Opinion

Unified laws? Still a joke

Unified laws? Are we even close.
Unified laws? Are we even close. Blue Dog Cartoons

UNIFIED laws and regulations have long been a dream for everybody in the road transport industry.

We live in a constitutional commonwealth where states have individual rights that have been fought over fiercely since federation 116years ago.

But the clauses in the constitution that protect cross-border trade while holding the individual rights of states and territories have been nothing but an impediment to the long-haul road transport industry.

Look at a map of Australia, there are many state borders between where food and resources and manufacturing come from and the final destination of consumers in high population areas or ports for export.

I remember federal transport minister Peter Morris, during the Hawke Government in the 1980s, being continually frustrated by the states, often supported by major freight forwarders who preferred the muddy arrangement between states so they could push drivers and owner- drivers to work times that today are considered criminal.

Not that many of us whinged about those long hours back then. It was a job that had to be done and we did it with a certain anti-establishment pride.

But coming out of the road transport review in 1984, Morris realised that to get some semblance of order and enforcement commonality there had to be some form of national, unified legislation.

A solution to these problems didn't come until the next century with the establishment of the NHVR, but the notion of national unified transport legislation has not worked out.

While I totally support and respect Sal Petroccitto in his attempts to bring this about, we still have a patchwork affair relying on legislation to be passed in one jurisdiction, throwing it into the air and hoping that other jurisdictions sign up and buy the deal.

Of course as has been the case with Western Australia and the Northern Territory staying outside the attempt to nationalise legislation, for what can be seen as good reasons.

But it goes more insipidly than that, even with the jurisdictions are signed up to the heavy vehicle national law there are differences in enforcement and compliance interpretation from state to state totally defeating the goal of national law where transport operators can expect to be treated the same from one end of the country to the other.

The N HVR is moving towards taking on responsibilities for compliance enforcement under the various jurisdictions under the HV and Al, already starting in South Australia as we go to print.

But genuine unified national law? If it could not be driven by a strong federal transport minister such as Peter Morris, who lived and breathed transport, it is nothing short of a joke to imagine that the current insipid governments will ever drive it through to a positive conclusion.

It is to be expected as amendments are made to the primary legislation in Queensland that there will eventually be reaction by other states that could become rogue jurisdictions.

There is nothing to stop it.

 

THIS IS the last issue of Big Rigs where I will be editor. I've produced 20 issues this year and have enjoyed doing it, even though there have been some challenges. It's time to pass on the baton.

Kirstin Payne will be the new editor. I have worked with Kirstin through this year and she has the driving energy, tenacity and enquiring mind required by a good journalist.

Through the year she has soaked up the issues and the emotion of road transport. I wish her all the best in her new role.

And I thank you, the reader, for occasionally picking up one of my stories and reading it. See you down the track and stay safe.

Bruce Honeywill

Topics:  editorial nhvr opinion

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