Focus on penalities in national amendment Bill

Emerson introduces second stage of national law to State Parliament saying changes to executive officer liability won't threaten COR

November 14, 2012

Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson asked a State parliamentary committee to look into new national penalties as he introduced the Heavy Vehicle National Law Amendment Bill yesterday.

The amendments were needed to deal with issues unable to be resolved in time for the national law’s assent in August.

The Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure will examine a review report on the rate of maximum national penalties in 2014.

"I would like to invite the parliamentary portfolio committee to consider the new national penalties, and provide advice on whether the penalties are set at appropriate levels or other option that may be applied," Emerson told parliament yesterday as the Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee was given the job.

He added that: "Generally penalties in the heavy vehicle national law appear consistent with the current penalties applicable in Queensland but I want to be sure that the penalties are fair and do not result in an unreasonable burden on the heavy vehicle industry in Queensland."

Amongst the "policy refinements, "technical amendments" and "significant improvements" Emerson noted the following changes:

  • Inclusion of an access framework to support Performance Based Standards vehicles, which currently operate through administrative arrangements;
  • A more transparent, robust decision making framework for road access decisions, which includes improved clarity about the matters a road manager may consider, such as safety and what conditions can be applied when granting access;
  • Alignment with council of Australian Governments’ executive officer liability provisions, which designed to promote good corporate governance while ensuring that liability for corporate fault is not applied to an individual unfairly or unreasonably;
  • Executive officer liability offences are a separate matter to chain of responsibility "and these amendments do not in any way water down chain of responsibility provisions";
  • Inclusion of provisions to confirm the regulator as a national system employer for the purpose of the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009;
  • The creation of nationally consistent maximum penalties.

Emerson’s specific assertion that executive officer liability changes leave chain of responsibility unscathed appears to be an acknowledgement of concerns in some quarters of the industry that protections are being watered down.

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transports Association (ALRTA) and the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) launched the Don’t Break The Chain campaign and website in September after the Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee questioned the effect of provisions on the ‘presumption of innocence’ and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman backed it.

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