Statutes Amendment (Heavy Vehicles Registration Fees) Bill
Mr TRELOAR ( Flinders ) ( 16:09 :22 ): I rise to speak to the Statutes Amendment (Heavy Vehicles Registration Fees) Bill 2017 and recognise its importance, given the enormous freight task that goes on across my electorate, across this state and across the nation each and every day.
The bill amends the Highways Act 1926 and the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 with amendments to assist South Australia to meet its agreed obligations as a participating jurisdiction under the February 2014 Heavy Vehicle National Law (South Australia) Act, which contains the national law as a schedule. Of course, we all remember that debate, which the opposition supported at the time. It is all part of the harmonisation process of transport, particularly heavy vehicles, across the country, although my recollection is that Western Australia did not jump on board at that time and may still not have. I am not sure about that, but they have decided for a time at least to go their own way.
There is no doubt that there has been increased regulation as a result of the harmonisation, but in essence the legislative regime, the national scheme or regime, deals with heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes in gross vehicle mass—so any truck, anything above a farm ute comes under this regulation. Because the registration chapter of the national law has not as yet commenced, heavy vehicle registration is still under state legislation. However, participating jurisdictions’ registration fees are governed by model law approved by the national Transport and Infrastructure Council.
Vehicle registration charges are now calculated on the basis of both road user charge and regulatory charge components. South Australia, along with other participating states, has agreed that the regulatory revenue collected as part of registration be transferred to the regulator fund, previously paid by the South Australian registrar into the Highways Fund, providing the regulator with industry-based funding to resource its duties. There is likely to be plenty of funding there.
Amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act clarify that deductions from concessional registration charges for people living in remote areas and primary producers will be taken from the roads component and not the regulatory component of the fees provided to the regulator’s fund. The bill is in effect a stopgap measure to pay for the NHVR until all arrangements are completed. Registration fees will not increase (which is pleasing to hear, and I will touch on that in a moment), but instead a portion will be handed to the NHVR, instead of going to the Highways Fund, from which the South Australian share would be paid to the NHVR separately anyway.
All that sounds rather complicated, but in essence it is part of the harmonisation process and makes an attempt to simplify the transport industry across the nation. As I mentioned earlier, the freight task undertaken by heavy vehicles—by trucks, road trains and B-doubles—across my electorate, this state and nationally each and every day is extraordinary. I do not know the tonnage, and I do not know whether anybody has ever stopped to calculate it, but without doubt this nation would grind to a halt if it were not for the task that our heavy vehicles undertake.
Truck registration is very expensive, tens of thousands of dollars, and I hear constantly from freight line operators, and even small business operators who might operate one or two trucks or a road train if it is a farmer, about the cost of registering heavy vehicles. In many cases, it is difficult for them to justify, and the government is well aware that trucks are a necessary part of these businesses, and most certainly they are compelled to pay if they want to stay on the road and stay in business. I hope that the government does not view vehicle registration simply as a cash cow, but it has become prohibitively expensive for many freight operators.
As to my own electorate, it would be remiss of me if I did not mention the freight duties that are undertaken there. Given that the Minister for Transport is here and leading the government’s debate in this chamber, I will mention once again the Tod Highway on Eyre Peninsula in the electorate of Flinders and what a vital freight route that is in the west of the state and how much we appreciated the money expended on shoulder sealing over the last financial year and look forward to an ongoing program.
I have been lobbying for an upgrade to the Tod Highway for the whole time I have been in this place and will continue to do so until I have seen completed a shoulder-sealing operation in between Kyancutta and Karkoo—a distance of about 110 kilometres, I believe. Without doubt, I firmly believe and will say always that a wider road is a safer road. Particularly in these days of bigger, heavier and faster transport operations, a good, solid, wide and safe road for those to operate on is of paramount importance.
The other thing I will touch on quickly regarding local issues is the importance of gazetting local roads for road train operation. Slowly but surely, the department is winding the approvals out for even some minor roads to be available for road train and B-double access, but I believe it cannot happen quickly enough. Particularly now, when farmers are sowing yet another crop across this state and on Eyre Peninsula, we desperately need broad access for road trains to handle the freight task. With those few comments, I commend the bill and look forward to its swift passage.
Bill read a third time and passed.