Uncertainty and bureaucracy cloud transport reforms

New government report raises concerns about trucking reforms, saying lack of agreement might affect implementation timeframes

By Brad Gardner | February 11, 2011

National transport reforms are at risk of being delayed due to a lack of agreement among jurisdictions, according to a new report

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council has released its latest report into reforms currently being developed by Australian governments.

It says there are disagreements over how the national heavy vehicle regulator will be funded, with the Victorian and Northern Territory governments expressing concern over the 2013 implementation date. The report says the ACT Government says it will be difficult to meet the timeframe due to unresolved policy issues.

"A number of jurisdictions have reported concerns about the timeframes for delivery of the national heavy vehicle regulator reform," the report says.

The Reform Council recommends interim milestones be introduced for the national regulator, which is meant to end cross-border inconsistencies plaguing interstate trucking companies. A rail safety regulator will also be introduced to streamline state and territory laws.

"Both streams include final milestones in 2012-13 related to the full implementation of the national regulators, including a national law," the report says.

"However, transitional milestones have not been specified, including in relation to the development of legislation by the NTC [National Transport Commission]."

The report also addresses road pricing reforms, which are currently being examined to replace existing heavy vehicle registration and excise charges.

Governments are considering reforms such as mass-distance-location pricing, which charges individual trucks based on how far they travel, the weight they carry and the locations they use.

The Reform Council suggests changes will need to be made because the governance structures overseeing the process are too complex.

A project board currently gives advice and recommendations to two separate committees but is not directly accountable to the Australian Transport Council, which is ultimately responsible for pricing reform.

"The council is concerned that these multiple layers of reporting could create confusion about accountabilities and impact on timeframes," the report says.

"The council will continue to monitor the progress of this reform to ensure the delivery of future milestones remains on track and the momentum of reform in this area is maintained."

Once established, the national regulator will be based in Queensland with offices throughout Australia.

Queensland’s Parliament will be responsible for introducing laws and other jurisdictions will need to pass similar legislation to ensure national uniformity.

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