THE announcement that the new $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Fund will rely on state-of-the-art logistics modelling from the CSIRO has all eyes turned towards it for direction.
Its lead researcher, Dr Andrew Higgins, said a lot of workshopping would now take place in order to identify bottlenecks and test benefits.
"Our part of the work will start in July," he said.
"The ultimate goal is how best to spend $100m to have the biggest impact. It may be that there will be dual benefits to other industries."
Known as TRANSIT, for the first time data from 12,000 properties, saleyards, feedlots, export yards, rest stops, abattoirs and ports, along with 15,000 road segments, can be factored in to allow analysts to test different scenarios, such as how sealing a road would influence transport times and costs.
The holistic view of the direct and indirect transport costs across the entire road network has already modelled the potential benefits of sealing the remaining 105 kilometres of the Hann Highway north of Hughenden.
Mr Higgins said the tool showed this would reduce travel time from five hours to three-and-a-half hours, saving about 1160 hours for the estimated 1300 road-trains currently using the road each year.
When questioned about possible roads in Longreach on Saturday, federal Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss commented that while the Hann Highway did not carry much traffic now, it was certainly one project being considered.
TRANSIT identified that the number of road-trains using a fully sealed Hann Highway would increase by 25 per cent, as it would become an optimal travel route, and translate to a modelled cost saving of $1.23m a year.
Mr Abbott was also not keen to identify any roads prior to the CSIRO analysis and consultation with Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia governments, industry and local stakeholders, but he threw out a teaser during Friday's media briefing.
"We would like to see gains to industry from a reorganisation of tick inspections, particularly for beef going to abattoirs rather than from property to property," he said.
This was welcome news for AgForce president Grant Maudsley, who identified a logjam at Panorama Creek around Rolleston as a good place to start, and said not being able to get triple roadtrains between Emerald and Roma was a significant issue.
Mr Higgins said it was too early to identify what would make the biggest difference at this stage.
"I can't say yet whether projects close to where the grazing is or ones where the supply chains aggregate, such as ports, are most likely.
"We will just try to give a clearer understanding and ask, if you overcome one issue, what does it do to another problem. Does it increase that or decrease it?"
He said some solutions could be low cost and others might cost a lot, and added that rail options would also be factored in if they made better use of loading points.
He added that beyond cattle, TRANSIT could now be applied to other agricultural transport, particularly degradable produce.
Mr Abbott said the planned improvements would benefit other road users, boost regional communities and improve the profitability of a range of businesses, including pastoralists, livestock transporters, processors and live exporters.