OUR SAY: ATA steals one from Albanese's playbook


ATA copies Government's playbook to wedge Transport Minister on road pricing and rest stop facilities

By Brad Gardner

When the federal Opposition blocked higher registration and fuel charges in the Senate earlier this year, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese seized the opportunity to accuse recalcitrant senators of jeopardising safety in the trucking industry.

He did this because linked to the passage of the charges is a $70 million package to fund rest areas and tachograph trials.

According to the Minister, the Government was keen to get on with the job of building stops along major freight routes but the Opposition was determined to play politics with vital infrastructure. He accused them of "reckless opportunism" because the Liberals, when in government, started the process which led to proposed higher charges.

"They are putting at risk a $70 million package which will in part provide the extra rest stops the industry has long wanted," Albanese claimed.

His comments indicated a determination to make sure drivers had adequate facilities to rest. But in giving that indication, Albanese created a rod for his back, which the ATA has used to its advantage.

Its proposal for the Government to link any future increase in the fuel tax to the construction of at least 90 rest areas per year pushes Albanese into a corner because, in theory, he has little choice but to agree to it.

If he says he will not deal, then Albanese may be seen as being guilty of the same thing he accused the Opposition of: risking safety in the industry.

Similar to what the Transport Minister tried to do to the Opposition, the ATA has effectively put the Government in an awkward position.

And because the ATA has gone a step further and hired a law firm to draw up amendments ready to be slotted into the relevant legislation, Albanese has even less wriggle room available.

He is unable to delay a decision by saying it will take time to work through the issues because they are already done for him.

Furthermore, the figure of 900 rest stops by 2019 isn’t just a fanciful number plucked from the air by the ATA. It has used governmental reports and audits to ensure it cannot be accused of bias.

Whether the proposal backfires on the ATA remains to be seen. Rightly or wrongly, Albanese may feel a little miffed at what may be considered a surprise attack from the ATA that makes him look bad if he doesn’t take urgent action.

But the lobby group has simply followed the lead of Albanese by copying his political playbook.

The proposal may cause some consternation, but if the ATA’s ploy works then the hassle is well worth the extra rest stops which are long overdue.

What do you think? Does the ATA’s decision to support higher charges for more rest areas make sense? Leave your feedback below…

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