His appointment and the dismissal of Darren Chester in a cabinet reshuffle on 19 December does, however, raise concerns around continuity and geography.
Less than two years – the time Mr Chester held the portfolio – is barely long enough to come to grips with the complexities and demands of a difficult portfolio such as transport and infrastructure.
Sacking a minister simply to change the balance within the Nationals and give the party a stronger Queensland flavour, irrespective of whether the incumbent had done a good job or not, is hardly conducive to good government and bodes ill for the transport sector.
With Victoria already claiming it was being short-changed by Canberra when it came to infrastructure spending, sacking a Victorian MP is not going to reassure the second-most-populous state in the country that the imbalance will be rectified.
It is time key sectors such as transport – so vital to industry and growth – are no longer subject to party politicking.
Victoria and Queensland have both gone it alone with major rail projects without any financial backing from the Commonwealth. It is, we believe, no coincidence that both states have Labor governments.
Across the Tasman, New Zealand, too, has a new Minister for Transport, Phil Twyford (assisted by two associate ministers, Shane Jones and Julie Anne Genter), in the wake of that country’s general election at the end of September. There, Labour and NZ First teamed up to form a minority government with
the support of the Green Party after none of the major players claimed an outright majority and the reigning Nationals fell five seats short of retaining power.
Mr Twyford, who represents Te Atatu in western Auckland, also holds responsibility for housing and urban development. He is a former journalist and union organiser who was the founding executive director of Oxfam in NZ and later represented the organisation as its global advocacy director in Washington, DC. He has been a member of the NZ Parliament since 2008.
His predecessor, Simon Bridges, was named shadow leader of the house after the change of government. The Nationals’ Judith Collins is the opposition spokesperson for transport in NZ.
– TONY DUBOUDIN