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Friday, 8 November 1985
Page: 1829

Senator VANSTONE(11.32) —I join my colleague Senator Archer in asking for replies from the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt) to the questions I raised the first time I spoke in the Committee stage. None of my questions have been answered. As a consequence of some of the things the Minister has said, I now have some more questions. When a truck operator chooses to register on the interstate system, will any stamp duty or State charges apply to that registration? I might be a bit confused in regard to the next point, so I ask the indulgence of the Minister to clarify my confusion. As I understand it, the Australian Democrats have just moved an amendment setting a ceiling on the charges contained in the Interstate Road Transport Bill. The report of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills drew the attention of the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris) to clause 5 of the Interstate Road Transport Charge Bill and to the allegation that could be made that it involved an inappropriate delegation of legislative power. The report included part of the Minister's response, which was as follows:

It would be inappropriate to specify a maximum charge in the legislation for a number of reasons.

Senator Tate —This is filibustering.

Senator VANSTONE —I do not want to filibuster, so I will not go on to give the reasons. If people are interested, they can read them in the report. However, I ask why the Minister would reply in that way to a Senate standing committee and, in a very short space of time after that, accept a Democrat amendment that does exactly what he thought was inappropriate. I would appreciate an answer to that question. It is a question I have consistently asked in all the debates on the matter. I have not yet had what I believe is an adequate answer.

I understand the complaints about filibustering which have been made. I came into this place with the expectation that the Senate was a place where legislation could be reviewed and, accordingly, if people have concerns they are entitled to raise them and to have answers to those concerns. So I intend to continue asking why this Bill has to be put through now when the Government has acknowledged that it will not be proclaimed until much later-next year-and that it needs to go hand in glove with State legislation. I have heard the point made a couple of times this morning in response to other senator's speeches that this chamber has not passed any legislation this week. I do not see it as a good reason to rush a Bill through so that we can all go home heaving a sigh of relief and say that we have done something in that sense. There must be a substantive reason why this legislation should be put through now when there is obviously concern in the community.

I also have a question in relation to clause 30 of the Interstate Road Transport Bill. I have had representations from a large number of constituents who are very concerned about it. They have pointed out to me that a large number of people in the road transport industry operate as family businesses, such as a husband, wife and a couple of sons, three brothers or whatever. We do not need to go through the whole variety of details. These people are very concerned about the provisions of the legislation whereby if one member of the family is disqualified the remaining members of the family, namely the whole business, are put at risk of being disqualified from holding operator's licences. I ask the Minister to provide the chamber with examples of where this sort of clause has been used in other legislation and where it has worked well. I believe that if I can provide those people with examples of where this sort of mechanism has been used in other legislation, if I can go back to them and say that it has been done elsewhere and it has worked, it may well put their minds at rest.

I have a further question in relation to the option of fitting a charge meter rather than paying the set fee. I am led to understand that this option is for people who believe that they will travel less than the estimated distance interstate. I ask whether the charge meter alone will solve the problems of someone who, for example, carts some sort of primary industry product intrastate for half of the year and, in the remaining half of the year, wants to take up interstate work. Whilst I am not an expert on charge meters, I do not know of one that can be produced which has some sort of magic eye which can see when one is crossing a border and actually going interstate. Accordingly, I assume that a large number of log book details will need to be kept by people who believe that they are entitled to pay a lower registration fee and, therefore, choose the option of fitting a charge meter. I should add that I think very few people will do so because of the concerns that have been raised in the road transport industry about these charge meters.

I ask another question. Will the Minister indicate in what way this Bill will assist owner-drivers? The view of a large number of people is that it will not do so and that it will cause the financial collapse of the small haulage contractors who are the biggest section of the road industry, the owner-drivers. The point has been made that this Bill will in no way assist those people. Certainly from my experience in South Australia-I know I keep harking back to it but that is where I have had most of my feedback on this Bill-owner-drivers are not aware of the nature of this Bill. They are not asking to be left to travel on the interstate system in the way they have done in the past. They are asking for time to acquaint themselves with this legislation. They had hoped from comments that Senator Vigor made that they would have that time. I ask the Minister to respond to the questions I raised the first time I spoke and also to the questions I have raised this time.