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Friday, 8 November 1985
Page: 1826


Senator ARCHER(11.13) —Apart from the fact that the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt) succeeded in not answering any of the points I raised last time, I take the opportunity to say that the Opposition will not be supporting the amendments, mainly because they say absolutely nothing. Of course the Government accepts them because they say absolutely nothing. I still ask the Minister whether he will please give me the information I have asked for as to the issues not in the legislation; the Federal-State overlapping question, the cost recovery figures, the actual amounts of money we are talking about, the position of the Inter-State Commission, the government trading authorities, this new organisation that it appears will be set up and things like that.

I will go on with a few more questions. What about the position with the States at the moment? If the States are reluctant to agree, at what stage will the Minister say that he has substantial agreement and pronounce the legislation, which is what he said he will not do until substantial agreement is reached? How are we going to organise this legislation to cover rail charges? We have the problem in particular with the Australian National Railways; the Minister says that he is going to see that rail costs are raised. I understand that the ANR has reduced freight charges by 20 per cent between Adelaide and Alice Springs. Are we going to put it up by 20 per cent again, plus something, or are we just going to add a little bit to it? In particular I am interested, as Senator Grimes is, in what will happen in Tasmania where the State does not have control of the railways but depends on them entirely. It was the Federal Government that decided it wanted to buy the Tasmanian Government railways system. I want to see that the Government maintains its responsibility and that the railways system operates effectively.

What about the States that have special arrangements over, say, coal, iron or timber, as in Western Australia, or wheat, as in New South Wales particularly? What about the particular requirements and arrangements there? Are these going to have to be changed? What happens if they are changed and what happens if they are not? I understand that there has been considerable consultation. I concede that there has been considerable consultation and that the Transport Workers Union is delighted. The Long Distance Road Transport Association has been well represented and has done its homework very well. It has done a very good job for its very limited membership, but what about the unaffiliated drivers? I am getting a considerable amount of communication from non-affiliated drivers all around Australia who say that they have not been given any information and that until the last couple of weeks in most cases they had not even had an opportunity to discuss it with one another at meetings. Certainly I knew, as those of us in the chamber knew, that this Inquiry into the National Road Freight Industry was carried out some time ago. Very few of the drivers, and the owner-drivers in particular, have had an opportunity to see a copy of the report or even to try to understand what it is all about. It is an occupational hazard with drivers. We have to accept the fact that they do need more help than if they were lawyers or parliamentarians.

At this stage there has still been considerably less than adequate consultation. The non-affiliated drivers certainly agree that they would like to see some form of arrangements made but what they have said is that they would like to have a little time to think about it. Ideally they would like to have until they see what the Inter-State Commission recovery plan is all about. The Government desperately wants to see this legislation passed before the Inter-State Commission starts putting figures on the cost recovery question. However, the drivers want to see what the cost recovery question is all about before there is any legislation. They had a firm promise from Senator Vigor that nothing would happen until December, which would give them another four weeks at least, but that has not happened. I am sure that the Government-I am not sure about Senator Vigor-does not want to race blindly into another Razorback Green Dog situation because of a lack of consultation or a lack of understanding by these people.

Has there been any form of impact projection? Has the Government been able to say what is going to happen to freight rates, what is going to be the effect on the small to medium operator, who is going to benefit and who is going to lose, what is it going to do to the failure probabilities of trucking businesses, what effects will it have on sub-contractors and what will it cost to operate? Surely the Government has done a lot of work on this already and it must have all this information available. When Senator Gietzelt answers my first list of questions, which he has not yet done, perhaps he will give me answers to those questions as well.

Senator Gietzelt said that I had said that I was going to produce 50 amendments. I did not say anything of the sort. It would probably take considerably more than 50 amendments to make this into a reasonable piece of legislation. What I did say was that I had identified 50 clauses in the Bill which would require regulations; it would probably require considerably more than 50 regulations. I will not labour the Senate again by reading those but I would be prepared to incorporate them so that honourable senators can see which ones are relevant, but there are 50 areas where I can see that regulations are going to be required. Clearly the legislation is going to produce benefits for big government, big unions and big business, but will it get transport in Australia into better condition? I believe that there is a form of operation that will do that. When it is done it should be done in compliance with what the industry and the State governments feel is best. To put up legislation in this form at this stage really does not achieve that. Clearly the objective is to get the tonne-kilometre charge going in Australia and to get every truck fitted with a cash register to achieve that objective. We recognise that this is a revenue raising operation. Nobody is under any delusion about it. Throwing in the safety aspect and so on is done purely and simply to make revenue raising look more respectable.

Obviously the Federal Government has in mind raising money in this form to release it from funding out of existing forms of revenue. This represents a transfer of funding from government to industry. We need to have a little bit of information from the Government on just how it sees this working and how long it will take to achieve. How much money are we talking about? How much is involved in this transfer?

In clause 23, neither the amount to be raised nor its basis of distribution is stated, and they need to be stated. What is the Government's attitude? Who is to administer this? What staff will be required and whose staff? Nothing in the Bill tells us anything about that. I come to clause 34. How does the concept of Federal road safety standards relate to State standards? Whose standards predominate? Where is the preference? Who is to be responsible for it? Will this depend on State collaboration? Will the States have to withdraw some of their own legislation before they pass complementary legislation? What happens if even only one State does not go along with it? Clauses 36 and 37 relate to monitoring devices. Clause 37 is the best clause of all. It says: `The regulations may require'. It is absolutely, completely and patently clear to everybody in Australia but Senator Vigor that the word `may' will just disappear. It is totally and patently clear that the words `shall require' were meant to go in there. What will be the cost to the existing industry of the new system and the new charges? How much will the Government be up for in meeting all the requirements-equipment, bonds and goodness knows what?

Clause 16 allows alternative methods of payment. Why do we allow alternative methods of payment when everybody knows that the first method is included only as a sham so that, as soon as possible, we can make the second method the only one? Senator Vigor is perfectly happy with that, though; so that is all right! He has bought his vote, so that is okay. Will the Federal Government be-


Senator Mason —Mr Temporary Chairman, I raise a point of order. I find that an offensive statement. I call on the honourable senator to withdraw it.


Senator ARCHER —I will withdraw anything the honourable senator wishes. What powers will the Commonwealth have if the States do not front up as required? Who will prosecute? Is this a Federal offence or a State offence? I want to know the answers to little things like that. Clause 51 deals with appeals. Is there any right of appeal, under clause 51, if registration is refused under clause 15 (4)? I do not think so. Is there a right of appeal under clause 51 for unfair allocation of funds under clause 23 (3)? If not, where is the appeal available? Under clause 23 (6), what limits are there to the powers of the Minister in the imposition of conditions? This clause states that the Minister may impose conditions as he sees fit. Goodness only knows what that would cover. It would depend on who is the Minister.

Clause 27 (8) allows the Licensing Authority to revoke a disqualification imposed by the court. If a person wants a revocation, why should he not go back to the court for it? Allowing the Licensing Authority to do this leaves the matter wide open to corruption. Perhaps the Minister can give me some answers to those questions and then I will take the matter to the next stage.