'Grave reservations' prompt ALC plea on national regulations

Promise of national reforms at risk of slipping, ALC warns, unless regulators are given teeth to enforce uniform laws

'Grave reservations' prompt ALC plea on national regulations
"Grave reservations" prompt ALC plea on national regulations

By Brad Gardner | September 16, 2011

The promise of a single set of trucking laws is at risk of slipping unless governments hand the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator greater powers, the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) warns.

With its membership base expressing "grave reservations" about the development of national regulations, the high-profile lobby group has demanded key assurances from government that would sideline state and territory-based authorities in favour of handing the NHVR more clout.

In is policy position released this week, the ALC says the NHVR and the proposed rail and maritime safety regulators must completely replace the 23-state based regulators currently charged with administering transport law.

Currently, governments intend to allow the NHVR to delegate the states and territories to deliver services on its behalf. However, the ALC wants the practice to act as a transitionary period toward a single regulator administering the laws.

According to the group, relying on a delegation model could allow the authorities to develop their own cultures and enforcement priorities and put their own interpretation on provisions.

It says there will be fewer opportunities to streamline administrative arrangements and that transition and implementation periods could be difficult because extra effort will be needed to achieve consistency across borders.

"We cannot let this historic opportunity slip and allow a quasi-national system to be established that fails to significantly reduce the regulatory burden currently faced by industry," ALC CEO Michael Kilgariff says.

"The freight logistics industry is committed to seeing this critical microeconomic reform delivered, but we are equally determined to see a system put in place which delivers the intended economic benefits. For this to occur, we need single national regulators with teeth to ensure national laws operate in a uniform fashion nationally."

Kilgariff also wants guarantees that the regulators will receive the necessary funding to enforce uniform laws and for the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) responsibility for developing legislation to be handed over to the NHVR.

Kilgariff says the ALC’s members, which includes Toll, Linfox, Asciano and Woolworths, are concerned the regulators will not have the powers and resources to carry out their roles.

The ALC supports handing the NHVR similar powers to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), which came into the force in the wake of a review that found an approach built on regulators working together to achieve consistency did not work.

"ALC had the expectation the national transport safety regulators would be similar to the AER – that is, with the ‘teeth’ to ensure the proposed national law operates in a uniform fashion nationally. Alas that is not the case," the group’s policy position says.

"The content of the latest draft provided to industry differs significantly to the original draft bill, leaving industry to question whether the significant economic benefits anticipated under this reform can be achieved under current legislation."

National trucking regulations are slated to begin on January 1, 2013, with the NHVR based in Queensland. Except for Western Australia, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) signed up to single road, rail and maritime regulators last month.

"Heavy vehicle operators will no longer have nine separate regulatory regimes to deal with," Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says.

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