2012: rewards lie ahead

In the last News for the year, it’s time to turn our minds to what’s lying ahead for us in 2012.

It’s very clear that in 2012 we’re going to secure big wins on two big issues on which we started our campaigns as far back as early and mid 2010.

We’re going to secure changes to the ‘national’ fatigue management rules, which will make available a more flexible fatigue management scheme for rural and regional operators. Of course, we’re going to have to fight hard to get the final result onto to score board. But we’re well into the fourth quarter and we know how to win from here.

It’s now time to express openly some special thanks on this item. Back in May 2010, all the transport Ministers established an ‘Independent Expert Panel’ to give them some pointers on the way ahead, a process that took a year’s work for the members of that Panel. Someone who knows a fair bit about rural transport, Luke Fraser, took time away from his new business to serve on that Panel. He lost a lot of money doing so, but we know that the time he gave was very important. Thank you, Luke.

In 2012, we’re going to see a result on A-Trailers.

Earlier this week, together with the staff of the ATA and our colleagues at NatRoad, I spent about five and half hours with the NTC, working over the maths of what their options will be. Whichever way it works out, industry is going to see a result from the NTC. It will then be up to the Ministers – will they have the political courage to go with the best option? And will industry have the courage and strength to ask them to make the right choice?

The NTC’s headed up to Brisbane today (Friday) to road test their ideas with a few operators. Our Queensland President, Gary Willoughby and Ross Fraser have made the trip down to Brissie to cast their eyes over the options and provide some direct feedback. That’s a great contribution that’s very much appreciated.

The staff at the NTC are almost always hard working but there are certainly times when we’ve been concerned that they turn too many issues into hard work. It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen the NTC so clearly working fast – not acting in haste, but really, visibly moving on an issue. They’re ending their year well.

On A-trailers, fatigue and a host of other issues, in 2010 and early 2011, our former President David Smith took a huge amount of time away from his business to get our issues on the agenda of every Minister in the country and, especially, with the Federal Minister. I’ve heard Anthony Albanese mention our Association several times in his speeches or discussions, and that includes in Parliament itself.

David knew that he’d no longer be President by the time that we’d start to see the results of those efforts. It takes a special level of strength and conviction to lead without needing to be rewarded with the glory of immediate ‘in-your-hand’ results, so ‘thank you’ David.

And two others. Back in early 2010, our delegate to the ATA, Mark Sullivan moved the motion at an ATA General Council meeting that called on the industry to fight for changes to A-Trailer charges. It wasn’t plain sailing. A senior industry leader actually responded by saying ‘what’s the point? No-one will listen to us’ and a couple of other personalities weren’t entirely supportive. Nonetheless, Mark got the motion over the line, and that was instrumental to what’s followed since then. Who dares, wins – ‘thank you’ Mark.

And our last ‘thank you’ goes to our colleagues in the Australian Logistics Council and the ATA. On several of the ‘big’ national issues this year, and more that are coming, our alliance with the ALC and the ATA has been very powerful. When you go out into no-mans land, it’s good to know that you have artillery to back you up, so ‘thank you’ ALC and ATA.

And then, there are the challenges

While we’re feeling optimistic about the wins we’re going to secure in 2012, the challenges that are waiting for us are still pretty daunting.

There’s going to be major pressure on animal welfare next year. The new animal welfare laws will be coming in July 2012, and scrutiny from animal welfare groups is going to be increasing.

But to pick out the earliest of the big challenges that are waiting for us in 2012, it’s hard to go past road use charging.

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