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Monday, 26 February 2001
Page: 24441

Mr Martin Ferguson asked the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, upon notice, on 4 October 2000:

(1) Given the Government's support for the chain of responsibility principle in road transport, what is the Government doing to make the chain of responsibility a feature of commercial transport dealings and thereby stopping trucking companies from taking short cuts with safety, putting lives at risk and undercutting operators who work by the rules.

(2) Is it the case that until the chain of responsibility concept becomes a feature of commercial dealings, transport prime contractors will continue to pressure sub-contractors to conform to schedules which cannot be met without breaking laws such as driving hours legislation, occupational health and safety legislation and industrial relations legislation.

Mr Anderson (Deputy Prime Minister) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Government is working co-operatively with the States and Territories through the National Road Transport Commission (NRTC) to progress the development and implementation of `chain of responsibility' provisions into road transport law. Implementation of such provisions will rest largely with the States and Territories. However, relevant provisions will be enacted by the Commonwealth for vehicles registered under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS). (FIRS is an optional alternative to State or Territory registration for vehicles engaged solely in the interstate transport of goods or passengers.)

`Chain of responsibility' provisions are already in place under dangerous goods legislation with sanctions which can include exclusion from the industry for a specified period and fines which can be as high as $500,000 for a company. `Chain of responsibility' provisions have also been included, to some extent, in driving hours legislation and the `three strikes and you're out' policy to combat speeding heavy vehicles. With respect to driving hours there are currently fines of up to $1,500 for an individual and $7,500 for businesses who set schedules that cannot be met without a driver breaking driving or speeding laws. Under the speeding heavy vehicles policy, sanctions can be applied to the owner or operator of the vehicle through the suspension of the vehicles' registration for a specified period, in addition to any sanction applied to the driver of the vehicle.

The NRTC has also developed a Compliance and Enforcement: Mass Dimension and Load Restraint policy. The policy establishes a “best practice” compliance and enforcement regime and a consistent sanctions model including the introduction of “chain of responsibility” by extending the liability for offences to consignors, packers, loaders, carriers and `receivers' (consignees). Proposed sanctions range from fines, supervisory intervention orders up to exclusion from the industry. If endorsed by Transport Ministers the policy will be given effect by a mix of legislative provisions and administrative guidelines and will be developed during 2001 in tandem with compliance and enforcement provisions for other road transport law.

(2) As I have indicated, `chain of responsibility' is already operating to some extent. When fully introduced it will undoubtedly have a strong deterrent effect particularly if sanctions such as exclusion from the industry are enforced.