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BIC calls for government commitment at federal Budget

The BIC has two pillars it wants to see supported by the federal government on the upcoming budget night

The Australian Federation often presents a challenge to effective government. The tier of government that collects the most tax (the Commonwealth) is not the same tier of government that delivers the most services, including public transport. In our advocacy to the Commonwealth, we’re often told that they don’t invest in rolling stock, including buses and coaches.

So how can the Commonwealth help us meet our goal of a thriving bus and coach industry that moves people safely and sustainably?

This year, we have focused our Commonwealth Budget pre-submission on two critical issues facing the industry which the government can assist with.

The first relates to the ongoing Industry in Crisis campaign that we launched last year as manufacturers and suppliers faced the perfect storm of hyperinflation, skills shortages, supply chain challenges and a government buyers strike.

In the 2022/23 budget, the federal government committed $14.2 million to deliver and implement a National Rail Manufacturing Plan. The bus industry seeks the equivalent commitment to maintain bus manufacturing in Australia so we can continue to carry Australia’s most precious freight – people.

This funding would enable the government to establish an Office of National Bus Industry Coordination, which would work closely with state and territory governments, manufacturers, industry peak bodies, unions and research organisations. It would be tasked with leading a national and coordinated approach to addressing the challenges facing the bus industry from a manufacturing and supply perspective, as well as operationally.

A key deliverable of the office would be the development and implementation of a National Bus Manufacturing Plan. A vital first step under the plan would be to deliver a National Bus Procurement Roadmap and Manufacturing Strategy recognising that there should be enough demand for Australian manufactured, partially imported and fully imported buses.

Key pillars of the plan could include:

  1. A nationally coordinated and sustainable approach to bus and coach procurement. This would include a detailed roadmap for the transition to low and zero-emissions bus fleets and the provision of supporting infrastructure (highlighting additional local manufacturing and supply opportunities).
  2. The harmonisation of standards and specifications for the manufacture of buses across Australia. This would ensure that jurisdictions agree on the same type of specifications for components and localise their production where possible.
  3. The adoption of a national local content approach with consistency in terminology, including the definition of local and calculation methodologies.
  4. The maximisation of opportunities for local manufacturing and assembly and potential export.
  5. Improved research, innovation, collaboration and design, particularly as the fleet transitions to low and zero-emissions.

Skills and workforce shortages remain a critical issue for operators and suppliers. In an increasingly technologically oriented world, the bus industry faces fierce competition for technical skills and will need new strategies to attract and retain these skills in an industry still perceived as dirty, heavy and male dominated. Promoting the industry as a hub for innovative technology, environmental sustainability and diverse career opportunities can help shift perceptions and attract a broader talent pool.

To help us address this, we have asked the National Transport Commission be funded to work in collaboration with partners, including industry, unions, the state and territory governments and across the Commonwealth to develop and implement a National Heavy Vehicle Skills Program.

It would recognise that the industry requires more workers with all kinds of skills, from drivers to cyber security experts, and experts in new technologies. A key component of this will be a focus on how we attract, retain, grow and diversify the driving workforce, including addressing impediments and deterrents.

We wait now to hear the outcomes of our bid on budget night (May 14). Please join us in advocating for these important measures with your local federal members and relevant ministers.

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