Cuts could stymie NHVR

Queensland’s Opposition backs national transport regulations but fears job cuts will hamper the proposed regulator

Cuts could stymie NHVR
Cuts could stymie NHVR

By Brad Gardner | August 23, 2012

The Queensland Opposition is warning a series of planned job cuts within the Department of Transport and Main Roads may hamper the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) effectiveness.

Opposition spokesperson on transport Jackie Trad has backed the switch to national regulations but is seeking answers from the Queensland Government over whether it has terminated, or will terminate, staff with experience in heavy vehicle regulation.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is embarking on a series of mass sackings within the state’s public service, and is now eyeing almost 2,000 job cuts in Transport and Main Roads.

"I am concerned, however, that the flagged job cuts in the Department of Transport and Main Roads may see qualified staff with experience in heavy vehicle regulation lose their jobs," Trad says.

"This may give rise to the situation where the new regulator does not have enough qualified staff to do its job."

Meanwhile, Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson has ignored a request from the Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee to explain why a reverse onus of proof should be applied to the industry under national regulations.

The committee examined the Heavy Vehicle National Law Bill, which will create the NHVR and national regulations, and sought an explanation on why the long-standing legal principle of innocent until proven guilty is not being applied.

But in a parliamentary debate on the Bill, Emerson did not address it. He did, however, reject the committee’s recommendation to amend a clause that grants immunity to a protected person from prosecution for anything done or omitted while they are enforcing the law.

A protected person includes those who are employees of the NHVR, transport departments and a person who the regulator delegates duties to. Protection does not extend to a road manager or an intelligent access service provider. The committee wants immunity removed where a person has acted negligently or recklessly.

"The Queensland Government proposes not to change the clause at this stage and has asked the National [Heavy Vehicle Regulator] Project Office to place the issue in the legislative forward work program for review once the reform is implemented," Emerson says.

The forward work program contains a number of unresolved policy issues to be addressed after national regulations begin.

Emerson says the Bill, once introduced, will cut the administrative burden on business and answer calls from the heavy vehicle industry for simplified regulation.

Trad says operators and drivers currently need to comply with different regulations in each state and territory they drive through.

"Juggling the different requirements of different jurisdictions can be confusing, expensive and time-consuming for operators and for drivers. A single regulator implementing a single national law will mean that complying with the regulations is simpler, cheaper and quicker for the heavy vehicle industry," she says.

Queensland is due to pass the Bill first, with other jurisdictions following to ensure cross-border consistency. Western Australia will retain its own fatigue management and productivity schemes.

The NHVR will begin operating on January 1, 2013 but many of its core functions will be delayed for six months because the likes of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria do not expect to pass legislation until July next year.

Some of the NHVR’s responsibilities will include permit applications, gazettes, heavy vehicle registration, fatigue management, chain of responsibility and performance based standards.

"Consolidation and unification of national heavy vehicle laws is necessary to address a longstanding problem of contradictory and inconsistent state laws that stifle productivity and hamper the promotion of safety," Warrego MP Howard Hobbs says.

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