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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1315


Senator O’BRIEN (4:40 PM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the minister’s second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

INTERSTATE ROAD TRANSPORT CHARGE AMENDMENT BILL 2008

The Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill 2008 enables nationally agreed new Heavy Vehicle registration charges to be applied to heavy vehicles registered under the Australian Government’s Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS).

The new charges are set out in the 2007 Heavy Vehicle Charges Determination, which was unanimously endorsed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Transport Ministers at the Australian Transport Council meeting in Canberra of 29 February 2008.

The new heavy vehicle charges are one component of the Rudd Labor Government’s broader heavy vehicle productivity and safety agenda.

The Bill will ensure that Federal Interstate Registration Scheme charges are consistent with state and territory registration charges as of 1 July 2008.

National consistency in heavy vehicle regulation is important for our nation.

Heavy vehicles operate right across our country transporting freight across state and territory jurisdictions.

There are approximately 365,000 Heavy Vehicles operating in Australia.  Industry needs to be certain that it can operate nationally, without excessive red tape or confronting access issues at state borders.

In 2006 Heavy Vehicles moved a total of 1.69 billion tonnes of freight, representing 70% of the total domestic tonnes carried by all transport modes.

Successive Governments at both Commonwealth and State and Territory levels have supported the principle of cost recovery from the heavy vehicle industry for road construction and maintenance costs incurred through the collection of Heavy Vehicle Charges.

In a speech given on 28 June 2007 entitled The Coalition Government’s Transport Reform Agenda, the Member for Lyne, then Federal Transport Minister and Leader of the Nationals said:

The National Transport Commission will develop a new heavy vehicle charges determination to be implemented from 1 July 2008. 

The new determination will aim to recover the heavy vehicles’ allocated infrastructure costs in total and will also aim to remove cross-subsidisation across heavy vehicle classes.”

Recovery of road expenditure under the nationally agreed heavy vehicle charges is achieved through a combination of a fixed registration charge, collected by the states and territories and a road user charge collected by the Australian Government.  This Bill deals only with the registration charges.

The most recent heavy vehicle charge determination was introduced in 2001.  It established charges to recover past expenditure from the heavy vehicle sector, that at the same time, lowered registration fees for some larger trucks, effectively cross subsidising them. 

Registration charges were indexed while fuel charges were not.

As a result of this, the amount of money raised does not recover the cost of providing infrastructure for heavy vehicles.

This was confirmed in the December 2006 Productivity Commission Report into Road and Rail Infrastructure Pricing.

The National Transport Commission estimates that the current under-recovery is in excess of $100 million per annum.

In April 2007, the Council of Australian Governments directed that as part of an overall transport reform package, Australian Transport Ministers should require the National Transport Commission to prepare a new heavy Vehicle Determination. 

That determination was to deliver revised charges for introduction in 2008, which fully recovered the heavy vehicle industry’s share of aggregate government road expenditure, to index those arrangements so as to not lead to further under recovery, and to remove cross subsidisation across heavy vehicle classes.

During 2007, the National Transport Commission undertook a comprehensive consultation process which informed its final recommendations.

A six week consultation process on the draft Regulatory Impact Statement was undertaken.  This process involved written submissions, provision of industry briefings and a series of focus group consultations with industry, trade unions, state and territory governments, peak industry associations and freight customers.

As a result of these consultations, the National Transport Commission made a number of changes to its recommendations, which were discussed with industry and jurisdictions.

The Determination proposed by the National Transport Commission recommended a new set of registration charges which rebalance the relative contribution of different heavy vehicle classes.

These new charges will result in larger trucks, the B doubles and road trains, paying more in registration charges.  To assist the industry adjust, these increases will be phased in over three years.

They will also result in a reduction in charges for smaller trucks.

No longer will owners of smaller trucks have to subsidise the B doubles and road trains.

These changes better align charges to the impacts of those vehicles on our roads.

The Determination also increases the Road User Charge from 19.633 cents per litre to 21 cents per litre, indexed annually.

After consulting with the industry, the Government has decided to delay the increase in the Road User charge until 1 January 2009.

As I outlined earlier, this charge is not part of the Bill before the House, but a separate Declaration under the Fuel Tax Act 2006.

The Rudd Government has decided to supplement the Determination with a $70 million, four year Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package that will fund:

  • Trials of technologies that electronically monitor a truck driver’s work hours and vehicle speed;
  • The construction of more heavy vehicle rest stops and de-coupling areas along our highways and on the outskirts of our major cities to assist truck drivers rest; and
  • Bridge strengthening projects and upgrades to linkages between existing Auslink freight routes enabling access to those roads to more productive heavy vehicles.

The Government will consult with industry and state and territory Governments to determine the best combination of projects for the use of the $70 million package.

Since taking carriage of an issue that we inherited from the previous Government, the Government has been carefully listening to the views of the industry.

Our decision to implement the $70 million safety and productivity package, and to delay the implementation of the Road User Charge until 1 January 2009 were taken after consultations with industry.

On 29 February, Stuart St Clair from the Australian Trucking Association said:

“The trucking industry and working families will benefit from the Australian Government’s decision to delay increasing the fuel tax paid by trucking operators…”

“Minister Albanese has listened to the industry and delivered a strong result for trucking operators and Australian Families…”

The heavy vehicle industry needs to pay it’s fair share of road construction and maintenance costs.

It is also important that the very largest trucks pay their full share and that they are no longer subsidised by smaller trucks.

The new charges will be fairer to both those in the industry and to the wider community.  Importantly, the new charges deliver the Council of Australian Governments’ requirement for full and ongoing cost recovery.

The new charges will encourage state and territory Governments to facilitate access to the road network to higher productivity heavy vehicles.

This, in turn, would make better use of the nation’s infrastructure—a key element of the Rudd Labor Government’s plan to raise productivity, fight inflation and maintain economic growth.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.


ROAD TRANSPORT CHARGES (AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY) REPEAL BILL 2008

The Road Transport Charges (Australian Capital Territory) Repeal Bill (the Bill) 2008 meets the Australian Government’s obligation, under the Inter-Governmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Road, Rail and Intermodal Transport, to repeal any road transport legislation that has been enacted by the Commonwealth on behalf of the ACT.

The bill will repeal the Road Transport Charges (Australian Capital Territory) Act 1993, which will allow the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government to introduce new heavy vehicle registration charges into its own legislative arrangements, in the same manner as the other states and territories and by the agreed implementation date of 1 July 2008.

The new charges are set out in the 2007 Heavy Vehicle Charges Determination, which was endorsed by the Australian Transport Council at its meeting on 29 February 2008. The new heavy vehicle charges are one component of the Rudd Labor Government’s broader heavy vehicle productivity and safety agenda.

That Determination will be implemented in part by The Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill 2008 which enables nationally agreed new Heavy Vehicle registration charges to be applied to heavy vehicles registered under the Australian Government’s Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS).

The repeal will become effective from midnight on 30 June 2008, to coincide with the implementation by the ACT of the new charges to ensure a seamless transition.

It is necessary to allow the ACT to implement the new charges within its own legislative framework.

The ACT and other jurisdictions have been consulted on this amendment.

I commend the bill to the senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator O’Brien) adjourned.

Ordered that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour.