Labor fails to gain formal recognition for Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program

By: Brad Gardner

Federal Government rejects amendments that would have formally recognised the funding program.

Labor fails to gain formal recognition for Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program
'Program of value': Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss says the Federal Government will retain the the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program.


The Federal Government has committed to retaining the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program despite refusing to back a proposal to formally recognise the scheme.

Opposition spokesman on transport Anthony Albanese sought the Government’s support for amendments to the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill that would have enshrined the program in legislation, similar to the Roads to Recovery initiative.

Labor introduced the program in 2009 but did not reference it in legislation. It does not need formal recognition to continue, and Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss believes the existing approach should remain.

He says Albanese’s proposed amendments will only duplicate existing provisions and increase administrative requirements. Truss has emphasised the program is not in line to be axed.

"We recognise that it is a program of value. The heavy vehicle industry pays a road user charge and they expect that money would be spent on projects of benefit to the road transport industry. We will continue to do that," Truss says.

However, Albanese says the Government should formally recognise the program if it intends on continuing to fund it.

"I am at a loss. If the Government does not have an intention to remove future funding rounds of this program, either in this budget or some budget in the future, why does it not support this amendment being included in the [National Land Transport] Act?" Albanese says.

"My view is that the only reason these amendments would not gain the support of the Government is because they intend to get rid of these particular aspects of the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program on the basis that the could be included in the commission of cuts, which they have refused to let the Australian people see."

The program bankrolls new and upgraded rest areas across the country, technology trials and road upgrades specific to the trucking industry.

Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan says the importance of the program to the trucking industry means it should be enshrined in legislation.

"Our case here is that this is now a significant and important program. If it is intended to be retained in its current form, the program is of a scale that warrants it being specifically included in the legislation," she says.

Truss says projects that can be funded under the program are already approved in the Act and that the amendments will increase the record-keeping burden on parties that receive funding.

Truss has also questioned why Labor did not include amendments when it was in government, given it established the program.

"Labor had the capacity to put this kind of prescription in the legislation when they were in office. They did not choose to do so," he says.

"To do it now adds administrative burden to those who receive the grants and duplicates existing sections in the Act. For those reasons we do not support the amendments."

The program received $70 million in funding between 2009 and 2012. A further $250 million is due to be spent on projects between 2013 and 2019.

Albanese says 294 projects have been funded, including more than 140 new or upgraded rest areas and 46 new or upgraded parking and decoupling bays.

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