Senate debates

Thursday, 10 May 2018


Interstate Road Transport Legislation (Repeal) Bill 2018; Second Reading

11:35 am

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Interstate Road Transport Legislation (Repeal) Bill 2018. The repeal of this bill is the next stage in the implementation of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator brings together the heavy-vehicle regulatory regimes of six states and territories, excluding only the Northern Territory and Western Australia. While there were originally six different heavy-vehicle regimes for those states and territories that have now signed up to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, there's now only one.

The act created the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme, or FIRS, which was designed as an alternative scheme for those vehicles solely engaged in interstate operations. By registering through FIRS, heavy-vehicle operators were able to avoid registration through the multiple state and territory regimes and have a one-stop shop, creating a smoother process for interstate freight trade. But FIRS also had a dual purpose. The stamp duty exemptions that came from registering through the scheme were intended to encourage and facilitate the trucking industry to upgrade their fleet and put cleaner, safer, more efficient vehicles on the road. But as has been demonstrated in what has happened since then, and has been noted in the other place, a review of FIRS demonstrated that this scheme did not achieve its objective. So this, along with the implementation of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, is enough reason for the Greens to support this bill.

But just because FIRS didn't work, it doesn't mean that we should abandon the government's role in achieving a more efficient and cleaner heavy-vehicle fleet. The World Health Organization estimates that eight million people die every year from air pollution. Half of this is from indoor air pollution, but half is from outdoor pollution, which overwhelmingly comes from the combustion of fossil fuels in our power plants, our industrial facilities and our vehicles. One-third of all stroke deaths, more than one-quarter of heart disease and nearly two in every five instances of lung disease are due to air pollution—and this is the World Health Organization saying this, the peak expert body on health at the global level! That's globally. In Australia, it's estimated that more than 3,000 people die prematurely every year from air pollution—1,420 from motor vehicle pollution was the most recent estimate—and the economic cost of mortality and morbidity related to motor vehicle pollution was estimated to be $2.4 billion. That was in the year 2000—18 years ago. Our standards for heavy vehicles have, sadly, hardly improved since then, and we've got a lot more trucks on the road.

That's Australia; let's talk locally. I live in Footscray in Melbourne's inner west. I live 50 metres from a major freight route and when I and my family walk to the railway station or the local shops, we are accompanied by semitrailers and B-doubles rattling and roaring alongside us. The 2016 count showed 2,000 trucks a day use Moore Street, the street that I've got to walk along, in a 24-hour period. In Francis Street, Yarraville, it's more than 5,000 trucks a day. These aren't small white delivery vans. No, they are the real McCoy. They are huge semitrailers, B-doubles and tankers. There are 5,000 trucks a day in Francis Street. That's a truck every 20 seconds. In the 15 minutes or so that I will be speaking here today, there will be 50 trucks roaring past. Francis Street has had some of the highest levels of diesel pollution ever recorded in Australia, so much so that a report by Environmental Justice Australia has given it the title of 'Australia's most polluted residential street'. Every one of these trucks is pouring out diesel particulates that are known cancer-causing chemicals.

I want to commend the incredible work of the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group, who have worked so hard over 20 years to raise the health consequences of heavy vehicles on residential streets. We need to be cleaning up those trucks, just as we need to be getting the trucks off the residential streets. In the case of Maribyrnong, it's building truck ramps off the West Gate Freeway. We need to be getting more freight on rail, but particularly we need to clean up the trucks that we are going to continue to rely on and need as critical parts of our transport system.

What does it mean to clean up those trucks? There are standards that the government should continue to implement. Just because we're passing this legislation today doesn't mean giving up on the project of cleaning up those trucks. The Euro standards have for decades set the benchmark for the reduction of vehicle pollution. Since their beginning in 1999, the Euro standards have led to a dramatic reduction in carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and particulate matter from cars and trucks. Yet our government, as is all so common when it comes to pollution, is dragging its feet. Although the Australian design rules now enforce compliance with the Euro 5 pollution caps for all cars and trucks sold into Australia, the far more up-to-date Euro 6 standards are not enforced. We acknowledge that, through the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions, the government has begun the work to implement these standards, but let's be honest: it's been nearly three years since this body was set up—three years of people breathing in diesel fumes, children and the elderly being hospitalised and, sadly and tragically, unnecessary deaths.

I know I'm going to run out of time before finishing my speech. I would like to take this opportunity to move our second reading amendment, which is saying that, even though we are recommending that this legislation no longer continue, we need to have action on vehicle emissions. I move:

At the end of the motion, add:

", but the Senate:

(a) notes that:

(i) approximately 3000 Australians die from the effects of air pollution each year;

(ii) the transport sector is accountable for nearly 19 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to ongoing and dangerous climate change;

(iii) Australia is not compliant with the International Energy Agency's 90 day stockholding requirement of liquid fuels; and

(b) calls on the Government to:

(i) introduce Euro VI standards for light and heavy vehicles at the earliest possible opportunity;

(ii) immediately begin work on the design and implementation of a heavy vehicle fuel efficiency standard; and

(iii) develop a plan for Australia's transition to electric and other zero emission transport for freight.".

This is an opportunity for us to put this on the table and say, 'Yes, we are getting rid of this legislation that's no longer needed because of the new national truck arrangements, but we must not give up the quest for getting cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles.'

If we go back to the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions, we've got a draft regulatory impact statement from the forum. That was unequivocal about vehicle pollution. The rapid introduction and enforcement of Euro 6 standards for all new light and heavy vehicles in Australia is the best option on the table for the Australian community. Euro 6 compliant cars and trucks have been sold in Europe, Asia and the Americas for nearly five years now and there is no reason why they can't be sold here. It is doable, it is straightforward and it is high time that the government acts.

The situation is just as dire when it comes to the fuel efficiency of our trucking fleet. The burning of diesel and other fuels from our trucking fleets is responsible for almost five per cent of our national greenhouse gas pollution, and diesel consumption is the fastest-growing fuel in the transport sector, which is itself the fastest-growing section of the economy in terms of carbon pollution.


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