Dec 5, 2008

Parliament approves legislation that delivers safer roads

Parliament approves legislation that delivers more rest stops, safer roads

MEDIA RELEASE

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

December 5 2008

I welcome Parliament’s approval of legislation that will ensure all trucking operators pay their fair share of road construction and maintenance costs as well as fund measures which will improve safety for all road users.

The legislation brings registration charges for federally registered trucks into line with charges imposed by states and territories. Uniform charges is an important principle that recognises that national nature of the trucking industry.

The registration charge adjustments will end the cross-subsidisation of large trucks by smaller trucks. Without the changes contained in the legislation the heaviest vehicles – namely those that do the most damage to our roads – would have continued to be subsidised by the owners of small trucks and the taxpayer.

The passage of the legislation will also ensure the Government’s $70 million Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program can be delivered.

The Program will fund the construction of more rest stops along our nation’s highways, with consultations with industry as well as state and territory governments on where they should be built already underway.

Rest stops are important in make sure truck drivers are able to take adequate breaks, ensuring our roads are safer for all motorists.

The legislation also lifts the Road User Charge for heavy vehicles to 21 cents per litre from 1 January 2009 – a small increase which reflects the fact that since the last change back in 2001 road spending by all levels of governments has risen by 33 per cent.

The new Road User Charge is about make sure the trucking industry pays its fair share for the road infrastructure it uses – a principle adopted by previous Federal governments.

Just as commercial rail, shipping and aviation companies must pay competitive rates for their use of infrastructure such as tracks, ports, airports and navigation aids, it is only fair that the trucking industry pays its fair share of road building and maintenance costs.

While the charge will not be indexed, the legislation allows it to be adjusted by Parliament if road expenditure rises. The Government moved amendments to replace the proposal to index after consultation with both industry and senators.

There has been extensive consultation with industry representatives and parliamentarians about the details of the legislation. I would thank senators from the Greens Party, Family First, and particularly independent Senator Nick Xenophon who was a strong advocate for the interests of South Australia.

I would also like to thank those industry representatives who played a constructive role in advocating their position to the Government on the legislation.

The passage of this legislation completes a process begun by the Howard Government. It provides for fair and transparent road charges, a level playing field for all transport modes and will provide governments an incentive to invest in the infrastructure essential to Australia’s social and economic future.