Chapter 1: Year in Review
- The Department administered $8.9 billion in Commonwealth programmes.
- A total of $3.4 billion in untied funding was provided to 571 local governing bodies across Australia under the Financial Assistance Grant programme.
- The Australian Government announced an extra $39.6 million for remote airstrip upgrades and additional essential air services for remote communities.
- The Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015 and associated Acts received Royal Assent on 26 May 2015, which will introduce the Australian taxation and social security systems to Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016.
- $4.3 billion in direct and indirect grants were provided for the construction and maintenance of land transport infrastructure.
- The Department answered 680 parliamentary questions on notice.
- Our Graduate Development Program was ranked the number one graduate programme in the Australian Government for the second year running.
- Nine community pop up information stands were held in western Sydney and three newsletters were released to inform the local community about the western Sydney airport.
- 42 land transport infrastructure, 31 road and 11 rail projects were completed.
- The final stages of the full duplication of the Pacific Highway were constructed to enable completion of the highway upgrade by 2020.
- The Department improved guidelines to encourage airlines to be more flexible with the previously strict limit of only having two passengers requiring wheelchair assistance per flight.
- The Department managed the delivery arrangements for the keys2drive learner driver programme which has so far provided 366,758 professional coaching lessons.
- 267 Black Spot projects were approved for funding to improve the safety of road sites which have been identified as high-risk areas for serious crashes.
- The Transport Security Outlook to 2025 was released in September which provides a five to 10 year forecast of transport security in Australia.
- The Department commenced a rigorous environmental impact statement for the western Sydney airport.
- On 3 July 2014 the Australian Government announced the commitment of $4.6 million to extend the Indonesia Transport Safety Assistance Package for 2014–15.
- The response to the report on Tasmanian shipping and freight was announced in March which included committing an additional $202.9 million to shippers over the next four years through the expansion of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme.
- The Australian Government released the Northern Australia White Paper on 18 June. The white paper is a vision—and a plan—to unlock the great potential and opportunities of the north.
- The Department implemented the $1.0 billion National Stronger Regions Fund with 51 successful applications receiving $212.3 million from round one.
It is a pleasure to present the 2014–15 Annual Report for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. The past 12 months have been a particularly successful period for the Department and I am pleased to report that the organisation has achieved against each of our outcomes.
Our outcomes span a wide range of responsibilities, from major national investments and programmes, through to support for local communities. Some of our work is particularly high profile, such as working with the states and territories to support investment in major economic infrastructure (for example, the western Sydney airport and the first stage construction of Australia's biggest urban road project, Westconnex in Sydney) and regulating standards for vehicles entering the Australian market. This includes leading international development of the motor vehicle crash standard on pole side impact, now adopted as a United Nations regulation. Other activities may be lower in profile but no less important to the lives of many Australians. This includes our work to improve access by people with disability to aviation services, our delivery of services to territories, or the administration of the Roads to Recovery programme which supports maintenance and upgrades to the roads used daily by all Australians.
While the responsibilities of the Department are varied, there are common threads. Our work programme strengthens the Australian economy, enhances the country's productivity and prosperity, and strengthens the capacity and diversity of Australia's regions and local communities. To achieve this, we continue to work in partnership with a range of stakeholders, including industry, state, territory and local governments, regional groups and communities. We also work closely with international counterparts, especially within our immediate region, and contribute to developing and improving international systems through bilateral and multilateral arrangements.
We have also made a significant commitment to whole-of-Government priorities, including to the development of Australian Government white papers and reviews. For example, we provided significant input into the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia. This whole-of-Government perspective is vital to the Department's effectiveness as a policy reform driving entity. We also continued our central role in coordinating the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Our commitment to evidence-based policy advice has remained fundamental to our achievements over the past year. Our environment is changing due to economic and demographic shifts, growing demand for transport and infrastructure and the advent of new technologies all impacting on the Department's areas of responsibility. The work of the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has continued to inform the development of policy and advice to the Australian Government and so have transport security reviews such as the Transport Security Outlook to 2025. Ongoing development of the portfolio's evidence base is also informed by our partnerships with international infrastructure and transport organisations.
It has been a productive year and I am proud to lead an organisation that undertakes the breadth of this work with such a high degree of skill, commitment and professionalism. We remain committed to fostering and supporting a high-performing workforce so that we can continue to deliver against our outcomes to the benefit of the Australian community.