While welcoming the release of the NSW Farmers Association Road Rail Taskforce Green Paper as an important contribution to the debate over the future of the NSW network, AWB’s Chief Operating Officer, Jill Gillingham has expressed some concerns about the report and the lack of detail presented.
Ms Gillingham said that AWB had formally responded to the Task Force listing its concerns as well as areas where it supported the Taskforce.
"While there is little doubt that the key issues confronting growers have been correctly identified by the Taskforce, AWB is concerned that in several cases the comments and recommendations made do not adequately address the problems identified, and in some instances, have the potential to make matters worse," Ms Gillingham said.
"For example the taskforce correctly identifies that there is a need to attract adequate investment in transport, storage and handling infrastructure, yet has sought to delay the building of new transport assets such as the Grain Consolidation Facilities.
"The Taskforce’s belief that competition is not required in all parts of the supply chain seems to only entrench the position of the monopoly bulk handler.
"It is also of concern that the Taskforce seems only concerned with returning ‘some’ of the supply chain efficiencies to grower through lower prices.
"If this is the case it fails to adequately recognise that under AWB’s constitutional mandate, unlike other industry players, AWB must return all supply chain savings to growers.
"And while AWB agrees with the principle that it makes both commercial sense and road safety sense to get more grain on rail, it is disappointing that the Taskforce would seek to delay Project Broadacre, a major initiative that will ensure more grain on rail," Ms Gillingham said.
In its response AWB has also suggested that there needs to be greater detail with respect to NSW Farmers Association Taskforce recommendation for a grain logistics council.
Ms Gillingham said AWB would find it difficult to support the concept as currently presented as very little detail has been provided in the Green Paper as to how such a group would operate, how many members it would have, what its priorities would be and whether the interest of the grower would be its overriding consideration in deliberations.
Ms Gillingham said there is a policy vacuum on rural infrastructure, with no agency fully understanding or defining the roles for road and rail in serving the grain industry.
"AWB suggests NSW Farmers could be instrumental in developing a NSW Rural Infrastructure Committee to oversee co-ordinated road and rail investment. This committee would be a forum for Federal and State Government agencies to direct road and rail funding in response to local freight issues arising from commercial change occurring in the grain industry.
"It would also have the power to determine the allocation of a portion of Rail Infrastructure Corporation funding priorities, together with Road Traffic Authority funding towards projects directly benefiting the grain sector.
"The NSW Farmers Association would be in an excellent position to coordinate the collation of data on transport issues affecting growers and industry bodies and help government in the establishment of infrastructure priorities," Ms Gillingham said.