Updated: Jul 25
David Elliott is the current Transport Minister and former-Minister for Police and Emergency Services for New South Wales. After years of industrial action, Mr. Elliott announced that the government would make the requested changes to the intercity rail fleet.
2022 RTBU Industrial Action
On the 29th of June 2022, Mr. Elliott announced that the government would make necessary modifications to the rail fleet at a cost of $254 million. This followed two years of pressure from the rail union who had claimed that the trains were unsafe in their present form. The decision was described as a "major backdown" for the New South Wales government who had maintained the view that the trains were safe.
Mr. Elliott expected the union to scale back their industrial action as a result of the announcement stating: “My expectation from the union, of course, is that they wind back their industrial action." However, as the government did not sign an agreement to put the changes into writing, the RTBU's industrial action continued.
Mr. Elliott described the continued industrial action on the 1st of July as "an act of shame and dishonesty on the Labor movement," and "the most politically motivated industrial action since the sacking of Gough Whitlam." Mr. Elliott also suggested that the strikes were intended to motivate people to vote for NSW Labor.
The $2.88 billion rail fleet, which was first intended to begin service in 2019, is currently idle in storage on the NSW central coast. The government has estimated that a cost of $30 million per month to taxpayers for the fleet remaining in its current form while the ongoing industrial action is estimated to be costing the NSW economy $45 million.
The NSW government is also currently engaged in industrial disputes across other areas of the public service.
Holiday during Black Summer Bushfires Emergency As Minister for Emergency Services
Similar to then-Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, Mr. Elliott, in his capacity as Minister for Police and Emergency Services, also went on a holiday during the Black Summer Bushfires in December of 2019. In response to media questions regarding the decision, Mr. Elliott responded:
"Bushfire-affected communities and firefighters are always at the front of my mind during this difficult time in NSW. I will continue to receive two briefings each day from the RFS [Rural Fire Service] Commissioner. If the bushfire situation should demand it, I will return home."
After several days travelling in the UK, Mr. Elliott cut his holiday short and returned from London. In a later Facebook post, Mr. Elliott stated that his absence was "inexcusable" and that he "should have put my RFS family first and foremost given the current conditions." The change in course was described as a "backflip" by the media as Mr. Elliott made the change within an hour of The Sydney Morning Herald being informed he would not be cutting his holiday short.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, several Liberal colleagues criticised Mr. Elliott's decision, with one senior minister stating "He should be here, not in London. We just lost three lives." Another staffer asked "Why do we even have an Emergency Services Minister if he is not going to be here in an emergency?" Another minister claimed it was "nuts" that Mr. Elliott chose to leave for his holiday.
After suggestions that the firefighters and other volunteers on the ground during the Black Summer Bushfires were entitled to payment, Mr. Elliott agreed with NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, in rejecting the idea. Mr. Elliott stated to The Australian: "Anyone who is arguing we have to pay them doesn't understand the ethos of the volunteer in this country."
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