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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7888

Mr HAYES (10:18 AM) —I almost treat the fact that I am following the member for Wide Bay in this debate on the Road Transport Reform (Dangerous Goods) Repeal Bill 2009 with some honour, particularly considering his previous capacity in presiding over the regional rorts leading up to the last election. He did correct me once. I referred to the ‘Bo Derek railway’, and he actually corrected me, and I take that correction—it was the Beaudesert railway. What I did not recall at the time was Tumbi Creek, where a body of effort went into attempting to secure conservative seats.

Mr Farmer interjecting

Mr HAYES —I will take the interjection from my learned colleague the member for Macarthur.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—I ask the member to continue, if he wants to respond, but we should not be paying attention to interjections. If one wishes to ask a question, there is a facility here to do so.

Mr HAYES —If he had asked me a question about that vital piece of road infrastructure in the south-west of Sydney, I would have said that the F5 actually runs into the electorate of Macarthur as well as the electorate of Werriwa. I campaigned very strongly, as many members did, about improving those pieces of essential infrastructure. I was not the member who decided that, instead of actually widening that essential piece of infrastructure, you could build on top of it; you could put up layer upon layer upon layer. It almost became the notion of the ‘Sara Lee’ of road transport for that last election. That was something that was absolutely astonishing.

Mr Farmer —Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to address a question to the member for Werriwa.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Is the honourable member seeking to ask a question?

Mr Farmer —Yes, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Will the member for Werriwa accept the question?

Mr HAYES —Absolutely.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Macarthur may proceed.

Mr Farmer —I ask the member for Werriwa: was it or was it not the Howard government that agreed to the $52 million worth of funding for the widening of the F5 that traverses both Macarthur and, of course, Werriwa, and that you are the beneficiary of the widening of that road?

Mr HAYES —The funding to widen the F5 was not $52 million; it came under AusLink 2. It is a $140 million project of which the Labor Party, leading up to the last election, agreed with the New South Wales government that the federal Labor government would contribute $112 million to that project. I announced that with the then minister, Martin Ferguson. It followed a series of questions that I asked in this place of the then transport minister, the member for Robertson. He was not prepared to give the commitment to widen that piece of infrastructure or to guarantee that the money would be made available for it. It was not until the Labor Party went out there—Martin Ferguson and I—that the member for Macarthur, Pat Farmer, decided to go out and try to gazump us two or three days later.

Ms Hall —How long before the election?

Mr HAYES —It certainly happened just before the election, but only after the Labor Party gave that commitment.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Macarthur is welcome at any stage to seek, if he wishes, to ask another question, if the member for Werriwa is happy to take it.

Mr Farmer —Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. My question was quite specific, and it was quite simply this: was it or was it not the Howard government that had already started work and that had supported the funding for the widening of the F5 between Macarthur and Werriwa? Yes or no?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Macarthur has had his intervention. I will point out that the standing orders, in respect of question time, do not apply to interventions.

Mr HAYES —Again, I am happy to take the question. The member indicated last time that there was a commitment by his government to put $52 million into that project. Once again, I remind the member for Macarthur that there is a $140 million project. The agreement was entered into between the opposition at that stage and the New South Wales government to commit to an agenda of a federal contribution, on the succession of a Rudd Labor government, of $112 million into that project. I am happy to say, and no doubt the member for Macarthur sees it daily—that is, if he visits his electorate daily as he travels from Mosman to Macarthur—that this work is now well and truly on track, and it was a priority that this government—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member will resume his seat. Is the member for Macarthur seeking another intervention?

Mr Farmer —Quite simply, Madam Deputy Speaker, could you draw the member for Werriwa back to the original question.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —As I indicated quite early to the member for Macarthur, the standing orders in respect of question time do not apply to interventions. But I will draw the member for Werriwa’s attention to the actual bill before us today because I think the entertainment between the two adjoining seats has probably gone on for long enough and we are addressing the Road Transport Reform (Dangerous Goods) Repeal Bill 2009.

Mr HAYES —Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I do accept your wise counsel. This is an important bill, although it is a bill that, on face value, may just look technical. The Road Transport Reform (Dangerous Goods) Repeal Bill 2009 meets the Australian government’s obligation under the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Road, Rail and Intermodal Transport. It repeals any road transport legislation that has been enacted by the Commonwealth on behalf of the ACT, the Australian Capital Territory. That is to coincide with the passage of legislation by the ACT. The intergovernmental agreement sets out the principles and processes for cooperation between the Commonwealth, the states and the territories in the progress of regulatory and operational reform to roads, rail and intermodal transport in order to deliver a sustained national consistency of outcome in this essential area.

The bill will repeal the Road Transport Reform (Dangerous Goods) Act 1995 and will allow the Australian Capital Territory to implement the updated Australian Dangerous Goods Code and the associated model legislation in its own legislative arrangements. In the same way, each of the other states and the Northern Territory are able to bring that code into operation. It should be noted that the ACT government cannot implement the updated Dangerous Goods Code and the associated model legislation until the Australian government repeals the existing dangerous goods legislation. The repeal will come into effect on a day to be fixed by proclamation, but it will coincide with the passage of the ACT government’s actions to ensure that a seamless transfer of the new dangerous goods transport provisions occurs.

By way of background, the legislative responsibility for transport of dangerous goods on roads and rail is a matter for the states and territories. To avoid the cost of disruption which arises from different requirements governing the transport of dangerous goods around the country, transport ministers, through the Australian Transport Council, asked the National Transport Commission to develop a national legislative framework to provide consistency in the rules and standards. The national framework is also periodically updated to ensure that the components remain current.

The dangerous goods package has two main elements. It sets the model regulations and, importantly, a technical safety code known as the Australian Dangerous Goods Code. The Australian Dangerous Goods Code is a technical document setting out detailed instructions for the safe transport of dangerous goods by road or rail and is based on international model regulations. It addresses issues such as classification, labelling, packaging, stowing and bulk transport. The international regulations also underpin the international aviation and maritime codes for transport of dangerous goods. The adoption of the UN requirements into Australian requirements thus promotes international harmonisation to facilitate safe and effective trade arrangements and transportation affecting dangerous goods.

The regulations are under the National Transport Commission Act 2003, which provides a legislative scheme of arrangement that serves as the sole reference point for the nationally agreed standards. The model regulation approach reflects the 2003 Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Road, Rail and Intermodal Transport and it commits to the establishment of model legislation under the National Transport Commission Act to enable the implementation of nationally agreed reforms endorsed by the Australian Transport Council. The model legislation is subordinate to the National Transport Commission Act as the enabling act, and it is made by regulation.

The model regulations allow for implementation in each jurisdiction using the most convenient and effective regulatory route available to them. For instance, the provisions may be incorporated into the law of a state or territory by amending their existing dangerous goods legislation as it applies. At the Commonwealth level, the regulations are not operative—that is, they are not live—but seek to be the sole reference point for jurisdictions to adopt into their own legislative arrangements as nationally consistent transport legislation. This approach replaces the earlier template model approach which, it is well conceded, proved to be unworkable. Consider the amount of variation that takes place between various states and territories as they move between their respective legislators to customise legislation; things get lost in the mix. This becomes essential, particularly when we are talking about something as critical as the transportation of dangerous goods, to ensure that there is less variation, that there is absolute standardisation, in the way we go about delivering consistent and workable laws concerning the transportation of dangerous goods in this country.

The current dangerous goods package, which was developed by the National Transport Commission under the direction of the Australian Transport Council, incorporates the seventh edition of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code and the National Transport Commission’s Model Legislation—Dangerous Goods (Road or Rail) Regulation 2009. Very briefly, the key elements of that package are to adopt, to the extent possible, the latest available United Nations’s model regulations, retaining Australian specific requirements where appropriate; to harmonise with air and sea regulations; to incorporate amendments, accumulated over recent years, that reflect agreed practice; and to provide a single set of updated regulations for the transportation of dangerous goods by road or rail, using the model regulation approach.

As I said before, the implementation of the code is the responsibility of the state and territory governments. Through this process of having model legislation, we are seeking to achieve definite harmonisation. In response to COAG’s consideration of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into chemical and plastic regulation, the Australian Transport Council agreed that the National Transport Commission would undertake an independent review of the consistency with which the Australian Dangerous Goods Code has been adopted throughout the Commonwealth and how it has been applied through each of our state and territory jurisdictions. The review will commence within 12 months of the implementation of these reforms. As I understand it, it will be some time in the first half of 2010. The responsibility for policy development and monitoring of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code and legislation will remain with the National Transport Commission, and it will continue to report to the Australian Transport Council on these matters.

In summary, the development of the national dangerous goods package has been a lengthy and complex process, but it has provided the framework for efficient, effective and nationally consistent regulation of dangerous goods transportation across this country. Our technical requirements are consistent with international requirements, thus facilitating trade. This is good for business, but it also provides confidence to the community that dangerous goods are being transported in a safe and consistent manner. However, this is not a static process, and the National Transport Commission will need to continue its role to maintain the dangerous goods provisions to ensure that they are consistent, they are updated and they continually reflect the requirements that are set at both international levels and local levels. The Australian Transport Commission commits to that review, as I mentioned a little earlier, and that will ensure that there will be that consistent harmonisation. For those reasons, I commend this bill to the House.