‘This election has left me with a major dilemma’

What does the future hold? I’d love to have known even 10 years ago what I know now. I’m sure I’m not the only one. What happens at the next federal election will not only affect the whole country it may well have a profound impact on trucking into the future. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be looking back. The choice we have to make seems like selecting the lesser of evils on a personal level. On an industry level the choices are much clearer.

There are three certainties in life: death, taxation and change. We can’t do anything about the first, we can mitigate the second with good accounting and we can potentially influence change. At least we think we can. 

From what I’ve seen it doesn’t matter who governs. You’ve only got to consider the actual lived events and rampant stupidity over last couple of years. We’ve also seen that it doesn’t matter which ‘side’ has the power, they’ve each been as bad as the other. 

At the federal level we’ve had indecision and kneejerk mismanagement. The creation of a National Cabinet that allowed state premiers to influence federal policy and then federal inaction when states each went their own way. 

We’ve been pulled from pillar to post and given sometimes onerous or simply ridiculous restrictions and regulatory compliance issues to overcome. It’s gotten way too hard with some leaving the industry. 

I don’t think it’s too much to conclude that many of the mid-sized companies and owner drivers departing in recent months have done so partly because they can no longer see any point or potential profit in remaining in the game when the landscape can change at a moment’s notice. 

Months or even years of work and sacrifices stripped away as a result of the decisions made by those with little understanding and even less care for those financially affected.

Looking back at the last few years of transport policy and what the current government has done and allowed to be done, to say we’ve been poorly served is an understatement. 

Most recently we’ve seen the AdBlue issues as well as the fuel excise and tax credit clown show.

Most recently we’ve seen the AdBlue issues as well as the fuel excise and tax credit clown show. Historically they’ve managed to get rid of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) and replace that with nothing. 

Virtually every recommendation from the recent Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee inquiry was either simply noted or denied and obviously will ultimately be ignored. The federal minister Barnaby Joyce is impossible to get on the record even if you get an interview slot! 

We’ve had an endless series of inept handling of our issues and short-term fixes that have done as much harm as any possible good. 

The cynical vote grabs and feel-good policies are not what we need. When was the last time we’ve heard all the various trucking bodies, lobby groups and individuals singing from the same hymn sheet on anything in the transport industry? 

We do now with the fuel fiasco and that should be a good indicator underlining the lack of thought and concern for our future.

Make no mistake, if Labor is returned to power federally there will be a concerted effort to resurrect the RSRT or something very like it. I’ve spoken to Senator Glenn Sterle about this several times now. It’s no secret. He’s said out loud in almost those exact words when I asked him about it on his last visit on the podcast. I’m sure it won’t be the first priority, but it will be up there. 

There’s also going to be $80 million on the table for rest area improvements that will become available very quickly as well. There is to be an advisory group of actual drivers that will have input into where these funds should be best spent. 

The number of lives lost, and families affected as a direct result of participating in trucking, is off the scale compared to other industries. If we were killing the same number of people in any other field of work, there would be a Royal Commission and heads would be rolling. Right now, everyone looks away. 

They mouth the platitudes about how sad it is and go right back to business as usual. Let’s face it, it’s not the freight forwarder, dispatch supervisor, company CEO or anyone else getting their name on a plaque at Tarcutta or Gatton and trucks are easily replaced. The families are affected forever. 

Our industry is screaming for change. We have a broken licencing system that has been ignored for far too long. We have training issues that must be addressed. We must have sensible standards across the industry and a workable plan for the future. That’s not going to happen while we continue to bury our heads in the sand. 

We know what we’ve been dealing with over the last several years. So now we look to the future. 

I cannot begin to say how painful it is for me to admit that I’m torn over my vote at the next election. Rewarding the poor performance of the current seat fillers rubs me the wrong way. 

But voting to head off on a new path that, on a personal level, sees an acceleration of change and some values I don’t particularly like is very challenging. On an industry level, for our industry at least, a change of federal government has the potential to be a much-needed improvement. That’s the dilemma.

Every interest group in the transport equation has a different set of priorities, goals and some ability to shift issues in their direction. There is very definitely a hierarchy of power at the negotiating table. Unfortunately, owner-drivers and drivers are usually at the bottom.

I wouldn’t dare tell anyone how to vote. I’ve come to the belief that it really doesn’t make a lot of difference which ‘side’ is in power, change is inevitable. I say that the pace of change is at issue and that our vote is our only opportunity to influence change. 

You can contact me via @theoztrucker on twitter, On The Road Podcast (@otrpodcastaus) on Facebook, or go to ontheroadpodcast.com.au to leave a comment and see links to the show, or email me directly mike@ontheroadpodcast.com.au.

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