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Industry trio call for transparent strategic fleet consultation process

The trio, including Shipping Australia, is questioning the current consultation process regarding the strategic fleet initiative

An industry coalition consisting of three associations have called upon federal transport minister Catherine King to commit to an open and transparent consultation process on the strategic fleet.

In a cross-industry letter written by Shipping Australia, the International Forwarders and Customs Brokers Association of Australia and the Australian Meat Industry Council, the trio have noted that the existing process hasn’t been transparent.

An example is the lack of an open and public application process to apply to be a member of the strategic fleet task force, with the federal government determining the composition of the task force.

Alongside this, the trio say there has been “little-to-no meaningful consultation” with the broader industry on how the policy will be implemented despite stakeholders being told last year that there would be a transparent consultation process involving an issues paper and workshops.

At the end of 2023, the letter says stakeholders were informed that the department would undertake “targeted and phased consultation”, with a February release from Minister King then declaring that the strategic fleet is underway.

“Then, literally days later, the department appears to have rushed out a targeted cargo owners consultation to hand-picked groups with very broad questions that ought to have been addressed by the task force,” the letter says.

“The deadline for this particular consultation was February 23, 2024 – which is very short notice for a flagship government policy that in the long-term will affect billions of dollars’ worth of cargo, which can have an impact on employment, our international trade and the viability of Australian businesses.”

The letter says this process doesn’t follow the best practice consultation guidance issued by the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

As the strategic fleet policy touches upon many different areas of the Australian economy, the letter says industry participants feel it’s important that a broad and transparent consultation process is followed.

“The federal government has been carrying out several maritime-related consultations in which it has followed proper process,” Shipping Australia CEO Captain Melwyn Noronha says.

“On this specific issue, the federal government isn’t following a proper consultation process; it’s not even following its own best practice guidelines! Why is the strategic fleet consultation different? Why is the federal government back-pedalling from its original promise? Why is this whole policy being shrouded in secrecy? Didn’t the federal government originally promise openness and transparency in policymaking?”

International Forwarders and Customs Brokers Association of Australia CEO Scott Carson says he’s concerned about the lack of proper industry consultation.

“A formal ‘call for submissions’ needs to take place, with each of those submissions to be able to be viewed in the public domain, except for those that are provided confidentially,” Carson says.

“From that process, recommendations can then be made by the federal government, with such recommendations needing to prove that due consideration has been given to the submissions that were submitted.”

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