For road trans­port ad­vo­cacy

Big Rigs - - INDUSTRY PROFILE -

and with his wife, Bev­er­ley, now be­side him, Steve re­alised it was now or never – if he was go­ing to get a univer­sity de­gree he had to make a de­ci­sion.

“By then I was 20 and mar­ried. I said to Bev ‘I think I should go to univer­sity and get a de­gree and see what hap­pens’,” Steve re­called.

“I love bi­ol­ogy – it’s in my blood. It stems from my mother and her love of bi­ol­ogy and ecol­ogy. Her fa­ther was one of Aus­tralia’s pre-em­i­nent sur­vey­ors. My mum and her sis­ter grew up in tents along the River Mur­ray.

“Then she turned our back­yard into a na­tional park – and I was fas­ci­nated.

“At school it was the subject I didn’t need to learn for – it just came nat­u­rally to me... so it was a no-brainer that that’s what I should study.

“So at uni I im­mersed my­self in it and got more in­volved in the ar­eas I loved – mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy and ecol­ogy.”

Grad­u­at­ing with hon­ours (his the­sis was on three species of skink lizards in the Ade­laide Hills), Steve tossed up whether to con­tinue univer­sity life and com­plete a PhD or “get a real job”.

He did the lat­ter – and was ac­cepted into a highly com­pet­i­tive and sought-af­ter grad­u­ate’s en­try pro­gram be­ing run by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment out of Can­berra. 6500 peo­ple ap­plied, 350 were suc­cess­ful and by the end of the first year about 50 – in­clud­ing Steve – re­mained.

It was an­other de­ci­sion that would de­fine who he is to­day, and one which sev­eral years later led to him to head-up a counter-ter­ror­ism unit within the Spe­cial Min­is­ter of State de­part­ment.

“You worked re­ally hard with re­ally smart peo­ple and you quickly learned about the stuff that makes a dif­fer­ence – how a gov­ern­ment works and the role pol­icy plays in mak­ing the gov­ern­ment of the day func­tion,” Steve said.

“It’s where I got my first real taste for politi­cians and pol­icy and pol­i­tics – for a per­son just out of univer­sity it was bloody fas­ci­nat­ing.

“It was one of the first light­bulb mo­ments for me.

“It re­ally switched on my think­ing why politi­cians be­have the way that they do.

“And the mo­ti­va­tion of politi­cians has been a guid­ing con­cept for me ever since – and a lot of peo­ple in the in­dus­try don’t un­der­stand that.

“Politi­cians just do enough to keep an in­dus­try like ours quiet.”

At the end of 1990, Steve and Bev­er­ley de­cided to re­turn home to Ade­laide to take up a role as state man­ager for a Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment de­part­ment.

Then in 1993, the same mate who helped Steve “re­lo­cate” that timber sleeper all those years ago – and who was on the SARTA Board at the time – ca­su­ally let Steve know about the job.

The mate knew Steve was the right per­son for the job, and Steve knew a chal­lenge when he saw one.

At the time SARTA was on its knees – it was vir­tu­ally broke, had fewer than 40 mem­bers, no in­come stream or spon­sors, and ac­cord­ing to those around at the time, was ir­rel­e­vant to the truck­ing in­dus­try.

Again show­ing the steely de­ter­mi­na­tion for which he is known, Steve got down to busi­ness, quickly es­tab­lish­ing a busi­ness around ad­vo­cacy and in­dus­trial re­la­tions.

Draw­ing an in­come from his own su­per­an­nu­a­tion for the first two years so as not to drain on the strained re­sources of SARTA, Steve tar­geted some of the more in­flu­en­tial truck­ing busi­nesses in SA to con­vince them the as­so­ci­a­tion was again rel­e­vant.

It worked a treat. To­day SARTA has more than 300 mem­bers and more than 30 spon­sors.

“Peo­ple quickly learned there was a new guy at SARTA and some­thing was hap­pen­ing... but you had to be care­ful,” Steve said.

“You can’t en­dorse a spe­cific product though... we just cre­ate the op­por­tu­ni­ties, and it’s worked.

“The truck­ing in­dus­try is a bit like the old Ford v Holden – you either love Ken­worth or hate them.

“You have to be care­ful not to queer your pitch by ty­ing your­self to a brand that a sec­tion of the in­dus­try doesn’t like... it’s not rocket sci­ence.

“You also have to en­sure that spon­sors get value for their gen­er­ous sup­port.

“What gov­ern­ments and min­is­ters along the way have learned about us is that we are very per­sis­tent.

“It’s partly my per­son­al­ity – and partly the in­dus­try.

“One of my strengths in this in­dus­try is that I sim­ply do not give up.

“If I’m fight­ing for a cause I be­lieve in, I will not give up.

“The 12 and a half years it took us to break down the pri­vacy bar­rier and get the SA Gov­ern­ment to al­low po­lice to tell own­ers about their driv­ers’ dan­ger­ous on-road be­hav­iour is a good ex­am­ple – and an Australian first.”

That tenac­ity – and Steve’s com­mit­ment to the sec­tor – was recog­nised in 2014 when he was awarded an OAM for ser­vices to the truck­ing in­dus­try.

Away from the hus­tle and bus­tle of ad­vo­cacy, Steve has found so­lace in wa­ter-colour paint­ing – some­thing he stum­bled on five years ago, ab­so­lutely loves with a pas­sion, and has dis­cov­ered he’s very good at, even hold­ing some ex­hi­bi­tions.

“It keeps me sane.”

❝ He tar­geted the more in­flu­en­tial truck­ing busi­nesses in SA to con­vince them the as­so­ci­a­tion was again rel­e­vant.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

AN­OTHER TIME: Steve Shearer has been a spokesper­son for SARTA for a gen­er­a­tion and has a his­tory of build­ing po­lit­i­cal bridges.

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