Anyone who has come across David Coonan, will have seen him telling it like it is. He would always talk directly to the problem in his long career associated with the trucking industry. He is a passionate man who does not have a problem with calling a spade a spade. At heart, he is someone who has a sharp intellect and a big heart to go with his passion for the industry. His time at the Australian Trucking Association saw him battling the legislators and bureaucrats, toe to toe, on a daily basis.
This is a man who has worked on the actual machinery involved on the ground and also has a broad knowledge of the way policy is formulated at a higher level. He has a foot in both camps, able to understand the thinking both mechanically at truck driver level and from 30,000 ft at the policy development level.
He has also spent time writing legislation and understands the thinking required there. Looking at, ‘what law needs to be to reflect the outcome’ is how Dave describes it.
“I’m not aware of anyone who would have done hands-on roadside stuff, through to writing the law and developing the regulations,” says Dave. “If you think of someone who’s worked in local government, the private sector, Commonwealth Government, National Transport Commission and lobby space, I don’t think you’ll find anyone who has done the same.
“I think a lot of people found me very threatening because I was very direct. I didn’t tolerate fools very well, especially when I was getting sick.Unfortunately, if they can’t establish an argument about policy and sustain sound political arguments, they attack the person.
“It was sad to see bureaucrats not able to carry the argument, so when the arguments were put by the NTC about over-charging trucks, the bureaucrats simple refused to accept the outcome and simply voted to keep the charges the same or increase them. Rather than actually do their job and be brave enough to say, ‘yes there was overcharging and we have to correct that’.”
Unfortunately, Dave had to leave his role at the ATA, to concentrate on the illness with which he now has to contend. Multiple System Atrophy is a rare neurological condition, involving the gradual loss of nerve cells and atrophy in the parts of the brain controlling movement, balance and the body’s automatic functions.
It is heartening to see an incisive intellect like Dave’s cutting though, while he struggles with even the simplest bodily movement. He has retired to his 20 acre block, about 30 km outside of Canberra. He has to use mobility aids to get around and go and see his prized possessions, including a substantial collection of vintage tractors. Some fully renovated and others now awaiting renovation.
Last year, Dave was presented with the ATA’s Technical Achievement Award for his work in fighting the industry’s corner in developing technical policy. Unable to make it to the TMC in Melbourne, he was presented with his award on a video, shown at the awards event.