EDITORIAL: Ministers must seize narrow window for reform

By: Jason Whittaker


There is a small window, a rare opportunity, for genuine reform of Australia’s transport sector. A meeting this Friday will

There is a small window, a rare opportunity, for genuine reform of Australia’s transport sector. A meeting this Friday will prove crucial.

With like-minded governments in power across the jurisdictional map, and the mood for change growing ever stronger, transport ministers will meet in Melbourne to drive an ambitious national agenda for transport reform.

Substantial groundwork has been done. The National Transport Commission (NTC) has developed a framework for reform across key areas like regulation, congestion, infrastructure and capacity constraints, divvying the work up among governments to drive national reforms.

In fact, it seems all that stands in the way of much-needed reform for transport operators is the cooperative federalism governments have been so keen to talk up. And that’s the problem.

The states don’t cede power easily, even to their comrades in Canberra. Far from cooperating, Friday’s Australian Transport Council love-in threatens to turn into a turf war over who regulates the transport map.

Industry is concerned. There’s enough "bureaucratic bungling" going on behind the scenes, as one representative tells ATN this week, to suggest the process could so easily be derailed. And there are serious concerns the bureaucrats behind the ministers are incapable of driving the agenda within their departments.

This window for change is closing fast. The narrow electoral cycle lurches forward, governments will change, the industry will move on.

It’s time to seize the day. On Friday, ministers face their moment of truth.

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