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National Land Transport Amendment (Best Practice Rail Investment) Bill 2017

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2017

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Land Transport Amendment (Best Practice Rail Investment) Bill 2017

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

and

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circulated by authority of

Cathy McGowan



National Land Transport Amendment (Best Practice Rail Investment) Bill 2017

 

OUTLINE

The purpose of the Bill is to strengthen the social and community benefit considerations that are assessed when the Minister approves an Investment Project under the National Land Transport Act 2014.  

The Bill adds matters which the Minister must consider when approving a project as an Investment Project and mandates that the Minister address each matter listed in the Bill. The Bill also requires a summary of the evidence supporting the approval of an Investment Project to be published on the department website and tabled in Parliament.

Under the amendments, when the project involves the construction of a new railway, or the upgrade of an existing railway, the amendments require the Minister to consider:

·          the extent to which the project prioritises passenger rail services, demonstrates best practice in rail infrastructure investment and maximises the community benefits from Commonwealth investment; and

·          the extent to which the project can lift the level of service and standard of existing rail infrastructure to maximise the benefit to communities along the railway (for example by facilitating better passenger services);

The Minister would also be required to consider the extent to which the project maximises rural and regional economic and social development benefits and the extent to which the project meets, or will meet, the current and future needs of the users of the infrastructure.

Outside of capital cities infrastructure investment is traditionally measured in economic terms and not social good. Projects in the cities largely focus on easing urban congestion, a clear social benefit. The Bill addresses this gap. In metropolitan Australia rail infrastructure supports dedicated networks for freight and passenger movement. In rural and regional Australia this infrastructure is a shared resource and decisions regarding Commonwealth investment must consider it as such.  In considering infrastructure investment in rural and regional Australia consideration must be given to both the economic and social value. The most direct way to maximise the social benefit of rail investment is to prioritise passenger rail.  

An example of the gap in policy is the Inland Rail project. It proposes a freight rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane, through hundreds of rural communities.  There is no mention of rural or regional passenger services being upgraded in any of the project material. The only consideration of passengers is for the positive benefit gained by removing freight from Sydney and reducing congestion for Sydney passenger trains.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

The bill will have no financial impact.

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

Clause 1: Short title

 

Clause 1 is a formal provision specifying the short title of the Act.

 

Clause 2: Commencement

 

The Act commences on the day after the Act receives the Royal Assent.

 

Clause 3: Schedules

 

This clause gives effect to the provisions in Schedule 1 of the Bill.

 

Schedule 1 - Amendments

 

Item 1 omits the current wording of Section 11 and substitutes new words.

 

This section relates to the matters which the Minister may have regard in deciding whether it is appropriate to approve a project as an Investment Project.

 

The amendment will omit: “The matters to which the Minister may have regard in deciding whether it is appropriate to approve a project as an Investment Project include, but are not limited to, the following matters:”, and substitute “The Minister must have regard to the following matters in deciding whether it is appropriate to approve a project as an Investment Project:”.

 

The intent of this amendment is to remove ambiguity about the items the Minister will consider when deciding if it is appropriate to approve an investment project.

 

When taken with the later amendments at Item 2, the amendment does not limit the Minister to only considering these matters, but would be the minimum requirements the Minister must consider before approving a project as an Investment Project.

 

Item 2 inserts a new section at the end of Section 11.

 

This section relates to the matters which Minister may have regard in deciding whether it is appropriate to approve a project as an Investment Project.

 

If the project involves the construction of a new railway, or the upgrade of an existing railway the amendments would require the Minister to consider:

 

·          the extent to which the project prioritises passenger rail services, demonstrates best practice in rail infrastructure investment and maximises the community benefits from Commonwealth investment; and

·          the extent to which the project can lift the level of service and standard of existing rail infrastructure to maximise the benefit to communities along the railway (for example by facilitating better passenger services);

The Minister would also be required to consider the extent to which the project maximises rural and regional economic and social development benefits and the extent to which the project meets, or will meet, the current and future needs of the users of infrastructure .

 

A subparagraph has been added to ensure the Minister is not limited to only considering the matters listed under Section 11, this would allow the Minister to also consider any other matter that is relevant to the decision.

 

Item 3 inserts a new section after paragraph 13(1)(a) .

 

This section relates to the matters specified in the project approval instrument.  The amendment adds an additional requirement the Minister also sets out the reasons why the Minister has decided that it is appropriate to approve the project in the project approval instrument.

 

Item 4 inserts a new section at the end of section 13

 

This section relates to the matters specified in the project approval instrument. The amendments will require the Secretary of the department to publish the project approval instrument for each Investment Project and provide a summary of the evidence which the Minister’s considered in making the decision that it was appropriate to approve this Investment Project. This summary would include the matters considered under Section 11 of the Act.

 

The Secretary would publish these documents on the website as soon as practicable after the instrument is made.

 

This section would also require the Minister to table the published documents on the next sitting day of the House after the documents are published.

 

Item 5 relates to the application of the amendments outline in the schedule

 

This section relates to the applications of the Amendments, the amendments will apply to the approval of projects as Investment Projects on or after the commencement of the Schedule, which will occur on the day after the Act receives Royal Assent.

 



STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

National Land Transport Amendment (Best Practice Rail Investment) Bill 2017

 

This bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the bill

The purpose of the Bill is to strengthen the social and community benefit considerations that are assessed when the Minister approves an Investment Project under the National Land Transport Act 2014. 

 

Human rights implications

 

This bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms. 

 

Conclusion

 

This bill is compatible with human rights because it does not raise any human rights issues.

 

 

 

 

Cathy McGowan