Warning on national regs sparks call to action

Federal bureaucrat warns national regulators might just add to, instead of replacing, the state and territory-based approach already in place

By Rob McKay | March 29, 2012

Reform to bring in national transport regulators is not a done deal and the nation risks ending up with 26 regulators rather than the present 23.

That was the warning today from Department of Infrastructure and Transport Secretary Mike Mrdak at the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) Forum.

Mrdak flagged the prospect that instead of single regulators for the trucking, rail and maritime sectors replacing the state and territory-based approach, they might just add to what is already in place.

He urged those assembled to lobby their state governments and bureaucracies hard to get the reform completed by the January 1 deadline.

In response to the observation from Victorian Transport Association Deputy CEO Neil Chambers that this would be the precise outcome given the levels of resistance from state and local governments, Mrdak cautions that failure to stick to the timetable risks delays of many years rather than several months.

Emphasising the frustration the trucking industry feels towards the glacial workings of government, Ron Finemore of Ron Finemore Transport raised the spectre of a fearful and hidebound transport regulator unable to make swift enough decisions to make a difference in a fast-moving transport environment.

At least before, a progressive state government could be used by the industry as an example to others of what could be done, Finemore says.

Mrdak stuck to the line that the reform was absolutely crucial for the nation as was a close relationship between industry and government.

He observed that the federal transport bureaucracy was a victim of government success with privatisation over the past 20 years.

This had led to a loss of operational expertise to the private sector.

Toll CEO Brian Kruger says it is particularly challenging making huge long-term investment decisions in the face of a lack of consistency in government decision making and timing.

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