40 YEARS AGO: The trucking community united at Razorback.
40 YEARS AGO: The trucking community united at Razorback.

Industry should recognise the significance of Razorback

MANY things change in 40 years, and at a personal level not all for the better.

The trim figure, clean shaven mid-20s bloke with the shoulder length hair has been replaced with a more rotund, bearded, follicly-challenged mid-60s version.

I still work at my chosen occupation, but nowadays the 1418 Benz's, the 3070 ACCO's and the LNT Louisville's with the rare comfort of air-conditioning hauling mainly tarped flat top trailers have given way to high horsepower prime movers equipped with modern comfort additions, a high level of added technology, hauling mainly covered trailers often in multi combinations.

Forty years ago the road transport industry was in a state of turmoil.

For many years the industry had suffered under a road tax regime which required a charge per mile (kilometre) to be paid to each of the state authorities in which a heavy vehicle operated.

If an operator was unable to pay the tax and failed to make a return, fines were imposed.

Often the fines and charges accumulated and if they were unable to be met on demand, a jail sentence was the remedy.

If a husband and wife partnership had the vehicle registered in both names, both were liable to be jailed.

Many companies simply avoided the tax by registering their vehicles under the names of straw companies formed in South Australia.

April 2 this year marks 40 years since five brave souls, with Ted Stevens as their spokesman, with the desperation of men with nothing left to lose and a mountain of intestinal fortitude, parked their trucks across the Hume Highway at Razorback Mountain.

Over the next nine days, they managed to unite a large section of the road transport industry and indeed a large portion of the nation behind them to finally rid this industry of this hideous tax.

That change 40 years ago made this industry a better workplace for us all.

What hasn't changed in 40 years is that the anniversary will pass with scant recognition from any of our industry associations, the TWU or any of their representatives.

When the industry was as close to unity as it ever had been, they failed us.

They will give this anniversary the same recognition they gave Ted Stevens' passing last year - none.

Razorback The Real Story should be compulsory reading for all our industry association executive officers, as well as the executives of the TWU.

They might then understand that it wasn't them who invented industry representation.

It is Ted Stevens' account of the events leading up to and during the Razorback Blockade.

The theme that constantly reoccurs is that the reason why road tax could not be met was often due to the poor rates and constant delays in being paid on time - precious little has changed on that front in 40 years.

A meeting convened by Senator Glenn Sterle in Canberra on March 19 took some tiny steps towards reuniting this industry after the turmoil of the last thee years.

Over 70 industry participants from major fleets to owner drivers, from industry associations to the TWU made some tentative commitments towards working co-operatively for the betterment of the whole industry.

While I remain hopeful of progress being made, it was obvious that there was no Ted Stevens in the room.

As someone who at 25 years of age was staring down a jail sentence and who often watched my late father, a veteran of over 1000 days service in New Guniea during WWII, jailed for the heinous crime of not being able to meet his road tax commitments, I am and will always be eternally grateful to the five men of Razorback who gave us the courage to help make a change 40 years ago.

Chris Roe, Yarrawonga, Vic

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