Roozendaal blacklists ATA in damaging rift

NSW Government refuses to deal with the country’s peak trucking body, ATN reveals

By Jason Whittaker | September 1, 2008

The New South Wales Government is refusing to deal with the country’s peak trucking organisation, excluding the State’s operators from important policy discussions due to personal political prejudices.

The September edition of ATN magazine, out this week, exposes a bitter rift between the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and its NSW State branch and Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal.

ATN details conversations and dealings between the Government and the State’s largest carrier representative group which reveal Roozendaal has blacklisted the ATA because CEO Stuart St Clair is a former National Party staffer and MP.

The situation is also causing significant tension between the ATA and its other state member groups, which are attending meetings in NSW instead of the local association and who complain the ATA should not be controlling the state-based group, a loss-making venture they say is propped up by their membership fees.

The ATA-NSW has applied eight times to be part of Roozendaal’s Transport Operators Liaison Group but has been rejected each time. Long-time lobbyist and ATA-NSW Manager Jill Lewis says the Minister refuses to take her calls.

Roozendaal’s office denies any rift, but a spokesperson says the Council is open to industry groups "with something positive to contribute at the table".

St Clair, too, claims ignorance on the question of why the Minister won’t deal with the ATA-NSW.

"I suppose if we were a front for a political organisation, particularly a conservative one, we wouldn’t be bagging Brendan Nelson’s press release. We seem to do that quite successfully," St Clair says in responding to ATN over the claims.

"Why the Minister has decided not to deal with the largest trucking group in NSW is a good question to ask. Is it he doesn’t want to deal with them? Is it he has something to hide? Is it he is acting under instruction? What is it?"

But a number of industry representatives confirm the rift, and reveal Roozendaal openly stating he will never work with the State’s operators while the ATA is involved with the group.

"As long as they [ATA-NSW] remain with the branch they will never get heard in Government," one trucking industry representative says.

The ATA’s relationship with the Labor Government in Canberra has also been questioned. While some say political tensions have thawed in recent times between the group and Minister Anthony Albanese, others insist there remain issues.

"It’s true any time you appoint an ex-politician you’re always going to have challenges about who they will or won’t talk to," South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) chief Steve Shearer says, revealing he was highly critical at the ATA Council of the relationship between the ATA and Albanese.

St Clair describes his dealings with the Minister as "professional". "We believe we have a very good relationship with Minister Albanese, albeit it is robust and so it should be," he says.

Meanwhile, separate from any problems at government level, ATN understands the country’s largest road transport operator, Toll Holdings, is reconsidering its financial membership of the ATA.

St Clair insists discussions are ongoing and the logistics giant remains part of the group, but ATN reveals Toll tsar Paul Little himself has questioned the direction of the ATA.

For the complete story of the political tensions between the ATA and governments, and within its own ranks, see the September edition of ATN magazine, out this week. To secure your copy call (07) 3166 2323 or subscribe online.

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