High costs, 'lead-in' time to plague national reforms

Governments and industry will be hit with high costs and administrative complexities in any move towards national regulations

High costs, 'lead-in' time to plague national reforms
High costs, 'lead-in' time consequence of national reforms
By Brad Gardner

Governments and industry will be hit with high establishment costs and administrative complexities in any move towards national regulations.

A draft regulatory impact statement (RIS) on options to overhaul transport regulation shows that imposing a national road regulator will be beneficial, but also financially demanding and time consuming.

The draft, which details government and industry concerns, says costs may vary across jurisdictions, while it will be hard to gain agreement on stamp duty, charges and insurance.

"Development of uniform law and common administrative practices will take time to develop," the paper says.

"Savings from this reform could be expected, although a reasonable ‘lead-in’ time would be required for both industry and government to achieve fiscal benefits."

Although national laws are being flagged as the best option, they also come with concerns by state and territory governments of a perceived loss of political clout and a decline in control over network access, resources and revenue.

But the RIS states a uniform regulator will eventually cut administrative services costs, increase industry productivity, provide consistent accreditation processes and give operators a ‘one-stop-shop’ in dealing with government.

The RIS lists three other options for transport regulation, including maintaining the status quo, installing a non-statutory body but keeping jurisdictional laws, or introducing uniform regulations but keeping state agencies.

There was no industry support for the status quo option, but governments expressed their satisfaction with the model in terms of retaining direct control of revenue and the ability to "impose other charges".

They also considered it the best option for protecting assets despite the RIS saying existing inefficiencies and regulatory burdens will remain if governments go down this path.

The industry also expressed little support for a non-statutory body, claiming current cross-border differences will continue because state and territory laws will remain.

However, the paper also says a non-statutory body may lay the foundation for national regulations because jurisdictions will need to work together to streamline laws and fund the agency.

"These agreements and common approaches to administering regulation may also act to build momentum for further regulatory reform," according to the RIS.

The statement summarises the findings of the consultation process carried out by governments after the draft RIS was released in December last year for comment.

The short timeframe for industry comment was labelled "farcical" by David Simon of Simon National Carriers, who questioned whether operators would have the time and resources to respond by the due date.

A final RIS will be submitted to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) following further comments and submissions from stakeholders.

COAG is due to decide on whether to press ahead with the reforms in the first half of the year.

If accepted, the national laws will take up to more than two years before being implemented.

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