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Tuesday, 16 November 1993
Page: 2866

Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Communications. One of the greatest impediments to transport efficiency in Australia has been the range of different and often conflicting state regulations on road transport operations. Can the minister advise what progress has been made in developing national uniformity in road transport regulation?

Senator COLLINS —Honourable senators would be aware that the inconsistencies between state regulations affecting road transport are a direct impediment to the free flow of interstate freight and to the efficiency of road transport operators and vehicle manufacturers. Over the last two years the Commonwealth and the states and territories have been working together to rid Australia of this anachronism.

  The National Road Transport Commission was established by this government in 1991 to develop proposals for uniform systems of heavy vehicle regulation and registration charges for consideration by Australian governments. A national charging regime has been proposed for implementation in July 1995. The NRTC is now focusing on the development of a comprehensive set of regulations to be progressively incorporated into umbrella legislation. This approach has been adopted so that specific segments of regulation can be applied as they are agreed to. This will give the industry more rapid access to the savings and the greater efficiencies being made available by these new standards.

  The Road Transport Reform (Vehicles and Traffic) Bill 1993 has been passed by the Senate and is currently before the House of Representatives. States and territories will be introducing complementary legislation early next year. The first set of regulations to be incorporated into this legislation was last week accepted—or not disapproved—by Australian transport ministers, without a dissenting vote.

Senator Alston —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Is the minister making a ministerial statement, or has he simply lost his nerve and is reading the second answer of the day?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator COLLINS —Mr Deputy President, as I was about to say before I was so rudely interrupted, these heavy vehicle standards establish rules for the design and construction of all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes, regardless of where they were built. The NRTC has estimated that aspects of these regulations—Senator Alston may be interested to hear this—will result in annual savings to the transport industry of in excess of $70 million a year. Regulations on mass and loading, road worthiness, driving hours and traffic are currently being drafted in consultation with interested parties and will be considered by Australian transport ministers over the coming months.

  It is appropriate that this first set of regulations was agreed to as the road transport industry embarked on its road transport awareness week. The road transport industry is relying heavily on governments to deliver a sensible system of transport regulations which will allow it to get on with its business while ensuring a safe road environment. It is incumbent on all governments to work within the framework being established by the NRTC and to maintain our joint commitment to remove the anomalies of the past.