test innovative solutions to overcome challenges. Our responsibilities are far reaching and vitally important to all Australians and we will continue to build our expertise and invest in and develop our core strengths in the year to come.

This chapter provides a summary of our key achievements during 2013–14. The delivery of our infrastructure and transport programmes are reported in chapters 3 and 4. Chapters 5 and 6 report on our regional development, local government and services to territories programmes. Chapters 3 to 6 also report on administered items against the performance indicators.

Chapter 7 reports on the work undertaken by the advisory body, Infrastructure Australia, for which the Department provided corporate services and supporting employees. Chapter 8 provides details of our management and accountability performance during 2013–14. This Annual Report also provides additional detail on our performance in the appendices and in the audited financial statements.

Infrastructure Investment

In 2013–14 the Department continued to make significant contributions towards investment in land transport infrastructure and developing strategic investment policy. Our work provided approximately $6.9 billion in direct and indirect grants for the construction and maintenance of national land transport infrastructure. The importance of infrastructure to the Australian Government's economic policy is underpinned by the establishment of a National Infrastructure Committee of Federal Cabinet supported by this Department and including our two ministers, the Hon. Warren Truss MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, and the Hon. Jamie Briggs MP, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.

We worked closely with Australian Government agencies, state and territory governments and the Australian Rail Track Corporation to administer this funding, and to implement infrastructure initiatives announced as part of the 2013–14 Budget.

The Department successfully negotiated the first ever Australian Government concessional bridging loan for a major transport infrastructure project with the New South Wales Government for the delivery of stage 2 of the WestConnex project in Sydney. The concessional loan was announced by the Australian Government as part of the 2014–15 Federal Budget and represents a major innovation in road funding.

During 2013–14 53 national road and rail projects were completed and work began on another 22 national priorities. The Department continued to manage its other key infrastructure programmes including Roads to Recovery, the Black Spot Programme and the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity programme, with 1,129 projects completed during the financial year.

A key focus in 2013–14 was to also fast track the development of the Inland Rail-a 1,700 kilometre link between Melbourne and Brisbane running through central western New South Wales and Toowoomba. The Australian Government has committed $300.0 million to date to pre-construction activities. The Department is providing secretariat services to the Inland Rail Implementation Group, chaired by the Hon. John Anderson AO.

Progress on the Pacific Highway upgrade continued throughout 2013–14 with the opening of the 3.5 kilometre Herons Creek to Stills Road upgrade and the seven kilometre Devils Pulpit upgrade. At the end of June 2014, 381 kilometres, or 58 per cent, of the final Pacific Highway length is a four-lane divided road with a further 80 kilometres under construction and an additional 57 kilometres being prepared for construction to commence.

Upgrades to the M80 Ring Road in Melbourne continued throughout 2013–14. In October 2013, all newly constructed lanes were opened between the Western Highway and Sunshine Avenue. In April 2014 all newly constructed lanes were opened between Edgars Road and Plenty Road. The project will progressively widen the central median to provide a minimum of three lanes in each direction between Sunshine West and Greensborough. To date, 25 of the 38 kilometres have been upgraded. The project will help improve traffic flow and deliver safer, smoother driving conditions for the 142,000 motorists that use the M80 Ring Road each day. The Australian Government has contributed $864.6 million towards the project since 2007–08 and has committed a further $276.2 million from 2014–15.

Construction of the Yeppen Floodplain Upgrade near Rockhampton commenced in February 2014. When completed in 2016, the Bruce Highway will be duplicated on an elevated carriageway for approximately 2.8 kilometres, including a 1.6 kilometre bridge, from the intersection with the Burnett Highway to the intersection of the Bruce and Capricorn Highways. The new crossing, which will be 3.5 metres higher than the existing highway, will help keep this section of the Bruce Highway open during flood events.

The $812.0 million South Road Superway project was completed in March 2014. This is the first step in the Australian Government's commitment to completely upgrade the North South Road Corridor within the next decade. To this end, the Australian Government has committed $944.0 million for the next key components of the corridor-the Darlington and Torrens Road to River Torrens projects.

The Infrastructure Australia Amendment Act 2013 received Royal Assent in July 2014. The Act will strengthen the role of Infrastructure Australia as an independent, transparent and expert advisory body through a change in its governance structure and through better clarification of its functions. Infrastructure Australia will be established as a separate entity, which will provide for an independent governing body.

In May 2014 the Australian Government announced that it will provide an additional $11.6 billion to establish an Infrastructure Growth Package to fast-track investment in critical infrastructure across the country. The Infrastructure Growth Package includes: $5.0 billion over five years towards the Asset Recycling Initiative; $3.7 billion for targeted infrastructure investments including accelerating work on major projects such as Melbourne's East West Link Western Section (stage 2), Adelaide's North South Corridor, the Perth Freight Link, Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, as well as projects on the National Land Transport Network in the Northern Territory; additional funding for National Highway Upgrades, Black Spot and Roads to Recovery programmes; and investment of $2.9 billion to support the new Western Sydney airport and to upgrade and improve the safety and reliability of the network.

The Australian Government commissioned the Productivity Commission to undertake an inquiry into public infrastructure which included investigation into the barriers to private sector investment in public infrastructure and options to encourage additional private sector investment to improve project delivery and reduce project costs. The Productivity Commission's final report was tabled on 14 July 2014.

Transport Security

On 30 April 2014 technology-based liquid, aerosol and gels screening commenced at the departure points of Australia's eight international gateway airports. This enables oversize (greater than 100 millilitres) duty free liquid, aerosol and gels items to be screened, and if cleared, returned to the transiting passengers instead of these items having to be surrendered, as was previously the case.

The Department commenced consultation with aviation industry stakeholders and government agencies on a proposal to remove some low risk items from its aviation security prohibited items list. This is being considered following the introduction of other security measures such as hardened cockpit doors. This is in line with the Australian Government's broader policy of improving productivity and reducing regulation.

We have continued to consult with the aviation industry and relevant government agencies on the security measures applying to the airside areas of security controlled airports, in accordance with its international treaty obligations under the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

In December 2013 the Deputy Prime Minister formally directed the Inspector of Transport Security to undertake an inquiry into aviation and maritime transport security education and training in Australia. The inquiry is assessing the quality of the delivery of existing security training programmes and the actual outcomes being achieved, as well as identifying any gaps, inconsistencies and redundancies in security training in each industry sector.

Maritime

In 2013–14 the Department concluded a series of face-to-face consultations held around Australia with stakeholders, including shipping companies, ship owners, agents, shippers of raw material and agricultural products and industry and employee associations to develop further advice to the Australian Government on options for the regulation of shipping services on the Australian coast.

Road Safety

Ongoing international harmonisation of the Australian Design Rules continues to be a feature of our system of vehicle regulation, in which we are now playing an increasing leadership role. The Department continued to lead work to develop an international vehicle standard on side impacts with narrow objects, such as poles.

In November 2013 the United Nations World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations adopted the Australian initiative for the Global Technical Regulation on Pole Side Impact. Implementation of the regulation will have significant international benefits through improving vehicle crashworthiness in side impacts with narrow objects as well as enhancing safety in other types of side impact.

We continued to work closely with state and territory road safety agencies to deliver the National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020 and published the second annual status report on implementation progress. In August 2013 the Department published a report on stakeholder views on the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989, and commenced a review of the Act, following the announcement of the review by the Assistant Minister in January 2014.

Air Transport

The Department commenced implementation of the Australian Government's Aviation Policy as outlined in the Coalition Policy for Aviation statement released in August 2013, including work on the Qantas Sale Amendment Bill 2014. The Bill was introduced into the Parliament on 6 March 2014 and passed by the House of Representatives. If passed by the Senate, the legislation will enable Qantas to compete under the same regulatory framework as other Australian-based airlines.1

At the 38th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Australia was re-elected to Category One of its Council, reserved for states of chief importance to air transport.

The Department and its portfolio agencies have led the establishment and coordination of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) to manage the Australian Government's support of the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. JACC has ensured ongoing close communication with high-level representatives of Malaysia and China. The professionalism demonstrated by JACC in leading this sensitive and high-profile task has reflected well on the ability of the Government to efficiently and effectively respond to major events.

Western Sydney

On 15 April 2014 the Australian Government announced the selection of the site for the construction of a new airport for Western Sydney at Badgerys Creek, along with a long term commitment to the construction of additional Western Sydney road infrastructure. As part of the decision the Western Sydney Unit was established within the Department to deliver on the Australian Government's commitment to commence construction of the airport in 2016.

Regional Development

The Australian Government established the Community Development Grants Programme in November 2013 to support the provision of community infrastructure that promotes stable, secure and viable local and regional economies. The Department administered 294 projects under this $314.2 million programme, with two additional projects being administered under the Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Package and a further seven projects transferred to other departments to administer.

The $106.0 million Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Package established in October 2013, complements the Australian Government's Economic Growth Plan for Tasmania-a package of measures aimed at stimulating Tasmania's economy by supporting growth and employment. Funding of $91.0 million from 2013–14 to 2016–17, administered by the Department, is being provided for up to 33 projects which support the economic development of Tasmania.

The Department has provided staff and resources to support the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia taskforce. In addition to providing focused support for the White Paper taskforce the Office of Northern Australia has coordinated other policy, analytical and research work as required. The Office of Northern Australia has also continued to progress northern Australian issues through the effective operation of the Northern Australia Sustainable Futures programme initiatives and provided advice to the Australian Government on issues including long-term options for the development of the region through the beef industry, water, resources sector and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander economic development.

The Department has actively contributed to the development of the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper and has supported a ministerial working group identifying water infrastructure options to inform the white paper process.

1 This statement was correct as at 30 June 2014 however the Qantas Sale Amendment Bill 2014 passed both houses on 18 July 2014.

Local Government and Territories

Funding agreements were implemented for all Regional Development Australia (RDA) committees and $17.7 million in payments were delivered during 2013–14. Three-year regional plans for all of the 55 RDA committees were reviewed and approved. RDA committees were active in promoting regional economic development through a range of activities. This included the analysis of investment and growth opportunities and working with industry to assist them to stimulate further investment and grow employment opportunities.

The Australian Government Reconstruction Inspectorate endorsed 82 reconstruction projects as representing value-for-money in Queensland and two in Victoria. The seventh report covering reconstruction activities was provided to the Prime Minister and a submission was provided to the Productivity Commission.

A total of $1.2 billion in untied general purpose and local roads funding was provided to 565 local government bodies across Australia under the Local Government Financial Assistance Grants programme.

The Department continued to provide services to the Indian Ocean Territories and Jervis Bay Territory communities to a standard comparable with equivalent state communities.

Emergency funding arrangements with the Norfolk Island Government were managed by the Department and work was progressed in accordance with the Norfolk Island Road Map for taxation and social security reforms.

The Department also undertook a significant capital works programme including: new housing on Christmas Island; an extension to the Christmas Island Hospital; upgrades to the air conditioning of the Christmas Island Hospital and Cocos (Keeling) Islands Health Clinics; and upgrades to existing infrastructure and plant and equipment in the Indian Ocean Territories, Jervis Bay Territory and on Norfolk Island.

The Department administered the functions and programmes relating to the Australian Capital Territory, including the Centenary of Canberra 2013, and service delivery by the Australian Capital Territory Government and the National Capital Authority.

Strategic Policy and Research

The Department provided evidence-based advice to ministers, other departments and other areas within the Department to support whole-of-government policy development.

The publication of Trends: Infrastructure and Transport to 2030, which highlights the critical issues facing the portfolio in the long term, continues to inform stakeholders both internal and external to Australian Government. Likewise, a consolidated departmental view was developed as part of our strategic policy-building initiatives and sets forward ways in which the Australian Government might respond to these challenges. This suite of work informs our whole-of-government advice.

The Australian Government released a range of issues papers which will affect infrastructure and transport, particularly the precursors to the agricultural competitiveness, energy and northern Australia white papers. The Department worked closely with other agencies to shape content related to the infrastructure and regional development portfolio to ensure strong policy outcomes.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics released Report 136 The evolution of Australian towns. This comprehensive study takes an in-depth look at regional change over the long term. The report studies the economic processes operating in Australia's towns and identifies the fundamental drivers of economic change in the past and likely future directions. The report examines the theories of regional growth and decline from across disciplines. In particular the changing dynamics of regional economies moving into the twenty first century where amenity and services are slowly replacing traditional industries as the basis for growth and prosperity are studied.

The report is a key element in delivering a strong evidence base for future regional policy in the Australian Government, state and local spheres. The publication has been written to encourage its use by regional development practitioners.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics also released Report 137 Improving regional passenger rail services. The report reviews the options available for upgrading existing passenger train services drawing from local and international case studies to inform the conclusions. These case studies illustrate both the range of upgrades available and their effectiveness in increasing rail patronage and mode share. Travellers seek a comfortable, accessible and dependable service with low transit and waiting times which means, for the train provider, delivering reliable, frequent and fast services.

Departmental Evaluation Strategy

The Department continued to implement its five-year departmental Evaluation Strategy in 2013–14. The Evaluation Strategy aims to build evaluation capability and use in policy, programme and regulatory teams to capitalise on the opportunities that evaluation processes and thinking provide to constantly improve the Department's performance. In 2013–14 monitoring and evaluation strategies were developed for:

  • the National Stronger Regions Fund
  • the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity programme, and
  • the Roads to Recovery programme.

Two training programmes were held to develop staff skills in managing and conducting evaluations.

Looking Forward to 2014–15

The Department is at the forefront of the Australian Government's efforts to secure Australia's economic future and improve living standards, particularly through: infrastructure planning and strategic investment in transport infrastructure; transport system reform; better regulation of safety and security; and strategic development of policies and programmes. Our work also assists regions and local communities to strengthen and diversify their economic base and provides non-self-governing territories with community services and capital investment.

A high priority for the Department in 2014–15 will be progressing the Australian Government's commitment to reduce the cost of regulatory burden on industry, community groups, and individuals. The Department's regulatory savings will make a significant contribution to the achievement of the Australian Government's commitment to reduce regulatory burden by a net $1.0 billion a year. Efforts to reduce red tape ensure that the Australian Government is not imposing unnecessary restrictions on business and the community will be balanced by the need to maintain the safety and security of our transport systems.

The portfolio has an economic investment focus; a focus which is critical to the economic development of all regions to meet the growth and development challenges the nation faces. The Infrastructure Investment Programme and supporting future infrastructure investment decisions will continue to be a priority, and the transport agenda continues to involve significant national and international reforms.

The Department will also focus on delivering economic and social outcomes for regions across Australia. Our responsibilities for promoting effective local government and for external territories administration will further contribute to a strong and liveable Australia.

In addressing the growth and development challenges that lie ahead for Australia, the Department will build on policy development and delivery capability, and further strengthen engagement and partnership with stakeholders and the users of services.

In Summary

The Department achieved significant success across the range of its responsibilities in 2013–14, and this success reflects well on the professionalism and commitment of the Department's employees.

I thank all employees for their contributions during 2013–14, and I look forward to the year ahead.

CASE STUDY

MH370 Joint Agency Coordination Centre

A photograph of the Hon. Warren Truss, MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development meeting with Malaysian officials

The Hon. Warren Truss, MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development with Malaysian officials.

The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) was established in March 2014 in direct response to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.

At the request of Malaysia, Australia assumed responsibility for coordinating the search effort in the Southern Indian Ocean. Led by the Department and working with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Australian Defence Force and more than 10 other Australian and state government agencies, the team worked collaboratively to be the single point of contact for Australian and international stakeholders.

Rising to a challenge of unprecedented complexity, the JACC coordinates the responses of Australian Government agencies and international search partners. Originally established in Perth, the JACC team was required to quickly mobilise staff, resources and facilities to ensure smooth operations and consistent, frequent and accessible messaging on the progress of the search. More than 80 staff worked in the JACC in the early months of operation. A key issue throughout the coordination effort has been media management-in the first month alone 41 media releases were produced by the JACC and 387 media enquiries were handled.

As a joint agency initiative, the JACC has worked collaboratively to provide high quality, responsive advice to government and regular updates to the world's media and more importantly to the families of the passengers. The multi-country search effort continues to be a powerful example of international cooperation at a time of great adversity.

The JACC relocated to Canberra in May 2014 to ensure ongoing close communication with agencies and high level representatives of Malaysia and China. The JACC will continue to work closely with the Government of Malaysia, which under international law has overall responsibility for the search, and with Malaysia Airlines.

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Last Updated: 3 February, 2015