Bills Digest no. 13 2008–09
AusLink (National Land Transport) Amendment Bill
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be
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AusLink (National Land Transport)
Amendment Bill 2008
introduced: 28 August
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Infrastructure, Transport, Regional
Development and Local Government
The day after Royal
relevant links to the Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and second
reading speech can be accessed via BillsNet, which is at http://www.aph.gov.au/bills/.
When Bills have been passed they can be found at ComLaw, which is
The Bill has two main purposes.
The first is to change the definition of a road in the
AusLink (National Land Transport) Act 2005 to allow
funding of heavy vehicle facilities such as off-road rest stops.
The second purpose is to allow the Roads to Recovery program which
is funded under the AusLink (National Land Transport) Act
2005 to be extended for another five years.
AusLink is the government s national land transport program.
AusLink s elements are:
- National projects (on the defined National Network)
- Strategic Regional projects
- Black Spot projects
- Roads to Recovery, and
- research and technology projects.
The National Network is a network of road and rail transport
corridors, which includes urban areas and links to ports and
airports. In 2006-07, AusLink funding was $2.241 billion. Of this,
$304 million was for Roads to Recovery.
The proposal to fund facilities such as rest stops forms part of
the government s Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package. In
second reading speech for the Interstate
Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill 2008 and the Road
Transport Charges (Australian Capital Territory) Repeal Bill
2008, the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and
Northern Australia, the Hon. Gary Gray stated:
We have decided to supplement the
implementation of the new charges [for heavy vehicles] with a $70
million, four-year heavy vehicle safety and productivity package
that will fund areas such as trials of technologies that
electronically monitor a truck driver's work hours and vehicle
speed; the construction of more heavy vehicle rest stops and
decoupling areas along our highways and on the outskirts of our
major cities to assist truck drivers' rest; and
bridge-strengthening projects and upgrades to linkages between
existing AusLink freight routes, enabling access to those roads to
more productive heavy vehicles. The government will consult with
industry and state and territory governments to determine the best
combination of projects for expenditure of the $70 million
The Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package is one of
several measures aimed at reducing fatigue including new
Heavy Vehicle Driver Fatigue laws which are due to
come into effect on 29 September 2008.
The charges referred to in the above speech are the heavy
vehicles road user charges. The charges are designed to recover the
cost of damage that heavy vehicles those with a gross vehicle mass
exceeding 4.5 tonnes cause to roads. The charges have two
components. The first is a fixed annual registration fee. The
second is a notional part of the excise on fuel (mainly diesel).
The latter 19.633 cents per litre is the difference between the
excise 38.143 cents per litre and the excise credit 18.51 cents per
The National Transport Commission which is responsible for
calculating the charges recommended that both the registration fee
and the fuel excise notional rate be increased in its 2007
Heavy Vehicle Charges Determination. However, the two Bills
referred to above, that would have enabled the increase in
registration fees, failed to pass in the Senate on 19 March 2008.
On 14 May 2008, a disallowance motion on the fuel excise notional
rate was successfully debated in the Senate. In his
second reading speech introducing the AusLink (National Land
Transport) Amendment Bill 2008 (the Bill), the Minister for
Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local
Government, the Hon. Anthony Albanese stated:
Funding for the [Heavy Vehicle Safety and
Productivity] Package is contingent on the passage of the enabling
legislation for the 2007 Heavy Vehicles Charges Determination,
which was unanimously endorsed by the Australian Transport Council
of Commonwealth, State and Territory transport ministers in
February this year.
The Roads to Recovery Act 2000 established the Roads to
Recovery program. From 1 July 2005, the program became part of
AusLink. The first phase which was pre-AusLink ran from 2000-01 to
2004-05. The program is now in its second phase, which is from
2005-06 to 2008-09.
Features of the program include:
- grants are paid directly to councils (if there is a council for
the relevant area)
- all councils receive funds
- the money is intended to supplement not substitute for council
- councils nominate the projects to be funded, and
- it also applies to unincorporated areas, that is, where there
is no local council.
The Australian Trucking
Association the industry body which represents the road freight
industry welcomed the announcement of the $70 million for the Heavy
Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package and has
identified 18 priority rest areas for funding. On the other
hand, the Australian Trucking Association
welcomed the Senate s rejection of the increased heavy vehicle
registration fees on 19 March 2008.
The Australian Local Government Association, the parent body
representing councils Australia-wide, has welcomed the
extension to the Roads to Recovery program, seeing it as an
essential element in local government's ability to maintain and
upgrade the local roads network .
As noted, the government has made the funding of rest stops etc.
contingent on the passage of the legislation to increase road user
charges. Should that happen, the government proposes to spend $70
million on the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program over
four years as shown in the following table.
Proposed funding for the Roads to Recovery is shown below.
Section 4 of the AusLink (National Land Transport) Act
2005 (the Act) contains definitions. Item 1
inserts into subsection 4(1) a definition of the AusLink Roads to
Recovery funding period . This covers either of two periods: the
one starting on 1 July 2005 and ending on 30 June 2009 or the one
starting on 1 July 2009 and ending on 30 June 2014. This amendment
recognises that the current program ceases on 30 June 2009 and the
government proposes to extend it for another five years.
Item 2 expands the existing definition of a
road, by including a facility off the road used by heavy vehicles
in connection with travel on the road (or example, a rest area or
weigh station) .The Explanatory Memorandum notes that that this
definition is not intended to cover any commercial developments
such as food or fuel outlets.
Section 87 of the Act deals with the Roads to Recovery program.
Item 3 repeals existing section 87 and substitutes
new section 87. This has several elements.
New subsection 87(1) provides
that the Minister must, by legislative instrument, publish a list
the AusLink Roads to Recovery List for both the 2005-09 and
2009-2014 funding periods. The Minister must do this before or as
soon as practicable after the relevant funding period begins. The
list must specify the funding amounts [new paragraph
87(2)(a)], the name of the recipient (the person or body
who is to receive the amount)[new subparagraph
87(2)(b)(i)], and when the Minister is yet to decide who
the recipients will be the amount that a State (or an area in a
State) will receive [new paragraph 87(2)(b)(ii)].
According to the Explanatory Memorandum, the reference to an area
in a State is necessary to allow spending in unincorporated
Proposed subsection 87(3) provides that the
disallowance provisions of the Legislative Instruments Act
2003 do not apply to the determination referred to in
proposed subsection 87(1).
Item 4 preserves the validity of any AusLink
Roads to Recovery List that was made under existing section 87,
provided that List was still in effect immediately before the Bill
comes into force. The Explanatory Memorandum comments that
... is a technical provision designed to remove
any doubt about the continued eligibility of entities listed on the
AusLink Roads to Recovery List made prior to the repeal and
substitution of section 87 of the Act.
Existing section 88 of the Act deals with variations to an
AusLink Roads to Recovery List. Section 88 allows the Minister to
redirect funds from designated recipients to other recipients under
certain circumstances. An example is where a council is abolished
under an amalgamation. The Minister may redirect funds from the
abolished council to the successor council.
Item 6 inserts a new subsection
88(2A). This relates to the situation where the Minister
is yet to decide who fund recipients will be [see new
subparagraph 87(2)(b)(ii) above]. The effect of
new subsection 88(2A) is to allow the Minister to
subsequently direct some or all of the unassigned funds (the
Explanatory Memorandum uses the word preserved to refer to such
funds) to recipients once the Minister has decided who the
recipients will be. New paragraph 88(2A)(a)
provides that if an AusLink Roads to Recovery List includes a
statement with undesignated recipients, and the Minister
subsequently considers that recipients can be designated
[new paragraph 88(2A)(b)], then the Minister may,
by legislative instrument, change the List to direct funds to the
designated recipients. As is the case for the relevant amendment in
item 3, the disallowance provisions of the
Legislative Instruments Act 2003 do not apply to the
Minister s actions.
Items 9 and item 10 permit
payments under the Roads to Recovery program to be made until 30
June 2014, rather than only to 30 June 2009 as is the case now.
Driver fatigue is a major concern affecting all categories of
road user. Whilst the
trend in the number of deaths associated with articulated
trucks has been falling for some time, the number has risen
recently. Motoring organisations such as the NRMA
in NSW and the
Australian Trucking Association have advocated more rest stops
for some time. The proposed Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package
should contribute to a reduction in driver fatigue and hence
accidents involving heavy vehicles.
Not charging heavy vehicles for the full cost of the damage they
cause to roads is inimical to an efficient freight industry. The
consequence of not recovering costs in full is that heavy truck
operators especially of B-doubles are being subsidised. The
National Transport Commission estimated the value of this subsidy
to be around $168
million annually. This may adversely affect the rail freight
industry because heavy trucks, notably B-doubles, compete most
directly with rail freight. While the Productivity Commission in
its report titled
Road and Rail Freight Infrastructure Pricing concluded that the
claim that road is subsidised relative to rail is not compelling,
and shortcomings exist in the way road cost recovery is calculated,
the general principle on which transport charges and taxes are
based, remains. This principle holds that the service user should
pay the full cost to society of providing the service. An efficient
freight industry requires that this principle apply to road and
Although the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional
Development and Local Government said that the funding of rest
stops etc. is contingent on the passage of the previously defeated
bills, this Bill commences after Royal Assent and there is nothing
in this Bill reflecting this contingency.
2 September 2008
Bills Digest Service
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