Part 4: Activities

Surface Transport Program

Through the Surface Transport Program (Program 2.2), the department:

  • progressed coastal shipping regulatory changes
  • promoted integrated road and rail market reforms for a more consistent regulatory environment
  • supported the strategic work program of the Transport and Infrastructure Council to sustain national transport reform momentum
  • worked with state and territory governments to encourage the trial and adoption of emerging transport technologies
  • worked with the national transport regulators
  • administered the two Tasmanian shipping schemes, Part X of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and the Shipping Reform (Tax Incentives) Act 2012
  • administered national disability standards for accessible public transport
  • worked with state and territory governments to progress development of a freight and supply chain strategy
  • worked in partnership with state and territory governments and industry to progress heavy vehicle road reform

The program contributed to three of our purposes:

  • supporting economic growth through transport
  • making travel safer
  • increasing transport access

Coastal shipping reform

Continued work on coastal shipping reform

In 2017–18 work to progress coastal shipping reform continued to ensure a safe, secure and efficient coastal shipping system as an integral part of Australia's national transport system.

Building on consultation conducted in 2016–17, the department prepared the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill 2017, which was introduced into Parliament in September 2017. In December, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Legislation Committee held an inquiry into the provisions of the Bill and recommended it be passed.

Heavy vehicle road reform

See the Infrastructure Investment section of this report.

Strategic work of the Transport and Infrastructure Council

The Transport and Infrastructure Council brings together:

  • Commonwealth, state and territory transport and infrastructure ministers
  • Australian Local Government Association
  • New Zealand's transport and infrastructure minister

The council, which met twice in 2017–18, progresses longer-term reforms to support sustainable transport funding and improve transport access, safety and productivity.

The department supported the council and the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials' Committee by providing secretariat services, and through the delivery of activities under the council's strategic work program. In 2017–18 the department led work on a number of council priorities including land transport reform and heavy vehicle road reform, implementation of initiatives under the National Road Safety Strategy and the National Policy Framework for Land Transport Technology, and provided support for the Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities.

Encouraging new transport technologies

The government worked with states and territories during the year to encourage emerging transport technologies trials and adoption. This included automated and connected vehicles, which could improve safety and efficiency outcomes. Through the Land Transport Technology Working Group, the department worked with all states and territories on a prioritised schedule of proposed trials, and liaised closely with the Queensland Government and industry. It also worked with the iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre on an agreement to trial a new security system that will help vehicles communicate safely and securely with infrastructure and other vehicles.

Agenda setting on vehicle environmental performance

The department continued work with the Department of the Environment and Energy to support the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions. Stakeholders were consulted on options to reduce vehicle emissions, including a light vehicle fuel efficiency standard, more stringent noxious emissions standards, and improved fuel quality standards. In January 2018 the Ministerial Forum released a draft regulation impact statement on better fuel for cleaner air, which was led by the Department of the Environment and Energy.

National freight and supply chain strategy

In November 2016 the Australian Government announced it would develop a national freight and supply chain strategy in response to Infrastructure Australia's Australian Infrastructure Plan. In 2017–18 the government established an independant panel to inquire into national freight and supply chain priorities to inform the strategy's development.

The four member expert panel comprised:

  • Marika Calfas, Chief Executive Officer, NSW Ports
  • Maurice James, Managing Director, Qube Holdings Ltd
  • Nicole Lockwood, Board Member, Infrastructure Australia
  • David Simon, Executive Chairman, Simon National Carriers

The government released the report in May 2018. It identifies 54 priority actions and highlights that:

  • freight is essential to Australia's continued wellbeing and national prosperity
  • a national approach from all tiers of government and industry is needed to address the proposed priorities

The Transport and Infrastructure Council agreed a framework for developing a 20-year national freight and supply chain strategy which will build on the priorities identified by the inquiry. The strategy will be developed by the Australian Government, state, territory and local governments, and industry. It is expected to be finalised for implementation from 2019.

National data collection and dissemination plan

In 2017–18 the department led development of the National Infrastructure Data Collection and Dissemination Plan, which was released in June 2018.

The plan contains priority projects to improve the way infrastructure data is collected, shared and used to guide decision making. One example is a Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) project using GPS data shared by freight operators to better understand where congestion is affecting freight movements. Another is BITRE's interactive freight performance dashboard which covers all transport modes (sea, air, road and rail) and metrics for activity, cost and time.

Improved public transport access for people with disability

The department is facilitating better access to public transport for people with disability through our administration of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Transport Standards), made under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

In 2017–18 the department worked with the National Accessible Public Transport Advisory Committee to modernise the Transport Standards, as supported by the Australian Government in its response to the second Transport Standards review. The modernised standards are expected to be released in 2019. The department also conducted national consultations to develop guidelines for a ‘whole of journey’ approach to public transport to better facilitate the needs of people with disability. The accessibility guidelines were released on 1 December 2017.

Surface transport regulation

One of the department's key roles is to maintain an effective regulatory framework for surface transport to ensure a safe, efficient and environmentally sustainable transport system. As part of this, there is regular consultation with government, industry and community stakeholders to ensure Commonwealth regulation is fit for purpose, proportionate to the risks being managed, and regulatory systems are continuously improved. In 2017–18 reforms were progressed to regulate the importation and first provision of vehicles in Australia through the Road Vehicle Standards Bills. These were introduced to Parliament in February 2018. These reforms are discussed in detail below.

The Federal Interstate Registration scheme was closed, with legislation passed by Parliament on 10 May 2018. This reform provides a more consistent registration operating environment, fulfils a long standing Australian Government commitment to heavy vehicle reform, and provides for the introduction of new heavy vehicle registration arrangements commencing from 1 July 2018.

Work with the national transport regulators

Under the auspices of the Transport and Infrastructure Council, the department collaborated with jurisdictional and regulatory partners during the year to progress transport reforms. These include more seamless heavy vehicle registration arrangements, more consistent safety regulations concerning major rail safety projects, and transitioning the national service delivery of maritime safety regulation to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) on 1 July 2018.

National Heavy Vehicle Regulator

The department administered $3.9 million to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) in 2017–18, for its Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative. The initiative improves safety outcomes for drivers and the communities they operate in.

The Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative is a competitive, rounds-based program to which the NHVR has invited submissions for funding annually since 2016–17. Round 2 of the program was implemented in 2017–18 and the Transport and Infrastructure Council agreed to fund 12 projects.

National Maritime Safety Regulator

During the year the department worked with AMSA—the National Maritime Safety Regulator—to progress implementation of national regulator arrangements. The department also worked with AMSA to encourage improved safety outcomes through streamlined and consistent regulatory services for Australia's domestic commercial vessel industries. Through the Transport and Infrastructure Council, a transition funding package of $112 million was committed by the states, Northern Territory and the Australian Government to help industry transition to full cost recovery when AMSA assumes service delivery responsibility from 1 July 2018.

Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator

The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) is responsible for regulatory oversight of rail safety in every Australian state and territory. The department worked with the regulator to improve oversight for major rail projects, and deliver more harmonised approaches to drug and alcohol regimes for drivers and workers. In 2017–18 we worked with the regulator and state and territory governments to:

  • secure more harmonised national arrangements on testing and detecting drug use among rail safety workers
  • achieve ongoing regulatory efficiencies for regulated rail entities
  • implement a consistent rail safety regulatory framework for major rail projects

International Maritime Organization

The department continued to develop Australia's international maritime safety and transport policy agenda during the year and engaged through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to protect Australia's interests.

At the 2017 IMO council elections, Australia's interest in international seaborne trade was recognised with its successful election to Category B (from Category C) of the council.

The department continued work with other agencies and consulted industry stakeholders on IMO issues related to maritime safety and environment, trade facilitation and international maritime law.

International maritime agreements, treaties and conventions

The department is responsible for implementing international maritime agreements, treaties and conventions on safety, the environment and trade facilitation. Through Australia's involvement in the IMO Maritime Environment Protection Committee, the department supported adoption of an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. The strategy sets a pathway to emissions reduction for the international shipping sector that is consistent with international climate change obligations, including a target to reduce emissions from international shipping by at least 50 per cent by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

Through the IMO Facilitation Committee, the department engaged on matters related to the application of the ‘single window’ concept, and implementation of the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention). The department also worked with other government agencies to notify Australia's differences to the FAL Convention following significant amendments to the convention that commenced on 1 January 2018.

The department released a discussion paper, Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, for public consultation in November 2017. Submissions will inform advice to government on whether to accede to the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea 1974, as amended by the 2002 Protocol.


The department administered $327,000 as Australia's contribution to the IMO in 2017–18 to help support a viable maritime sector.

Estimated expenditure for the Australian Government's contribution was $266,000. A variance of $61,000 was due to a 7.7 per cent increase in member state contributions agreed by the IMO assembly in 2017, with the remaining amount due to increases in Australia's tonnage contributions for 2018.

Protection of the Sea (Oil Pollution Compensation Funds) Act 1993

Compensation for pollution damage caused by spills from oil tankers is governed by an international regime established under the auspices of the IMO. The International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC funds) provide financial compensation for damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers.

IOPC funds are financed by contributions levied on member countries. Levies are based on the volume of particular types of oil being imported and the proportionate scale of certain oil pollution events occurring. Five Australian oil importing companies contributed to the fund for 2017. The department is responsible for transferring levies from oil companies to the IOPC Funds.

IMO collects contributions to the IOPC Funds retrospectively each year. For 2017–18, the department administered payments of $676,000 collected from Australian oil companies for the purposes of the scheme.

Tasmanian shipping schemes

Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme

$49.7 million to help reduce the coast of travel across Bass Strait for passengers with eligible vehicles

The department administers the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme. The scheme reduces the cost of sea travel between mainland Australia and Tasmania by assisting with the cost of transporting eligible passenger vehicles across Bass Strait. The rebate payable for each crossing depends on the vehicle type. In 2017–18, rebates ranged from $33 each way for a bicycle to $449 each way for a motor home or a vehicle towing a caravan. Up to $224 each way was payable for cars and buses.

Estimated expenditure for this program was $48.7 million. The actual cost in 2017–18 was $49.7 million. The scheme is demand-driven and costs vary with the number and mix of eligible passenger vehicles shipped across Bass Strait.

Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme

The department administers the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme which provides financial assistance for costs incurred by shippers of eligible non-bulk goods moved by sea between Tasmania and mainland Australia, the main island of Tasmania and King Island and the main island of Tasmania and the Furneaux Group. The objective of the scheme is to provide Tasmanian industries with equal opportunities to compete, recognising that, unlike their mainland counterparts, Tasmanian shippers do not have the option of transporting goods interstate by road or rail.

In administering the scheme in 2017–18, we paid 7,028 claims. Estimated expenditure for this program was $171.6 million. The actual cost in 2017–18 was $147.3 million. The scheme is demand-driven and costs vary with the number of claims made.

A regulatory framework for shipping that promotes access

The department supports the government to maintain an effective regulatory framework for shipping, including coastal freight, and transport schemes to ensure a maritime transport system that is accessible for Australian business.

In 2017–18, the department regulated international liner cargo shipping travelling to and from Australia under Part X of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Our regulatory activities include registration of conference agreements and ensuring exporters and importers have continued access to shipping services that are internationally competitive.

During 2017–18, a total of 27 provisional registrations and 23 final registrations of shipping agreements were approved by the Registrar of Liner Shipping under Part X. All shipping agreements were registered within the legislated timeframe.

The department worked with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to progress implementation of the Harper (Competition Policy) Review Recommendation 4—international liner shipping.

The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Act 2017 commenced on 6 November 2017. This provides for the ACCC to issue class exemptions. The ACCC—in consultation with the Treasury—is considering classes of conduct for which it might be appropriate to issue exemptions. As part of this process the ACCC will consult the liner shipping industry. It will be important that the application of a class exemption to liner shipping conference agreements ensures that liner shipping services to Australia remain reliable and competitive, and that costs are not a burden.

Tax incentives scheme

The Stronger Shipping for a Stronger Economy reforms commenced on 1 July 2012 and include the Shipping Reform (Tax Incentives) Act 2012. The Act provides a mechanism for shipping operators to gain access to a range of taxation concessions. This encourages ship ownership and ship operations in Australia as well as the employment of Australian seafarers.

The Act provides for certificates to be granted after the end of a financial year to applicants who meet the regime's requirements. For companies applying for these concessions for the first time, the scheme provides an opportunity to obtain a ‘notice’ during the first year of entry. This means applicants can be sure that the arrangements they propose will likely meet the requirements of the Act, and reduce pressure on them when compiling their tax returns.

During 2017–18 the department approved one application for a tax notice and 16 applications for a tax certificate.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Road Transport contribution

The department administered an annual contribution of $50,000 to the OECD during the year towards the transport research activities of the International Transport Forum (ITF). Membership of the ITF enables Australia to influence the forum's forward research work program and to promote successful Australian transport policy initiatives. The Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Keith Pitt MP, attended the Annual Summit of the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Germany in May 2018.

The OECD assesses contribution levels for all member countries based on an annual formula. Australia's contribution for 2017–18 was $50,000 and below the budget estimate of $61,000.

Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (Interstate Road Transport Act 1985)

The Interstate Road Transport Act 1985 establishes the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme, an alternative to state-based registration for heavy vehicles weighing more than 4.5 tonnes. At 30 June 2018, there were 13,399 vehicles registered under the scheme.

During the year, $69.3 million in heavy vehicle registration charges was collected by the Australian Government from the state and territory governments. The Australian Government redistributes all revenue collected from the scheme to the states and territories for road maintenance. The scheme closed to new entrants on 1 July 2018.

Summary of expenses

For a summary of expenses please refer to Surface Transport Program (Program 2.2) at Appendix A.

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Last Updated: 12 November, 2018