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In November 2016, the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, announced the Turnbull Government’s latest strategy for expanding the national freight and supply chain. With demand for freight expected to swell by almost 50% between 2015 and 2030, action was becoming increasingly vital.

Although COAG have been instrumental in developing the 2013 National Land Freight Strategy and the 2012 National Port Strategy, this will be the first time a cohesive and all-encompassing plan has been tabled. This is in response to Infrastructure Australia’s Australian Infrastructure Plan, which recommended the establishment of a national strategy.

An independent inquiry will first be established to allow the government to ‘develop a comprehensive national freight and supply chain strategy that articulates areas of reform and investment in Australia,’ according to Mr Chester.

It is expected to utilise data collected from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Transport and Infrastructure Council and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, among other organisations.

In addition to this data, the inquiry and subsequent strategy will need to consider the perspectives of a variety of different contributors to the industry. Uppermost in their minds will be the fact that the logistics industry represents 8.6% of Australia’s GDP and employs over $1 million Australians. These economic benefits will have to be tempered with a consideration of the environmental impacts of the proposals, as the nation continues to work towards meeting the Paris Agreement targets.

A national freight and supply chain strategy is likely to shape the industry in a mostly positive way. As Australia increasingly takes part in the connectivity of the global village, and embraces the exponential growth of online shopping, current freight systems are already beginning to show signs of stress. An examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the industries involved in generating supply chains will enable the government to address the areas that most require attention.

With expected focuses on nurturing Australia’s free trade agreements, to promote Australia’s role in producing for global supply chains and an increase in rail infrastructure, the strategy appears to promise a boost to not just the industries directly involved, but also the Australian economy as a whole.

However, it is possible that the response will not be fast enough. With the inquiry not slated to end until December 2017, by the time a strategy is formulated, the nation will be in the midst of the significant uptake in freight requests. With such a plan in place, it is unlikely the government will be willing to implement any short-term responses to alleviate the stress. While several industries will benefit long term, the immediate future of freight and supply chains could be one of uncertainty.

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