Lawyer takes COR laws to task

Specialist transport and logistics lawyer criticises chain of responsibility laws, labelling them inconsistent and unfair

By Ruza Zivkusic | February 23, 2011

A specialist transport and logistics lawyer has criticised chain of responsibility laws, questioning their fairness and labelling them inconsistent.

Tony Hulett SC, who runs law firm Lovegrove and Lord’s transport division, believes the existing chain of responsibility laws are not good enough.

The laws hold all parties in the supply chain accountable for offences such as speeding and driver fatigue, but Hulett says the trucking industry is usually targeted.

"There are many who are disappointed with the prosecution focus upon drivers and operators," he told the Australian Logistics Council’s (ALC) annual forum.

"Under present circumstances, it would have to be an unusual case for a regulator to move beyond a driver and his immediate employer."

Hulett told the ALC forum he opposed the reverse onus of proof under chain of responsibility laws, which require defendants to demonstrate they did not break the law.

"As a lawyer, I have a problem with the reverse burden of proof," he says. "I don’t believe it is appropriate either on grounds of fairness or principle."

Hulett cited industry concerns about different enforcement practices in various jurisdictions but hopes the inconsistency will be resolved once a National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is introduced in 2013.

"The absence of any cohesive enforcement and prosecution protocol across the jurisdictions is disappointing and does not provide for a best practice system," he says.

During his speech, Hulett told the ALC forum the recommended 10-week consultation period on the development of the national regulator needs to be longer.

"Law reform in this country is too often the subject of inadequate consultation periods, this does not help good results," he says.

While raising concerns over whether governments can introduce national regulations by 2013, Hulett says the reform is important.

"It seems obvious that the establishment of a true national regulator with teeth regulating true national legislation is very important, not only for the logistics industry but as part of a seamless national economy which is COAG’s objective," he says.

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