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We need to see the big picture reforms

Federal Government needs to deliver on big picture items now so industry can realise benefits of reform

By Rob McKay | July 1, 2010

That lazy political marketing catch-all term, ‘the (insert party leader’s name here) Government’, has been shown for the empty and meaningless ‘cult of personality’ ploy that it always was.

It had power enough, however, to catch out those who never cared enough to understand that our government is not presidential – witness the number of outraged twitterers, blog-responders and letters-to-the-editor writers fuming after the event that they “never voted for this leader” when Julia Gillard got the to job.

They didn’t vote for Martin Ferguson as Transport Minister either and there was no complaint when Anthony Albanese eventually got the ministry.

So, Gillard is Prime Minister and will lead the ALP to the next election, an election she says will occur before the year’s end and may possibly come as early as August.

Will there be any changes to regional transport policies in the next few weeks or months?

We doubt it.

Is National Transport Strategy likely to see the light of day before then?

It would seem logical to go to the polls with something substantive but, while not impossible, we are not holding our breath.

Ditto the National Ports Strategy and any of a number of freight-related policy positions and pronouncements.

Despite it being utterly crucial to the economy, reform in transport and logistics wins no elections.

Which is not to say nothing has been done on the three-year watch of Albanese, who stayed in his portfolio after Gillard’s Cabinet reshuffle.

Billions of dollars have been thrown at road and rail infrastructure.

But these are easy projects politically, especially at a time of financial stress in the market when it has been important to keep cash circulating.

To be sure, forming national road, rail and maritime regulators is significant and a reform to be applauded.

But if Albanese is to escape the suspicion of inertia, that he has become captive of bureaucracies both national and state, he will have to deliver the big picture item while not ignoring the greater part of it – as appears to have happened with the Treasury Secretary Ken Henry’s taxation review recommendations.

For that, he will have to keep his job.

He says he has no urge to move from transport but that’s what Ferguson said in 2007.

Meanwhile, old hand Simon Crean is likely to keep things ticking over with the ‘safe rates’ scheme until after the election, when Gillard can start consulting on more substantial portfolio changes.

Is there a pressing need to get promised transport, infrastructure and industrial relations reforms into place? Well, every day of real progress is a day when money can be saved in an industry still doing it hard.

Nailing down policy and passing it through parliament means implementation can begin and that is when the benefits to the rest of us are to be realised.

That is the deal.

The chances are that the ALP will be re-elected. If so, the time to think about what needs to be done has ended.

It’s time to do it.

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