National Regulator heads to Queensland Parliament

Last Friday, 4 November, every single one of the nation’s transport and roads Ministers came to Canberra to meet as ‘the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure’.

The Ministers unanimously endorsed the first set of laws required to establish the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

Now that it’s been endorsed, this first set of legislation will be introduced into the Queensland Parliament very soon. In fact, this will probably be happening next week, anytime from Monday 14 November onwards.

The timetable is for the legislation to be passed before 1 July 2012, allowing the Regulator to hire a skeleton crew to start ‘turning the lights on’ from that date. The laws take full effect, and the serious work for the Regulator will start, from 1 January 2013.

… Ministers agree with industry: there is more work to do

Over the past nine months, industry has been running a massive campaign to push for better, stronger laws that would give this Regulator ‘teeth’ and make a real difference.

We want this Regulator to strip out red tape affecting operators. We want it to raise efficiency in the transport industry. And we want it to raise safety levels up and up.

All the way back in June this year, the national ‘Industry Advisory Group’ formally wrote to governments, expressing concern that the draft laws were going to fall short against our expectations. The new laws just were not going to taking the nation as far as they could, and should, have done.

Rather than chicken out and walk away from the whole idea of the National Regulator, the IAG asked
for governments to commit to a second Bill – a ‘tune up’ package that would make the laws better and stronger, before the Regulator starts work.

Taking that proposal to governments was a real piece of leadership from the Chairman of the IAG (and Chairman of the ATA) David Simon – and equally from the ATA’s General Council, who backed David to the hilt.

In the months since June, industry has taken that message direct to Ministers in every part of the country.

The day before last week’s meeting, a key member of the IAG, the Australian Logistics Council, put our message out to the most important business leaders in Australia, through an article in the editorial section of The Australian Financial Review. You’ll find it here.

As well as re-stating our arguments one last time, simply getting that article into such a high-brow paper sent Ministers a message about how serious we are. (Convincing the Editor of The Australian Financial Review to invite you to write an article is not easy. Well done ALC!)

On Friday, industry’s nine month campaign achieved complete success. Ministers have officially approved a ‘forward work program’ to improve and enhance the first set of laws. Ministers have agreed that there will be a supplementary Bill presented for endorsement, and passage through the Queensland Parliament, in early 2012.

The Ministers took those commitments very seriously; they’ve published them in the official Communiqué so that every member of industry can see the promises that have been made.

This was an outstanding win for our united industry campaign.

… industry in the room

As reported in the News two weeks ago, Federal Minister Anthony Albanese made history at last week’s SCOTI meeting by asking industry observers to ‘sit in’ on the entire duration of this meeting of the ‘Standing Council’.

From the road transport industry, the observers were ATA Chairman David Simon, ALC Deputy Chairman Andrew Ethel, and myself on behalf of the ALRTA.

As a message from Minister Albanese and all the State and Territory Ministers about how willing they are to work with industry, the symbolism was pretty impressive.

But there was more …

… industry at the table

Now that the game is getting truly serious, the national ‘Project Board’, chaired by the head of Main Roads WA, Menno Henneveld, has been expanded to include a senior bureaucrat for every State and Territory, plus the Commonwealth. That’s nine in total.

As time is limited and there is still a lot to be done, the Ministers have decided to have the Project Board handle the process of getting the ‘supplementary Bill’ prepared.

And, in the evening following a very successful day, Minister Albanese took David, Andrew and I aside to tell us that he and the other Ministers had all agreed to ask us to join this Board.

Naturally, this doesn’t mean that we’re going to win every point that industry has raised or will raise. But a seat at the table, when you compare it to just writing submissions and posting them in – it’s simply chalk and cheese.

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