Pollies reach bipartisanship on national regulations

They disagree on climate change and asylum seeker policies, but Labor and Coalition reach bipartisanship on national heavy vehicle regulations

By Brad Gardner | September 13, 2011

Federal Labor and the Coalition might be divided on climate change and asylum seekers, but MPs from both parties yesterday reached bipartisanship on national heavy vehicle regulations.

The Opposition sided with government MPs during a parliamentary debate on a single set of laws for the trucking industry.

Except Western Australia, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) last month signed an intergovernmental agreement establishing national road, rail and maritime regulators in a move Makin MP Tony Zappia says will increase productivity, safety and efficiency.

"The agreement is long overdue and has been talked about for years and years," he says.

"There are numerous inconsistencies between state road laws and regulations that hopefully will be addressed by this agreement, which will improve safety for Australian drivers."

Nationals MP Darren Chester says one of the key challenges facing the trucking industry, which he calls "an incredibly important part of our economy", is the number of regulations currently in place.

"The Coalition acknowledges the significant benefits that can be achieved by harmonising the many conflicting and contradictory regulations in the heavy vehicle industry," Chester says.

While urging the government to continue consultation with industry groups to resolve concerns over draft national regulations, Chester says the Opposition supports a single regulator to reduce red-tape and remove regulatory inconsistencies.

"The gains to be made, particularly in terms of productivity, are quite significant," he says.

Labor’s Janelle Saffin, who took the seat of Page from the Nationals in the 2007 election, says one set of laws will add an extra $30 billion to the economy over the next 20 years.

"It seems incomprehensible that these things have gone on for so long at such cost to our national income," she says of the existing regime.

Citing the challenges facing livestock operators who are forced to unload cattle at the Queensland and NSW border to comply with the latter’s mass limits requirements, Saffin says inconsistent regulations are costly and inefficient.

But while supporting regulatory harmonisation, Opposition Whip Nola Marino used the opportunity to criticise the imposition of a carbon tax on trucking from July 2014.

"I am very concerned about owner operators, owner drivers and those who are working on very finite margins right now," she says.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will be established in Queensland with responsibility for enforcing consistent regulations and providing a one-stop-shop for operators seeking permits and licences.

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