Industry has been quick to react with a mixture of disbelief and disappointment to the surprise absence of WA Senator Glenn Sterle in the new Labor cabinet.
After chairing a long-running Senate inquiry into the industry and championing truckies’ rights through Covid, many had expected Sterle to be a shoe-in for a seat in the outer ministry.
But that role, the assistant transport minister, has gone to little-known Tasmanian Senator Carol Brown, with former shadow transport minister Catherine King taking the reins from Barnaby Joyce as the industry’s highest ranking politician in Canberra.
“The loss of a passionate advocate [Sterle] for the freight industry in the Federal Ministry will be sorely felt by not just the freight industry but the customers and communities our industry serves,” said Western Roads Federation CEO Cam Dumesny in a newsletter to members.
“Where this leaves the freight industry is not known.”
In other profession than politics Senator @GlennSterle would have won a Nobel Peace prize for his efforts over the last 3 years in getting the fractured national Transport industry to agree to reform. In politics he is cut from Assistant Minister role. @AlboMP
— Cam Dumesny (@WesternRoadsFed) May 31, 2022
In an upcoming column for Big Rigs, high-profile truckie Mike Williams, host of the popular podcast On the Road, said he had been optimistic that Labor had a man in Glenn Sterle with industry credibility and runs on the board who should get the nod.
“Now two politicians most of us in trucking couldn’t pick out of a line-up have been appointed to the transport portfolio,” said Williams.
“Many of us will see that as a slap in the face. Senator Sterle must be absolutely gutted. I jokingly called him the minister for busted toilets and potholes. I can’t think of anyone in parliament who has his regard for truckies and a willingness to act. Actions speak louder than words. I find it extremely disappointing that he’s been overlooked.
“My hope now is Minister Catherine King and her deputy Carol Brown don’t turn out to be cardboard cut-outs. That they at least have the common sense to put Sterle to work. The work is still there to be done and to be successful it needs to be done properly.”
— Mike Williams (Oz) (@theoztrucker) May 31, 2022
As a woman, it has always galled me that a person may get a position because of their gender. It makes those that get it on merit look like they were an anti-discrimination choice & they have to prove themselves more than they would otherwise have to.
— 𝙎𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙩 𝙏𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩 (@StraightshotT) June 1, 2022
The National Road Transport Association said it welcomed the appointments of King and Brown.
NatRoad chairman Scott Davidson says his organisation looks forward to working with the Albanese Government on a range of challenges.
“Catherine King knows the portfolio particularly well after serving as Shadow Minister,” Davidson said.
“The new minister can make an immediate mark by addressing the decision by the previous government to reduce the Fuel Tax Credit available to operators of heavy vehicles to zero.
“The inequity of motorists receiving a 22.1c per litre reduction in fuel price at the bowser and heavy vehicle operators receiving an effective 4.3c cut is obvious.
“The full impact on cash flow of the loss of the Fuel Tax Credit, however, is only now becoming apparent as quarterly Business Activity Statements fall due.
“NatRoad wants the Albanese Government to reinstate the Fuel Tax Credit immediately.
“Failing that, we want other relief measures given to the industry along with an undertaking that it will be restored at the end of the period of the halving of excise.”
Davidson said there were a number of other issues on the new Government’s plate, not the least of which was the broken National Heavy Vehicle Law review. The new Minister will have a full legislative agenda.
“The promise to legislate to ensure small business invoices are paid within 30 days is welcome, but the Government also needs to revive stalled legislation to address issues with Unfair Contracts,” Davidson said.
“Also, NatRoad was vigorous in its lobbying of the previous government for a solution to the lack of sustainable supply of the essential diesel exhaust fluid AdBlue following China ceasing exports.
“With the closure of the only local manufacturing plant imminent, my members need to know that the new federal government has secured alternate sources.”