Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014, Consideration in Detail

Ms BIRD: (Cunningham) (16:08): I am very pleased to support the amendments proposed by the shadow minister for infrastructure and transport to the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014 and I endorse the comments made by my colleague, the member for Perth, who has just spoken. I speak on this issue from two bases. Firstly, there is a strong awareness of the issues in my own electorate, given that the road connections to the port of Kembla—shared between my electorate and the electorate of the member for Throsby—are so heavily utilised by trucks servicing the port. Secondly, I am well aware that, if you live in a rural or regional community, the roads are critically important—they are a part of the lifeblood of Australia. I am sure the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport is also aware that in regional and rural communities roads are essential for community members to be able to participate in life. Families use roads to take kids to school, people drive to visit others, and drivers, whether they are small carriers or driving for large trucking companies, earn their living by travelling on roads. As I say, roads are a critically important part of the lifeblood of rural and regional Australia and keeping people safe on these roads has to be one of the most significant things that we undertake when legislating in this space. Truck_pic_2.jpg

The proposed amendment, to have the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program specifically identified under a separate funding stream in the act, is both reasonable and sensible. In March 2013, under the previous government's Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, joint funding of just over $8 million was provided—approximately $4 million from Commonwealth and $4 million from the New South Wales state government—to upgrade the existing truck stop on Mount Ousley Road. Mount Ousley Road is the key feeder road into and out of Port Kembla and it has, as you could well imagine, a lot of trucks travelling on it. I am very pleased that my state colleagues, in government, expanded the use of the port by the addition of the movement of cars, but that has, of course, resulted in a lot more usage of the road. The announcement of the $8 million investment in the truck stop upgrade along with the announcement of a $1.4 million trial of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems Initiative along the Hume Highway to Port Kembla, where again $700,000 was contributed by the state government, were very important for the wellbeing and safety of road users. These are some very good initiatives in the promotion of the wellbeing and safety of road users.

I support this particular amendment from a background of having worked with the shadow minister when he was Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. I also acted as deputy chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport and Infrastructure under, as the shadow minister indicated in his earlier speech, Mr Paul Neville, the then chair and member for Hinkler. It was my very first experience of committee work and I have to say that he taught me very well about the good work a committee could do. The committee presented a report titled Thegreat freight task: is Australia's transport network up to the challenge?which indicated that a significant increase in the movement of freight around our nation would require serious infrastructure investment into the future. The report noted that we also needed to put the related regulations and protections in place. The committee travelled around the country to look at ports, roads and rail networks to determine what tasks needed to be undertaken.

I was very pleased eventually, on our coming to government, to become the chair of the committee. Following a reference from the shadow minister, we had an inquiry into the need for a Safe Rates Remuneration Tribunal. We received, as the shadow minister indicated, very moving evidence not only from truck drivers and from the union representing them, the TWU, but also from families that had suffered grief and loss as a result of tragic road accidents involving heavy vehicles. The committee recommended to the minister that establishing the Safe Rates Remuneration Tribunal would be the most appropriate action to take, given of course that there was cross-portfolio coverage. The view of the infrastructure and transport committee was that it was the appropriate body to put in place and, as the shadow minister said, it should now be given the opportunity to prove its value and prove what it can contribute to all of us in the community. Finally, as the Minister for Road safety, I had the opportunity to see, firsthand, how important these sorts of initiatives are. I think the amendment is very reasonable. It is a sensible amendment and it embeds something that I think we should all be proud to support.