Aug 28, 2008

AusLink (National Land Transport) Amendment Bill 2008

AusLink (National Land Transport) Amendment Bill 2008

Second Reading-

The Bill that the Government is introducing today demonstrates our ongoing commitment to road safety and local road infrastructure.

The Bill amends the definition of a road so that it includes heavy vehicle facilities such as rest stops, parking bays, decoupling facilities and electronic monitoring systems.

This will enable the Government to provide funding for these facilities under our $70 million Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package.

Funding for the Package is contingent on the passage of the enabling legislation for the 2007 Heavy Vehicle Charges Determination, which was unanimously endorsed by the Australian Transport Council of Commonwealth, State and Territory transport ministers in February this year.

That legislation would ensure that the heavy vehicle industry pays its fair share of the infrastructure costs incurred by Governments for building and maintaining the roads that they drive on.

This legislation has been blocked by the Coalition in the Senate, even though the Determination and policy was proposed by the former government.

In a speech given on 28 June 2007 entitled The Coalition Government’s Transport Reform Agenda the then Federal Transport Minister and Leader of the Nationals said:

The National Transport Commission will develop a new heavy vehicle charges determination to be implemented from 1 July 2008.

The new determination will aim to recover the heavy vehicles’ allocated infrastructure costs in total and will also aim to remove cross-subsidisation across heavy vehicle classes.

One in five road deaths involve heavy vehicles, with speed and fatigue being significant contributing factors. In 2007, there were over 200 road deaths in Australia involving heavy vehicles.

I have been consulting with the States and Territories and stakeholders such as the Australian Trucking Association, Australian Livestock Transporters Association and NatRoads to identify the most urgently needed works.

The facilities that will be delivered under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package will improve road safety and provide a better deal for truckies.

I would encourage the Coalition to support this Bill and the 2007 Heavy Vehicle Charges Determination legislation to enable upgrades to be rolled out as soon as possible after 1 January 2009.

This Bill also extends the Roads to Recovery program. Under the current Act, it will end on 30 June 2009. This Bill will continue the program until 30 June 2014.

The Roads to Recovery Program provides much needed funding to local councils around Australia so they can make urgent repairs and upgrades to their roads.

Local governments are responsible for more than three quarters of all Australian roads – over 810 000 kms.

The continuation of this program means that local government can confidently plan for the continued improvements of their road network.

This amendment supports the Government’s commitment to increase our investment under the Roads to Recovery Program over the next five years. We will increase the allocation from $300 million per year to $350 million per year.

This means that over the next five years, we will provide $1.75 billion directly to councils to fix local transport issues.

The Bill also makes amendments to clarify that Roads to Recovery funds can be allocated to a particular State while the most appropriate entity to finally receive the allocation is determined.

This will allow funds to be preserved while, for example, arrangements can be put in place to provide funds for roads in unincorporated areas where there is no local council, or to provide bridges and access roads in remote areas.

Finally, for technical reasons, the Bill removes the exemption from the sunsetting provisions of the Legislative Instruments Act to prevent an Auslink Roads to Recovery List, for a period long gone, remaining on the statute books indefinitely.

Full details of the measures in this Bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.