So, we have a new Federal Minister responsible for the transport industry, a new face, following the announcement of Warren Truss’ retirement from politics. The new boy is Darren Chester, promoted by Malcolm Turnbull from a position as Assistant Minister for Defence into the Infrastructure portfolio.
The trucking industry will be keeping its collective fingers crossed our new man will continue in the vein of his predecessors and not try to reinvent the wheel. The last few years have seen a steady hand at that wheel. Both Warren Truss and, during the Labor Government, Anthony Albanese have been pragmatic ministers who listened to what the trucking industry had to say.
Warren has fought for and achieved a freeze in the road user charge for the last two years, in light of the proven overcharging which has been taking place. He has also presided over the steadying of the ship at the NHVR, after a particularly shaky start saw various state governments destabilising transport reform. His stated support for the NHVR project when it was under threat calmed a few nerves.
While he is not the world’s most captivating public speaker, Warren does seem to have that politicians knack of being in the right back room, at the time when the right deals are being made. This has been good for the trucking industry.
As a country Queenslander, he does have an understanding of the vital importance of the trucking industry to the national economy. Our new Minister for Infrastructure and Rural Development, Darren Chester, hails from Gippsland in Victoria, another largely rural area with a vibrant trucking industry. Let’s hope he also has an understanding of trucking issues and can be equally forceful in holding the ground for our industry.
The progress made by the NHVR in the last 18 months needs to continue. The introduction of a new roadworthiness regime and national driver licensing need to come to fruition with a steady hand in Canberra and someone who can keep all of the relevant state governments on board through the process.
The next two or three years are going to be crucial for the promised era of national, and rational, legislation and regulation for a trucking industry which has been battered form pillar to post by inconsistent and competing rule makers.
Our new minister has been in the parliament since 2008 and did, for period, hold the position of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Roads and Regional Transport, form 2010 to 2013. He is not completely new to the field and has seen the progress being made in recent years.
The stakeholders around the country like Sal Petroccitto at the NHVR, Paul Retter from the NTC, Chris Melham at the ATA and various State Ministers have shown a willingness to talk, show some transparency and be willing to look for a consensus. This needs to continue.
Basically, we need Darren to continue on the current path and keep it steady as she goes. He is more likely to be able to manage this feat than the alternative, which could have been thrust upon transport if precedent had been followed. The last few Federal Transport Ministers for the Coalition have all been National Party leaders, the trucking industry doesn’t need a loose cannon like Barnaby Joyce stirring up any issues in road transport just now!