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Tuesday, 5 November 1985
Page: 1511


Senator KILGARIFF(12.36) —In speaking to the Interstate Road Transport Bill 1985 and the Interstate Road Transport Charge Bill 1985, I endorse what has been said by previous speakers on behalf of the coalition. They have outlined what we see as the problems associated with this legislation. It has been said that this legislation stems from the findings of the National Road Freight Industry Inquiry held last year. A committee of inquiry was established to look into the problems of the industry and it has produced a report which includes some 98 recommendations.

The industry and its representatives have generally been supportive of the recommendations of the committee, particularly as they relate to the need for adequate safety standards and uniformity between the States. But, as several of my colleagues have already pointed out, the industry is not satisfied with the legislation proceeding at this stage because there is a feeling in the industry that there has been far from adequate consultation on the effects of the Bills proposed by the Government. I note that Senator Archer, the shadow Minister in charge of this legislation, referred to a telegram from Mr Reg Mullins. It is interesting to note that the telegram stated:

. . . that an estimated 95 per cent of interstate road freight is carried by owner drivers. Contrary to information you may have, very few of these owner drivers are represented by any organisation, i.e. Freight Forwarders Association, Master Carriers Association, TWU or the Long Distance Road Transport Association.

The telegram continued:

No doubt the above organisations claim to represent a large proportion of interstate owner drivers, however--

according to Mr Reg Mullins-

this is quite untrue.

He says that he represents the views of many individual owner-drivers and that the legislation should not commence until the proposals are looked at in detail. The people in the road transport industry are worried. They are legitimately concerned that they may be hit with charges which they will not be able to meet and which, in some instances, will make their businesses unviable. One can well imagine that with today's cost of fuel and other associated costs. We have also been told by the Government that the cost of registration will be in the order of $1,400; yet figures four and five times as high are being cast around by some sources. It is very indefinite. The difficulty people in the industry have with this legislation is that they still do not know how the registration fee will be calculated, and the reason they do not know is that the Government itself does not know and therefore is unable to tell them. Yet we have the situation that, with what seems to be almost indecent haste, this legislation is being rushed through the Senate. This is a very moot point. The legislation before us is supposedly part of uniform Commonwealth and State legislation. Yet, as far as I can see from what has been said in the Senate today-Senator Jessop, for instance, spoke about the attitude of the States and what have you-the States are a long way away yet from being able to appreciate what is in the May report and bringing in legislation of their own. So it would not matter if this legislation was not passed now.

As I see it, this legislation, if pushed through and passed now, will not commence for perhaps six months or 12 months. Why rush through legislation at this time when so much more information is required? Certainly, there needs to be much more consultation. Of course, the Inter-State Commission is looking into cost recovery for road and rail transport. I understand that that report will not be available until next April. Obviously the legislation before us will not commence until perhaps the latter part of next year or maybe 1987. Surely it would be sensible and wise to see what is in the report on cost recovery for road and rail transport. The States obviously need more time to study the May report and the report of the Inter-State Commission which has yet to be tabled.

This whole matter comes back again to the question of consultation, particularly consultation with the owner-drivers who feel that they have been left out on a limb despite the claim by Mr Reg Mullins that some 95 per cent of the long haulage freight is carried by these people. As I was saying, the problem is that the road transport industry has no idea at this stage of what sort of fee will be involved. It is quite obvious, from listening to the debate today, that we do not know either. It appears that perhaps the Government does not know what the fee will actually be under a formula that it has still to introduce. It seems to me to be a rather poor approach for Federal parliamentarians to pass legislation now which will affect people in the trucking, carriage or transport industry when we do not know the costs that we are going to put on their shoulders. This seems to be a rather unusual way of approaching legislation which is going to hit a most important part of Australian life and certaintly life in the outback. I will have a few words to say about that in a little while.

Like many of my coalition colleagues, I have received representations from those most directly affected by the legislation before us. All of the representations that I have received have called upon me to move, with others in this Senate, to defer the passage of this legislation so as to allow, as I have said before, for full consideration of the legislation by people in the industry. A Northern Territory operator has informed me that this legislation has the potential to add approximately $1,400 to the cost of a truck and trailer travelling from Alice Springs to Darwin. The operator protested very strongly and went so far as to suggest that the success of this legislation could mean the failure of his business. Having some knowledge of the trucking business in the outback, I can very much appreciate his fears.

Given that the Inter-State Commission will not be reporting until next April, I cannot see why this legislation cannot be dealt with in the autumn sittings of Parliament next year when we will all be more aware of its total impact on the road transport industry and its indirect effects upon the community. Might I add that everyone in the Senate and within the community wants uniform road safety measures. At least we will have State road safety legislation to fall back on until such time as the Federal Government's legislation is commenced. Perhaps not all of the State measures are desirable. However, a uniform situation will not be brought about until the States have passed their legislation.

Debate interrupted.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.