Transport reforms 'at a halt'; Govt defends approach

Doubts raised over Rudd's ability to deliver sweeping transport reforms after COAG deferred issue

By Brad Gardner | December 9, 2009

Doubts have been raised over the Rudd Government’s ability to deliver sweeping transport reforms in the wake of an intergovernmental decision to defer the issue until next year.

But as the Opposition lines up to criticise the Government over the issue, the Coalition has been accused of ignoring transport reform during its time in office.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) this week agreed to wait until the first half of 2010 to consider which state will host the national heavy vehicle regulator.

The office of opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss claims the decision is proof "fluffy cooperative federalism isn’t enough".

"We wonder now whether the land transport reform agenda is now at a halt," a spokesman for Truss says.

Truss’ office says the Government needs to push other jurisdictions harder to ensure state and territory governments agree to end cross-border inconsistencies.

"The Rudd Government has failed to do so," the spokesman says.

However, a spokesman for Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese says the Government’s ambitious reform agenda has not been derailed.

He says the timetable set by the Australian Transport Council (ATC) for one set of laws for trucking remains and has slammed the Howard Government’s transport record from 1996 to 2007.

"These reforms were never on the agenda of the previous government, including when Warren Truss was the chair of the ATC," the spokesman says.

"We’ve achieved more in two years then they did in 12 years."

Albanese earlier this year said the reforms would be in place by 2013.

The spokesman says the Government is committed to the reforms and will resolve the issue of the regulator as soon as possible.

But the Australian Trucking Association says a decision should have been made by COAG.

The group’s national manager of government relations and communications, Bill McKinley, says the nation’s leaders need to act to ensure the reforms can move ahead without delay.

"This decision is fundamental to the reform, because the host state will be responsible for passing the national truck laws, and the national regulator will be one of its statutory authorities," he says.

NSW, Queensland and Victoria have expressed interest in hosting the national regulator but the ATA says it does not have preference on which state should be chosen.

COAG did agree to South Australia hosting the national rail regulator, but the structure of it will not be considered until 2011.

"COAG also agreed to establish a strengthened national regulators’ panel to provide better national harmonisation of rail safety regulation in the period in which the national regulator is being established," the communique of the governmental meeting says.

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