Bureaucrats threaten to jeopardise national transport plan

By: Jason Whittaker

There is concern within the transport industry bureaucratic control freaks are attempting to hijack the formulation of a national transport

There is concern within the transport industry bureaucratic control freaks are attempting to hijack the formulation of a national transport policy framework to be discussed at the upcoming Australian Transport Council (ATC) meeting.

Claims are circulating government agencies are pushing to install committees to stymie the reform process in order to keep the status quo.

NatRoad Chief Executive Bernie Belacic says the situation has come about because government sources are telling him various officials are concerned their jobs will be made redundant if transport policies are made at a national, rather than state or territory, level.

"I understand there is a fair bit of bureaucratic bungling going on," Belacic says.

"At the end of the day it comes down to losing control and losing ownership."

State and territory transport ministers will meet on May 2 with their federal counterpart to develop a plan to work towards achieving a national transport policy framework put forward by the National Transport Commission (NTC).

Each state and territory is responsible for a certain area. For example, Victoria is to develop a plan for infrastructure planning and investment and urban congestion, Queensland is responsible for safety security, while South Australia is in charges of capacity constraints and supply chain performance.

While congratulating the ministers for expressing a desire to bring about a harmonised transport plan, Belacic says he is worried such a reform will not happen once government agencies become involved in the process.

"I am concerned that the ministers won’t be able to drive the agenda down through their departments," he says.

"At the end of the day, the ministers don’t have the manpower in their own office and within themselves to actually drive it; they have to refer back to their bureaucracy to drive it."

However, Belacic says if ministers are serious about reducing regulatory overlaps, they must hold their bureaucracies to account to ensure the process is not held up for years to come.

In doing so, ministers will need to buck tradition as government agencies focused on parochial interests rather than what’s best for the transport industry have often picked apart proposals to the point where there is no national uniformity.

The impending fatigue regulations, for instance, have been altered by a number of states, with some choosing to implement certain measures.

"One of the big problems is everyone agrees to a reform and then everyone goes off and does their own thing," Belacic says.

David Anderson, the Executive Director of Ports Australia, says state and territory governments must work together or risk the future of the transport industry.

"Unless progress is made at a national level, our national performance really does stand to be compromised," he says.

However, Anderson says he is cautiously optimistic the meeting will result in a positive outcome for the industry based on the actions of the Federal Government.

"I’m optimistic because we are seeing a lot of drive from the Federal Government and federal ministers who are working their bureaucracies pretty hard," he says.

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