Review into COAG freight reforms

The Productivity Commission (PC) will undertake a review into far-reaching transport reforms, with a view to ensuring a safe and efficient national freight network.

The reforms in question were made by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to establish a national regulatory system and were designed to provide productivity gains for the economy and reduce the compliance burden on the transport industry by cutting duplication and multiple fees.

The PC review will assess whether they are delivering productivity benefits and safety.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said that the request to the Commission includes a review of the economic impacts of the COAG reforms to establish the national maritime regulator, the national heavy vehicle regulator and the national rail safety regulator and investigation system.

“With many COAG transport reforms in place and operating for a number of years, now is the time to examine whether they are working in a way which boosts productivity and promotes safety,” Mr McCormack said.

“By making sure the reforms are working as they were designed to, we can continue to support the transport industry to create jobs and opportunities for Australians into the future and keep goods moving around the country efficiently and safely.”

Mr McCormack said the reforms would also help Australia shape a sensible approach to future regulation which would help ensure both safety and efficiency of truck drivers, train drivers and transport companies.

He added that the Federal Government was focused on helping Australia meet the growing freight task, both through better and safer roads and projects such as the Inland Rail and Western Sydney Airport.

“Given the increased focus on the key role freight plays in supporting Australia’s living standards, I have requested the Productivity Commission undertake a comprehensive review of the COAG transport reforms, and provide recommendations on these and other transport reforms into the future.”

The Commission is due to report to Government within twelve months of commencement. It will undertake broad public consultation, and invite public submissions.

A more streamlined regulatory framework

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has welcomed the review, saying it represents a valuable opportunity to further boost the efficiency and safety of freight movement in Australia.

ALC CEO, Kirk Coningham, said, “With Australia’s national freight task rapidly growing due to population increases and increasing demand for Australia’s export goods, it is critical to ensure the regulatory frameworks around freight transport are delivering the best possible outcomes for the sector and for consumers.”

Mr Coningham noted that ALC research has shown that a one per cent increase in supply chain efficiency is worth $2 billion to the economy.

“Accordingly, we must take every opportunity to ensure our regulatory settings are enabling efficiency improvements,” he said.

“In 2011, a COAG agreement reduced the number of national transport regulators from 23 down to three, in a move that has undoubtedly helped to reduce administrative complexities for freight logistics operators.

“Freight does not stop at state borders. The continued efficiency and safety of freight movement requires a regulatory framework that allows freight logistics professionals to get on with the job without being burdened by duplication and needless costs.”

Mr Coningham said that with the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy set to be finalised and released in 2019, it is the perfect time for the Productivity Commission to review transport reforms.

“ALC believes there is opportunity to further boost productivity through our regulatory frameworks,” he said.

“In particular, there is scope for the remit of the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) to be expanded to include a productivity remit. This would be consistent with the approach of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

“ALC looks forward to playing an active role in the review process, ensuring it ultimately delivers the right outcomes for the freight logistics industry and Australian consumers.”

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