AN INDUSTRY coalition has called on federal infrastructure and transport minister Catherine King to commit to an “open and transparent” strategic fleet consultation process.

Shipping Australia, IFCBAA and the Australian Meat Industry Council issued a joint letter to the minister on 19 March outlining perceived shortcomings in the existing consultation process.

The letter follows Ms King’s announcement in February that the federal government was implementing recommendations of the Strategic Fleet Taskforce and that demonstrable progress toward getting the first vessels in the fleet was expected this year.

The industry bodies believe the existing consultation process on the strategic fleet has not been transparent, noting that the final report of the taskforce and the government’s response to the taskforce were both published on the same day.

They said industry and other stakeholders “had no opportunity to critique or comment” on the taskforce’s report before the government issued its response. They also claim there was no open application process to join the taskforce.

“While there was an initial consultation with industry on the broad overall policy, there has been little-to-no meaningful consultation with the broader industry on how the policy will be implemented,” the coalition said.

The industry bodies believe a “targeted” consultation in February, involving cargo owners, did not ask appropriate questions nor allow sufficient time to respond.

They also claim the consultation process did not align with the federal government’s Best practice consultation guidance issued in July 2023, which recommends a minimum 30-day period for effective consultation.

“The federal government has been carrying out several maritime-related consultations in which it has followed proper process,” Shipping Australia CEO Melwyn Noronha said.

“On this specific issue, the federal government isn’t following a proper consultation process; it’s not even following its own best practice guidelines,” Captain Noronha said.

“Why is the strategic fleet consultation different? Why is the federal government back-pedalling from its original promise? Why is this whole policy being shrouded in secrecy? Didn’t the Albanese government originally promise openness and transparency in policymaking? Whatever happened to that?”

And IFCBAA chief executive officer Scott Carson said the association was concerned about a “lack of proper industry consultation” around a significant process and proposal.

“A formal ‘call for submissions’ needs to take place, with each of those submissions to be able to be viewed in the public domain, except for those that are provided confidentially,” Mr Carson said.

“From that process, recommendations can then be made by the federal government, with such recommendations needing to prove that due consideration has been given to the submissions that were submitted.”

Minister King’s office has been contacted for comment.