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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 764

National Heavy Vehicle Regulator

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (14:17): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. Transport business operators in Indi have told me they are having problems with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and its ability to issue permits. I am told that, since 9 February, waiting times for permits have grown from two or three days, when VicRoads was handling applications, to 23 days. Minister, can you please tell me what the government is doing to rectify this situation?

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (14:17): I thank the honourable member for Indi for her question. I certainly share her concerns about the delays that people in the trucking industry have been experiencing since the beginning of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator's supervision and issuing of heavy vehicle and wide vehicle permits. It is particularly disappointing because I think members on both sides of the House have been enthusiastically supporting the development of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. It is an important piece of economic reform that is potentially going to save billions of dollars in the trucking industry over the years ahead. This regulator has been a long time in the making. It was due to start on 1 January 2013. Its start-up time in relation to the issuing of permits was delayed on at least four occasions, and finally there was a view that it was ready to start up. It provides a one-stop shop for the issuing of permits, so, instead of vehicles having to get new permits every time they cross the border, they are able to just get a single permit that deals with all the issues. It is clear that the systems that were in place were inadequate to do the job. In spite of an audit conducted by one of the country's leading auditing companies which said it was ready, the reality was it was not ready. There are deficiencies even in the legislation, which allows 28 days for there to be a permit issued. That is clearly unsatisfactory.

This morning I met with transport ministers from around Australia to talk about what further response there needs to be to deal with this issue and to try and get the regulator working properly. New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria have taken back the process of issuing licences within their state and negotiating with local government to get the local permits, which have been a significant part of the delays in bringing this to fruition. South Australia is going to take back the management of its permits later this week. From the point of view of ministers, we are not going to allow a return to the national regulator distributing these permits until we are satisfied the systems are fixed and are going to work. We clearly inherited, as a government, an arrangement which was unsatisfactory. A lot of repair work will need to be done, and I would expect that these interim arrangements we have with the states will be in place for several months until everyone has got the confidence that the new system will work well. It is an important reform. We need to get it right. This government is not going to walk away from it, and we will be working with the states to achieve satisfactory permit-issuing systems. But in the interim the states will take back that role so the industry can get its permits issued quickly and on time.