Freight Rail, Passenger Rail

Broad forced to manage rapid ministerial changeover

Australasian Railway Association boss Danny Broad has called on the Turnbull Government to ensure planning decisions are not affected in the long-term by the series of ministerial changes which have taken place for transport in recent months.

Speaking at the ARA’s Light Rail conference event in Sydney last week, Broad told the audience the “biggest challenge” in developing transport solutions for growing cities was securing long-term collaboration between federal and state governments for long-term planning so that and vital transport corridors can be “locked-away” for future major projects.

But he indicated this sort of long-term collaboration was made more difficult by “all the political changes and elections that we see happening over and over again,” along with transport ministerial changeovers.

As recently as December, Darren Chester was the federal minister for transport. He was replaced on December 20 by his then-party-leader, Barnaby Joyce, who stepped down in late February to be replaced by new Nationals leader Michael McCormack.

“As each minister changes, he brings in a new team to work for him,” Broad told the Sydney crowd.

“For example, when we went from Darren Chester, who had a team we worked very closely with, and Barnaby Joyce came on-board, Barnaby brought a totally new team.

“And, of course, [in February] we had a change again, and we’ve got Minister McCormack in there now.”

Broad said for an industry body like the ARA, changeover in the minister’s office means “we have to start again, and work with the new team to influence the minister, and try to achieve the outcomes the rail industry is looking for”.

“In the last few days I’ve been corresponding with Barnaby’s former team, and their position is ‘Danny, we’re helping the new minister, but we don’t know if we have a job in a few weeks’ time.’ So that just gives you an idea of what we try to deal with in Canberra when all these changes happen.”


Long term focus

Broad used his speech to call on governments to focus on long-term, co-ordinated planning to ensure infrastructure building supports Australia’s growing population.

“That’s one of the major things we need to keep pushing: for the federal government to work with the state governments. We’ve seen a lot more of that since the change in prime minister – there is an interest from the federal government to work with the state governments to look at that long-term planning. And the states, to be fair, are doing a lot more long-term planning than they have in the past,” Broad said.

The ARA boss related that former federal transport minister Darren Chester, in particular, had made strong efforts in this area, and that Western Australia’s transport minister Rita Saffioti benefitted from also being the minister of planning and lands.

“[Saffioti] can get all of the heads of department underneath her and say, ‘work together’, whereas that’s not always the case elsewhere,” he said.