You’d be forgiven for thinking that the federal government is all-powerful but (as Covid showed us), the states also wield a lot of power.
There are times when this works and times when it very clearly doesn’t. A prime example of when it doesn’t is the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
The HVNL is held together with string and sticky tape, with some states agreeing to participate while others are going it alone.
It’s not a national scheme. It treats Australia as a series of unconnected states. It’s clunky, it’s uncoordinated and it’s not working.
The National Transport Commission (NTC) has tried to rewrite the HVNL, but the process has been stalled, for years.
The review of the NTC’s rewriting of the HVNL by Ken Kanofski is a step in the right direction. But it doesn’t go far enough.
The ATA’s preference is for one single Federal Act as outlined in the proposed Road Transport Act, which would have the following advantages:
•Uniform scheme for participating states and territories
•Smoother and more efficient process for changing the law
•Administrative appeals could go to a single tribunal not multiple state tribunals
•Stronger linkage to Commonwealth road funding
•Genuine parliamentary scrutiny of delegated legislation
•The board and executive of the renamed Australian Heavy Vehicle Regulator (AHVR) could be held to account through the Senate Estimates process
•The AHVR would not need to move from Brisbane
•Heavy vehicle policy and legislation would be transferred from the NTC to DITRDCA
You can see the ATA’s presentation to the transport ministers meeting at truck.net.au here.
If the Road Transport Act can’t happen, the next option is to get the HVNL to deliver vastly improved safety and productivity benefits. There must be a deadline to ensure this happens.
The ATA told the transport ministers’ meeting that the NTC should be abolished, and its legislative and policy responsibilities returned to the Commonwealth from whence they came.
The ATA also told the meeting that industry is seeking high level engagement on immediate productivity and safety benefits in a collaborative fashion.
It would be far more efficient for industry to deal directly with senior officials rather than junior public servants with no power to act or make decisions. This will quickly clean up the bucket loads of low hanging productivity fruit.
The ATA is recommending a high-level industry/government taskforce. Industry looks forward to a positive response from governments.
The ATA doesn’t fall into the easy trap of saying that government can’t be productive because it very clearly can.
ACT Transport Minister, Chris Steele, is a positive example of this, with his leadership of driver medical improvements.
A further example is the National Cabinet which demonstrated a sharpened focus on productivity improvements when it met on June 17, 2022.
It is clear that decarbonisation is linked to productivity and this point was hammered home by industry at the meeting of transport ministers.
High productivity vehicles will mean reduced emissions and savings.
Governments can change the course of history with the stroke of a pen. We encourage them to do so.