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Tuesday, 8 October 1985
Page: 796


Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance)(3.49) —I move:

That the Bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speeches in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows-

INTERSTATE ROAD TRANSPORT BILL

1985

The importance of the road transport industry to Australian transport cannot be over emphasised. Some 75 per cent of all freight is moved at some stage by this industry.

Overall the industry performs almost 30 per cent of the total domestic transport task.

For all that, it is an industry that is not without significant problems, notably a history of a lack of clear national direction. It generally experiences all the difficulties associated with an over-supply of capacity. These problems are exacerbated in times of economic downturn such as that which occurred in 1982-83.

The road transport industry has more than its fair share of instability. It is easy to get into, yet once in operators find it virtually impossible to leave of their own accord.

This instability is reflected by the rate of bankruptcies, amongst the highest for any industry. It is compounded by the `shonky' or fly-by-night operator who often disappears leaving the battling small truckie unpaid.

The lack of clear national direction has contributed to the development of inequities within the industry, where some operators do not contribute as much as others to the maintenance of our roads through registration fees.

These circumstances have their human face-the small businessman who having invested everything in his trucking operation finds he loses not only his business but his house and often his family. Those who stay in the industry face the prospects of a continuing battle of living hand to mouth often working long hours pushing themselves and their trucks to the limit.

Whilst claims are often made that some even go beyond limits to endanger safety, the vast majority in the industry attempt to do a good honest job in the most professional manner possible.

It is regrettable, however, that previous Federal Governments ignored the pleas for help until industry circumstances became so bad that some operators felt they had no alternative but to take the extreme action that led to the Razorback blockade of 1979. Whilst the States provided some assistance, when the dust had cleared there was still no real Federal leadership.

It was only when we assumed office that there was a Federal Government prepared to take a comprehensive look at the industry. We commissioned a National Road Freight Industry Inquiry with, I am pleased to say, the full co-operation of all State and Territory governments. This initiative was welcomed by the industry, unions and users.

The Inquiry, comprising Mr Tom May (Chairman), Professor Gordon Mills and Mr Jim Scully presented its report in September 1984. This excellent report provided a blue-print for a new and vigorous direction to improve the industry.

The general thrust of the Inquiry's Report was endorsed in December 1984 by the Australian Transport Advisory Council (ATAC) which comprises Federal, State and Territory Ministers responsible for transport and marine matters. An initial fast-track package of reforms based on the Inquiry's recommendations was subsequently endorsed by ATAC in June 1985.

The report and the subsequent fast-track package have received broad industry and general community support as these groups have recognised that the recommendations must be implemented as a package.

I cannot recall any other transport initiative of such importance which has generated and maintained the goodwill and co-operation between Federal, State and Territory governments and all sections of the industry.

The fast-track package endorsed by ATAC involved the following initiatives:

For the Federal Government:

the introduction of legislation providing for the registration of vehicles and the licensing of operators engaged in interstate trade and commerce

the establishment of the Australian Road Freight Transport Advisory Committee (ARTAC) within the Transport Industries Advisory Council.

For State Governments:

the introduction of graduated truck driver licences which will require that the drivers operating the large interstate vehicles have had appropriate experience

improvements in railway cost recovery to match any improvements in cost recovery in the road freight industry (this would also apply to Australian National)

the introduction of May reforms relating to finance and insurance to provide owner-operators with access to existing consumer protection arrangements

removal of fees charged by some States on vehicles already registered in another State

removal of the speed limit differential between trucks and other vehicles outside built up areas.

The fast-track package represents a balanced set of reforms for the industry designed to increase professionalism, improve overall safety and set in place a workable cost recovery program.

This legislation is the first step in implementing the recommendations of the May report. It is landmark legislation.

It also represents another element in achieving the Federal Government's national transport objectives which include:

the development of safe, efficient transport systems for the movement of goods and people both within Australia and in international trade

providing the opportunity for all Australians to have reasonable access to transport services for employment, business, recreational and other needs

and implementing these aims in the most efficient and socially effective way.

This legislation should also be seen in the context of the principles which guide our involvement in transport.

Simply stated these principles include:

investing in transport infrastructure where there is clear economic and social justification.

requiring users to meet the full costs of government provided infrastructure and services to improve economic efficiency

the only exceptions should be where there are clearly identified social requirements.

I cannot emphasise too strongly the importance of the co-operation that has been shown by the States and Territory governments, the industry, unions and users. All recognise the value in maintaining the package aproach so strongly advocated by the National Road Freight Industry Inquiry.

Accordingly I envisage the progressive implementation through proclamation of the two elements contained in this legislation. I expect the vehicle registration scheme to be proclaimed once substantial progress has been made on implementing the other parts of the fast-track package.

Introduction of the operator licensing scheme will follow and is expected to be proclaimed to complement equivalent State legislation.

In both cases it is intended that the administration of the Federal schemes will be undertaken by the States and Territory governments as they already have the experience and administrative infrastructure substantially in place.

Through this practical example of Federal and State governments working together and with industry we will be able to minimise administrative costs to the industry and reduce bureaucratic involvement.

I would now like to turn to the details of the Interstate Road Transport Bill, the first step in implementing the recommendations of the National Road Freight Industry Inquiry.

The legislation before us today can be divided into the following two parts:

that providing for the registration of vehicles engaged in interstate trade and commerce, and

that establishing a system of operator licensing for those engaged in interstate trade and commerce.

As I noted earlier, sections 6 and 7 of the Bill provide the arrangements under which the existing State and Territory authorities will operate as agents for the Federal Government in the implementation of both the registration and operator licensing schemes. This approach allows these schemes to be introduced in a manner that minimises the cost to industry.

Operators who use vehicles solely for Interstate, State-Territory, and Territory-Territory operations may choose to register their vehicles under the Federal scheme.

As provided by section 8, however, any vehicle which has full State or Territory registration can still engage in interstate trade and commerce.

Section 8 will remove the current situation where some vehicles solely engaged in interstate trade and commerce can register under some state schemes where they pay only a nominal fee.

Where it is intended that a vehicle be registered under the Federal scheme the owner will be required to ensure that, in accordance with the provisions of section 9, the appropriate fees have been paid, the vehicle has been inspected by an approved authority, the vehicle is safe and that requirements relating to insurance have been met.

Sections 10 and 11 provide that where a vehicle does not meet safety requirements or have appropriate insurance, it should not be driven on the roads and the appropriate authority can cancel or suspend registration.

Section 12 allows the owner to surrender Federal registration and in such circumstances, under Section 18, be entitled to receive an appropriate refund.

Section 13 provides for regulations in regard to registered vehicles covering such matters as the display of appropriate registration labels and plates and the maintenance of vehicles.

Under the provisions of sections 14 to 19, the conditions under which Federal registration charges are payable are defined. There is provision for an owner to nominate either a rate based on the actual distance travelled by the vehicle or accept a flat fixed fee.

In circumstances where an owner wishes to utilise the actual distance amount the vehicle must be fitted with an approved charge monitoring device. Such devices are required to reduce the risk of evasion of appropriate charges through tampering or falsification of records. We could not afford to rely on the notorious log books of yesterday.

Under both charging arrangements it will be a requirement that an initial fee equivalent to the fixed registration fee will be paid at the commencement of the registration period.

In the event that a Federally registered vehicle is used for part of the year in intrastate operations, section 19 permits a refund to be paid on the basis of the proportion of total distance travelled in approved intrastate operations to total distance travelled during the registration period.

Sections 21 to 23 establish the Interstate Road Transport Trust Fund to be operated on the same basis as the Australian Bicentennial Road Development Fund and the Australian Land Transport Program Trust Fund.

All vehicle charges will be paid into this Trust Fund.

Payments from the Trust Fund shall be made to the States and the Territories for the maintenance and upkeep of roads used by vehicles registered under the Federal scheme.

As established by the principles described in section 23 the distribution of Trust Fund moneys will be based on the actual road usage by these vehicles in the respective States and Territories. This arrangement guarantees that the integrity of the Trust Fund will be maintained as expenditure of monies raised by the registration scheme will be directly related to road damage caused by these vehicles.

Normal conditions relating to the provision of appropriate information and audits are also included in section 23. In addition, a condition of payment from the Trust Fund is that the States will not impose fees or charges on interstate or other States' registered vehicles to which they do not also subject their own vehicles.

Regulations would be introduced to rule ineligible any such State scheme, thus providing Federal Parliament with the opportunity to ensure that the regulations are consistent with the stated objective of the fast-track package of eliminating `out-of-State fees'.

It is intended that the operator licensing provisions of Part 5 of the Bill will be introduced in conjunction with similar schemes operated by the States. Section 25 will require that all those involved in interstate trade and commerce hold a Federal or State operator's licence whether engaging in business as a truck operator, freight forwarder or agent.

The granting of a Federal licence will be automatic provided the applicant is not a disqualified person or the declared associate of a disqualified person.

However, section 26 provides that the Federal licence will not be granted until at least 7 days after the application is made. This will allow any person who proposes to become an interstate road transport operator to consider appropriate information on the pitfalls that can be encountered in the industry.

In this way we are maintaining freedom of entry into the industry whilst providing the means to ensure that people who join do so with their eyes wide open.

Arrangements under which a person is disqualified from participating in the interstate road transport business are established in section 27. In simple terms these provisions are directed at the person who has operated in a manner that compromises public safety. Disqualification will be determined by the courts.

Section 28 provides that records obtained from monitoring devices cannot be used in an application for disqualification until any criminal proceedings have been dealt with by the courts, have been dropped or are not to be initiated.

Section 30 establishes the circumstances under which a person may be declared to be the associate of a disqualified person. This association is taken to be established if the disqualified person has the capacity to influence the operation of an interstate road transport business.

Sections 31 and 32 provide for appropriate registers to be kept and require that annual notice be given by those people wishing to continue to hold their Federal operators licence.

Section 34 allows the Minister to establish Federal road safety standards. These standards may be used as part of the criteria against which the conduct of those engaged in interstate transport can be judged to determine whether public safety is at risk.

Part 6 of the Bill relates to the installation and use of appropriate monitoring devices. This will enable the objective assessment of claims of unprofessional conduct by parts of the industry.

Section 43 provides drivers and operators with a number of protections regarding the use of records produced by monitoring devices. In essence, these records will not be available to prosecute individual breaches of traffic laws. However they may be adduced by the defence.

Through the use of appropriate monitoring devices the Federal scheme will contribute to greater professionalism and safer operating arrangements within the industry.

Under Sections 44 to 47 appropriate arrangements are established to allow authorised officers to stop and inspect vehicles and to examine records.

Section 49 formally establishes that this legislation is subject to the requirement to maintain section 92 of the Constitution. Section 52 also guarantees that those operating under the Federal registration and licensing schemes will not be impeded by any State or Territory arrangements that are in direct conflict with the Federal provisions.

Delegations which are necessary for a comprehensive national scheme are authorised by section 50. Under section 51 certain decisions taken by the authorities are made subject to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act.

This legislation represents a major advance for Australian land transport.

As I emphasised earlier it is part of a broader package of balanced measures to continue the development of the road transport industry. It is legislation that is long overdue.

This legislation complements our land transport initiatives which include:

the Australian land transport program (ALTP) which continues our road funding efforts at record levels

the Australian land transport program also determines which portion of fuel excise is related to roads investment and which portion is a general tax

the Australian National Railways Commission Act which establishes a more commercially oriented Australian National with clear targets against which its commercial performance can be judged

establishment of the Inter-State Commission to function as a standing committee of inquiry on interstate transport matters. The Minister for Transport has referred to the Commission the vexed issue of the relative levels of cost recovery for interstate road and competing rail operations.

With these matters the Hawke Government has established the first comprehensive and coherent land transport strategy for this nation.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

INTERSTATE ROAD TRANSPORT CHARGE BILL 1985

This Bill is an integral part of the Federal interstate vehicle registration scheme established by the Interstate Road Transport Bill.

It provides for charges to be paid by motor vehicles and trailers registered under the Interstate Road Transport Bill.

These charges are to recover road maintenance and upkeep costs resulting from damage to roads by motor vehicles and trailers engaged in interstate trade and commerce.

Clause 5 refers to the two charging options established by the Principal Bill. It provides for a schedule of vehicle charges to be established for either the actual distance option or the nominal distance option.

Clause 6 provides for these charges to be made by regulation.

The Minister for Transport has already directed the Inter-State Commission to review the issue of cost recovery from vehicles engaged in interstate trade and commerce. The Commission is to report by 30 April 1986 and has been asked to recommend appropriate charges to apply under the Federal scheme having regard to equivalent State charges and the cost recovery rates achieved by competing rail services.

In the event that it is necessary to establish charges not based on the Commission's report these will reflect the views of the National Road Freight Industry Inquiry. The Inquiry saw an initial fee of $1,400 for a 38 tonne unit as appropriate.

Accordingly should such charges be required the fixed annual fee would be determined on the basis of the following schedule:

SCHEDULE OF FEDERAL INTERSTATE VEHICLE AND TRAILER CHARGES

GVM/GCM *

Charge

up to 2.5 Tonnes...

$3.20 / Quarter Tonne

2.5 to 5 Tonnes...

$32 Plus $0.90 / Quarter Tonne

5 to 7.5 Tonnes...

$41 Plus $1.30 / Quarter Tonne

7.5 to 10 Tonnes...

$54 Plus $1.60 / Quarter Tonne

10 to 12.5 Tonnes...

$70 Plus $2.20 / Quarter Tonne

12.5 to 15 Tonnes...

$92 Plus $2.80 / Quarter Tonne

15 to 17.5 Tonnes...

$120 Plus $3.70 / Quarter Tonne

17.5 to 20 Tonnes...

$157 Plus $4.80 / Quarter Tonne

20 to 22.5 Tonnes...

$205 Plus $6.30 / Quarter Tonne

22.5 to 25 Tonnes...

$268 Plus $8.10 / Quarter Tonne

25 to 27.5 Tonnes...

$349 Plus $10.70 / Quarter Tonne

27.5 to 30 Tonnes...

$456 Plus $14.00 / Quarter Tonne

30 to 32.5 Tonnes...

$596 Plus $18.20 / Quarter Tonne

32.5 to 35 Tonnes...

$778 Plus $23.90 / Quarter Tonne

35 to 37 Tonnes...

$1,017 Plus $31.10 / Quarter Tonne

37.5 Tonnes and over...

$1,328 Plus $40.60 / Quarter Tonne

* Gross Vehicle Mass or Gross Combination Mass as applicable.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Sheil) adjourned.