Handle with care: our freight future

Nanjing Night Net

TASMANIA’S approach to moving freight is reactive, disjointed, fragmented and costly, an Infrastructure Australia review has found.

The federal government body said the state needed to be more entrepreneurial rather than rely on the long-standing Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme if it wanted to improve transport in the state.

The review into a long-term strategy for Tasmanian ports and freight was given to Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese in May. It was written by national infrastructure co-ordinator Michael Deegan.

Mr Deegan suggested the federal government’s equalisation scheme be scrapped and replaced by increased GST payments or the state receive more money for infrastructure improvements.

“The (equalisation scheme) acts as a barrier to Tasmania understanding the virtues of economic self-sufficiency,” the review said.

“If Tasmania is to be a productive member of the Australian Commonwealth then it must take risks and provide the opportunities that will give it a productivity boom.”

Mr Deegan said the scheme was supposed to help businesses with shipping costs, but it was unlikely that Tasmania would regain a direct international shipping service.

The port of Bell Bay, north of Launceston, last year lost its weekly container service to Singapore, the only one in the state.

The review said that the international trend to larger ships and the relatively shallow channel depths at Tasmanian ports “has all but ensured Tasmania is shut out from the international market”.

The report was also scathing of the state’s roads and railway, saying the railway was “dilapidated in parts” and some freight roads did not meet state government guidelines.

Mr Deegan said the state of Tasmania’s road and rail systems meant “the two networks required to transport freight throughout the state are structurally incapable of doing so”.

The Bell Bay port, north of Launceston, last year lost its weekly container service to Singapore.

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