Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (15:38): I rise today on behalf of the people of Stuart to take this opportunity to talk about rural freight. This is an issue that affects all our state, but of course I am far more familiar with it in my electorate; however, let me say that this is a statewide issue. Freight efficiency is incredibly important to rural businesses, whether they be supermarkets that need to receive stock as cheaply and efficiently as possible or whether it be with regard to freight taking away rural produce.
Most rural people would be aware of grain freight because during the harvest season it is a really big issue. We have grain trucks on most of our rural roads, and they are contributing to the economy in many ways through efficiency and obviously through getting freight to silos and from there on to ports and markets. Those trucks and their drivers contribute through what they consume, whether it is fuel, food, tyres, mechanical repairs or whatever else, while they are on the road, and it is a very big issue.
One thing we need to do is contribute as much as we possibly can to freight efficiency. Largely, when it comes to heavy vehicle freight, freight efficiency is impacted enormously by the size of the load that can be carried. While of course it is not always true, typically the larger the truck the more it can carry, the more efficient per unit—per bale of wool or per tonne of grain, or per head of cattle or sheep—and the more efficient that freight will be, and that is incredibly important.
It is very easy to underestimate the big impact freight efficiency has on businesses in rural South Australia, and that then flows through to other businesses as well. It might be the wholesaler in a metro area supplying a supermarket who would benefit. It might be the abattoir or the butcher or retailers in metropolitan areas who might benefit by getting rural produce down to Adelaide more efficiently. I acknowledge that councils are very involved in this issue, and they have a significant burden and a significant cost with regard to the maintenance and upgrade of their roads.
The issue I am talking about has an implication for them, but of course overwhelmingly it is a state government responsibility to allow this to happen. It must only happen safely and it must only happen where large and larger trucks can be used to carry freight in a very safe way. Standards upon freight companies and drivers have lifted enormously in recent years, and they have all gone out of their way to lift their game. As is true in many other areas, there are fewer ‘cowboys’, to use a colloquial term, who are trying to stretch or break the rules. There are responsible freight operators, whether it be one operator, one truck, or a much, much larger operator working all over regional South Australia.
Specifically, I would like to turn to the need in the electorate of Stuart for 26-metre B-doubles to be able to traverse without a permit between Melrose and Wilmington—that would close in a significant gap in the B-double freight in that Mid North area of South Australia—and also to travel from Booleroo to Orroroo. Again, that would close another very important gap that exists at the moment where 26-metre B-doubles are currently not allowed to go without a permit.
I would also like to raise a very important issue, and this again comes back to councils. There is a whole network of roads throughout regional South Australia where operators are allowed to take B-doubles and road trains, and I am focused particularly on B-doubles at the moment. There is a very big issue about operators who are typically not on the main road. They might be from a farm or they might have a depot and they are on a back road off the main road.
They need to be able to get their vehicles to and from their own workshops, their own home bases and their own properties to the gazetted road; right now, it happens a lot, but it happens when it probably would not be technically right. That is a very important issue for the government and local councils to work on collaboratively to try to open up so that those operators can legally get from their home to the gazetted road as they need to.