Infrastructure fast-track, truck regulations go ahead

CoAG has agreed to bring forward infrastructure plans and has given in-principle support to national heavy vehicle regulation and registration

By Brad Gardner

The nation’s infrastructure projects will be fast-tracked and the move to national heavy vehicle regulation and registration is going ahead following the latest Council of Australian Governments (CoAG) meeting.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd joined Australia’s state and territory leaders in calling for Infrastructure Australia to complete its interim report on the state of the country’s infrastructure by the end of 2008.

The government-body, set up earlier this year and led by Sir Rod Eddington, will release its findings on its infrastructure audit and priority list, which were originally scheduled to be released in March 2009.

As a result of the move, states and territories will need to prioritise any further submissions to meet the new deadline.

CoAG, which met in Perth, agrees this will assist the Federal Government in making timely decisions on critical projects, with the communiqué from the meeting saying all jurisdictions are committed to coordinating infrastructure planning and removing blockages.

Although national regulations did not make it onto the agenda, a spokesman for Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese says CoAG agreed to forge ahead in slashing red tape in the trucking industry.

He says the government body supported the regulatory impact statement into moving toward a seamless system following the Australian Transport Council's (ATC) decision to seek in-principle support for a National Road Safety Council and a single national registration and driver licensing system.

The spokesman says the matter did not make it onto the agenda because it was considered by exchange of letters.

CoAG agreed to meet again in November, bringing the next meeting forward by a month to raise matters it did not have time to discuss at yesterday's meeting in Perth.

While supporting the move, the Business Council of Australia says it now puts more pressure on governments to realise their reform agenda within set timeframes.

"COAG faces a tremendously large and complicated agenda. To maintain reform progress in vital areas of importance for Australia’s economy COAG must continue to meet as often as required to keep critical reforms on track," BCA Chief Executive Katie Lahey says.

"Australia’s political leaders must not sidestep this once-in-a-century opportunity to strengthen the foundations of economic growth."

But in a move that may help transport operators, CoAG agreed to streamline business reporting by enabling business to register their ABN and business name in one transaction.

Furthermore, its discussions on climate change and energy efficiency may yield benefits for the trucking industry after CoAG agreed to accelerate energy efficiency efforts across all governments to help businesses prepare for an emissions trading scheme.

Roles and responsibilities for energy efficiency polices and programs will be agreed to by the end of the year, with CoAG aiming to have a strategy in place by June 2009.

CoAG’s next meeting will be held in Canberra on November 17.

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