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One message, many voices

A new voice in public transport advocacy has just been proposed – the Australasian Passenger Transport Association

By David Goeldner | November 7, 2011

The Bus Association of Victoria (BusVic) has proposed the formation of a new organisation to represent all public transport advocacy groups in Australian public transport.

BusVic Executive Director Chris Lowe canvassed the proposal to create the Australasian Passenger Transport Association (APTA) at a recent bus industry conference in Fiji.

He says the aim of the new association would be to bring each player involved in public transport advocacy together with a unified voice.

Lowe sees non-bus associations such as the Australasian Railways Association and the Tourism and Transport Forum as potential members of APTA.

APTA would not be a replacement for the Bus Industry Confederation, nor usurp the role of the state bus industry associations.

“Governments need unified and engaging industry representation,” Lowe says.

“They do not like having to deal with multiple sub-sectoral advocacy groups.”

He says a changing environment creates confusion and a degree of uncertainty surrounding whose remit it is to manage an issue, inevitably leading to role and task duplication.

“Duplication is not a good thing,” Lowe says.

Lowe says that industry representation of bus, coach and public transport in general is fragmented, demarcated, duplicated in part, and in some areas parochial.

“We all have differing goals and objectives,” he says.

“Bus Victoria for instance now represents registered operators, that is, non-accredited operators, whereas other state bodies don’t.”

Lowe believes that while there is a degree of unity throughout the industry, there remain elements of disunity and disagreement.

“In some states we have two representative bodies, some are un-financial and this is not good because you can’t fight the good fight if you have no money,” he says.

“At a federal level we’ve got BIC which has a strong policy focus but it is under-resourced in light of the amount of issues transitioning to the federal arena.”

Lowe says striking a unified voice through a representative public-facing body such as the proposed APTA, would increase the industry’s formidability.

“We would have a consistent and harmonised advocacy message to all levels of government,” he says.

“I believe that all levels of government want to hear from one public transport voice.”

He also sees that voice potentially embracing Australia’s near neighbours.

“As Australia becomes more sophisticated and revered in the public transport sector we can’t leave our neighbours behind,” Lowe says.

He says the Australian bus industry has a responsibility to take its neighbours with them.

“I think New Zealand wants what we’ve got and we have a role in getting them there.”

Lowe says the bus industry is already unified to an extent, but more should be done.

“Agreed and shared goals are fundamental to achieving greater unity,” he says.

“We enjoy a good degree of unity and when we’ve needed to come together, we have, but there’s no use coming together in a crisis – we should be unified already.”

Lowe says by creating a unifying body to embrace each major player in public transport through APTA would create a paradigm that governments couldn’t ignore.

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