It may now be time to circle the wagons as the rampaging hordes approach on horseback. Attacking the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has now become a national sport, with a front page news story, followed up by a self-serving opinion piece in today’s Australian newspaper.
It would appear the failure of the NHVR permit processing system in the last couple of weeks can all be laid at the door of the last Labor Government, according to Nick Cater’s opinion piece in the Australian. Both Anthony Albanese and Kevin Rudd get a serve from Cater. The NHVR development process is painted as a disaster waiting to happen with the State Governments around Australia unable to stop it from happening.
Two questions need to be asked at this point. How does the trucking industry feel about the idea of a national regulator? Who stands to gain if the NHVR doesn’t come off as it was planned to do?
If there is one consistent element in the development of the NHVR, it is the good will and support of the trucking industry, as a whole, for the concept of one single regulator for road transport. While wanting to negotiate about the details, there was never any hesitation, on the part of trucking, in supporting the idea of the NHVR.
With the NHVR coming into existence, who is threatened? The comfortable bureaucratic fiefdoms of the State Road Authorities, who have made the truckie’s life difficult for so many years, that’s who. These state authorities are also the people who know how to help any potential national regulator get the permitting system right from the word go.
NatRoad CEO, Chris Melham, hit the nail on the head in a statement last Friday, as the anti-NHVR campaign reached a peak. The initial problems with the permitting system had been clear for over a week and all of the state road authority spokespersons were announcing how well the states were doing, helping out the, supposedly, ailing NHVR by issuing permits.
“The launch and the operation of the NHVR was always only going to be as good as the support that it received,” said Melham. “Did the NHVR getting the support it needs from jurisdictions during the planning phase? Was the volume of permit applications received by the NHVR in line with the projected workload expected?
“NatRoad has been prominent in seeking to ensure that the NHVR gets the support it needs from jurisdictions and from industry. I encourage industry to be cautious in not jumping on the bandwagon of criticising the regulator without knowing all the facts.”
Many heavy haulage operators were very upset after February 10, and rightly so, their businesses were held back by an inefficient permit system. The criticism levelled at the NHVR came from the frustration of people trying to get the job done.
However, the game has now changed. This is no longer an operational issue, this is an issue of principle. The principle of a single national law for road transport is at stake if the trucking industry doesn’t rally around.
We need to support the NHVR and defend it against a campaign to undermine its foundations by a number of parties, who want to use it as a stick to beat the former government, or defend their own local power bases in the states.