Industry has kept delivering – now it’s Canberra’s turn

Among the many disruptions wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic was the need to defer the 2020-21 Commonwealth Budget, which will now be handed down some five months later than originally scheduled.

As always, ALC made a submission to the Federal Government ahead of the originally planned date.

This was well before the full effects of the pandemic reached Australian shores and our industry faced the challenge of keeping essential supplies moving, despite unprecedented restrictions on movement and the effect of state and territory border closures.

All of us – governments, industry and the wider community – have learned lessons as a result of the COVID-19 experience.

Perhaps more than ever before, communities now understand the very real and immediate impact that supply chain disruption can have on their daily life.

As consumers witnessed empty supermarket shelves as a result of unprecedented demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a clear need to ensure that logistics operators are given the flexibility so that they can meet increased and changing demand.

This is equally true right across the supply chain — from deliveries into supermarket loading docks through to the movement of freight trains across state borders.

Perhaps the single most effective government action taken during the pandemic to address supply chain disruption did not involve massive expenditure, but simply the removal of operational curfews through non-legislative ministerial action.

Industry has called for the removal of such operational restrictions over many years.

With many of them suspended for the duration of the pandemic, both government and the community have been able to see the benefits.

As the Prime Minister himself noted in June this year: “Trucks were allowed to resupply along roads and during hours where they were previously banned. And the sun came up the next day. It was extraordinary.”

This goes to the heart of the key point ALC has made to the Federal Government ahead of this year’s Budget.

With the pandemic having placed the nation’s finances in a challenging position, this is the time to focus on regulatory reform that may not cost big money — but can nevertheless have a profound impact on supply chain efficiency.

The need for such regulatory reform was a key focus of ALC’s pre-Budget submission in January and the urgency of that task has been underscored in the supplementary submission provided to the Federal Government in August.

In particular, ALC has encouraged the Government to use recently announced changes to inter-governmental relations to give renewed impetus to policy matters that have been on the agenda for many years.

ALC believes that for the most part, the National Cabinet initially established as part of the response to COVID-19 has worked well and we supported the decision to replace COAG with National Cabinet on a permanent basis.

As part of that, an Infrastructure and Technology Committee of National Cabinet has been established, and it is imperative the Commonwealth now uses that Committee to focus on issues that maximise sectoral efficiency and therefore increase the development of jobs.

A top priority must be expediting reform of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), so that reforms outlined in ALC’s submission to the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials Committee (TISOC) in late 2019 in areas such as data collection, fatigue management and the inclusion of a National Operating Standard for heavy vehicle operators can be advanced.

This includes tasking the Committee with overseeing the process through which each jurisdiction reviews each derogation from the HVNL, to determine whether they remain a cost-effective way to deliver intended productivity or safety outcomes.

If not, the derogations should be removed, in the interests of enhanced national consistency and greater certainty for the industry.

The Budget is an opportunity for the Federal Government to clearly signal its commitment in this area and to provide the financial resources necessary to meaningfully advance these much-needed reforms.

Kirk Coningham

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