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Thursday, 2 April 1998
Page: 2335

Mr VAILE (Transport and Regional Development) (9:32 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

Today I take pleasure in introducing a package of two bills, the Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill 1998 and the Interstate Road Transport Amendment Bill 1998. The bills amend the legislative framework for the Federal interstate registration scheme, FIRS, for heavy vehicles engaged in interstate trade and commerce.

The amendment proposed by the Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill 1998 will provide a formula for calculating registration charges for periods of less than one year for heavy vehicles registered under FIRS. The Interstate Road Transport Amendment Bill 1998 takes account of self-government in the Australian Capital Territory and provides for the appointment of additional enforcement officers in the ACT.

The Interstate Road Transport Charge Act 1985 provides for registration charges on FIRS registered vehicles. All revenue from charges collected by the states and territories, acting as agents of the Commonwealth, is returned to the states and territories for expenditure on road maintenance.

At present this act provides only for annual registration charges. The act needs to provide for less than one year registration charges to allow charging to reflect the amendments to the Interstate Road Transport Regulations which permit less than one year registration of FIRS vehicles. The proposed amendment reflects the charging formula to be used in the Road Transport Reform (Heavy Vehicles) Registration regime, which is to be adopted by states and territories. Both the federal and state based schemes will, therefore, have the same charging formula.

The general provision of registration periods of less than one year is one of the ten priority road transport reform initiatives, endorsed by the Ministerial Council for Road Transport at its February 1997 meeting. The package was developed by the National Road Transport Commission, NRTC, in conjunction with federal, state and territory governments and the road transport industry.

Short-term registration provides flexibility to operators who wish to register their vehicles for periods of less than one year. This flexibility provides reduced costs to the operator. For example, farmers can nominate a period which coincides with when they need to transport crops, instead of paying for a full year's registration, and smaller operators may opt to pay registration charges at three-monthly intervals, helping to maintain their cash flow. The amendment demonstrates the federal government's commitment to road transport reform and its recognition of the important role the road transport industry plays in Australia's economy.

The second bill in the package, the Interstate Road Transport Amendment Bill 1998 is required to enable the appointment of additional enforcement officers in the Australian Capital Territory. Following self-government in the ACT, the Commonwealth can no longer appoint ACT enforcement officers. The amendment will enable the appointment of inspectors by the ACT government.

Other minor amendments to this act convert the existing monetary penalties to equivalent penalty units and insert appropriate references to provisions of the Crimes Act 1914. The net budgetary impact of the amendments will be nil. The amendments are to come into force on the day on which they receive royal assent. I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr O'Connor) adjourned.