After the Dust Has Settled

after the dust has settled

There will be much soul searching within the Coalition, after the dust has settled on the 2022 Federal Election. Now that Australians have changed the Government, Anthony Albanese is sworn in as our 31st Prime Minister, the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association reflects on the period ahead.

A lot has been said about the fact that the primary vote fell for both Liberals and Labor. Does this represent a paradigm shift in our politics with more emphasis on independents or minor parties in future? Perhaps. But it is also important to remember that Labor has still secured an outright majority in the House of Representatives and will not have to deal with a cross bench. It doesn’t really matter what they want if their vote doesn’t count. That should mean less horse-trading and more policy consistency without pandering to more extremist views.

Yet, the policy mandate from the Australian people was unambiguous. If the major parties want their lost votes back, more must be done on climate. More must be done on anti-corruption and Parliamentary integrity. More must be done to address cost of living pressures.

So, what does that mean for rural transport? Well, let’s deal with the positives first. 

A Labor Government will be focussed on improving workplace health and safety. We know there is a need to do more in our sector. ALRTA’s 2021 National Injury Survey demonstrated that 87 per cent of respondents had experienced an injury in the past 5 years, with 69 per cent experiencing near misses at least regularly. With an Australian ramp standard now in place, we will explore opportunities to accelerate safety improvements in the livestock supply chain.  

Labor Governments have typically invested in nation-building road infrastructure. Good examples are duplication of the Pacific Highway and the establishment of Infrastructure Australia. We are hopeful that Labor will match the Coalition’s $678m commitment to upgrading the Outback Way and $400m for the Inland Freight Route.  

In 2021, Labor Senator Glenn Sterle oversaw the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee Report ‘Without Trucks Australia Stops: the development of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry’. The report recommended that government:

  • develop a plan and sustainable funding mechanism for establishing managed livestock effluent disposal sites on key freight routes in Australia; and
  • establish a national fund to assess, maintain and upgrade freight roads in rural and regional areas, to meet the minimum frequency and quality of heavy vehicle rest areas contained in the national guidelines and to support the rolling out of low-cost safety infrastructure such as rumble strips, green reflectors, wider medians and improved road shoulders. 

ALRTA is strongly supportive of these recommendations. We have long called for a national livestock effluent strategy and we know that many lives will be saved and unnecessary trauma avoided through low-cost safety investments in rural and regional areas. Labor has already committed an additional $80m for rest areas.

ALRTA is also optimistic that a Federal Labor Government will support a better Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), after all, it was Labor that championed the idea of establishing the HVNL in the first place. A better HVNL will improve road safety as well as address cost of living pressures through more efficient freight movements. 

after the dust has settled

However, it’s not all rosy. 

Federal Labor has openly committed to phasing out live sheep exports.  This will have a devastating impact on our members servicing this trade, especially in Western Australia. ALRTA will work with Labor to establish a sensible transition plan, pitching a structural adjustment package for affected operators as necessary. 

Federal Labor has also committed to re-establishing a mechanism for regulating pay and conditions for owner-drivers. While minimum rates do sound attractive, the now abolished Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal ignored the legitimate concerns of the very owner-drivers it was established to help and almost wiped out their businesses overnight. If this is going to happen again, it must be done right. ALRTA will do all we can to maintain a level-playing field as opposed to a two-tiered freight market that discriminates against owner drivers.

And we must not forget that Labor has been elected on a climate change mandate. Transport remains one of the most significant carbon polluters and so we must expect new regulation aimed at reducing our emissions. Given that freight is an absolutely essential service that directly affects the cost of living for all Australians, ALRTA will of course be promoting a ‘carrot’ rather than ‘stick’ approach.

All in all, a change of Federal Government brings with it both threats and opportunities. Our new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has previously served as Minister and/or Shadow Minister for relevant portfolios including Transport, Infrastructure, Regional Development and Local Government. With this experience, an Albanese Government should have road transport front of mind over the next three years. And you can be sure that ALRTA will proactively engage with Federal Labor in pursuit of the best outcomes for our vital industry. 

after the dust has settled

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