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Strengthening Australia's road vehicle laws: where we are up to, what comes next?
In August this year I announced that the Turnbull Government plans to introduce the Road Vehicle Standards Bill into the Parliament before the end of 2017 – and to have the new law in effect from 2019. This will replace the existing Motor Vehicle Standards Act, which has been in place for nearly thirty years.
The Road Vehicle Standards Bill has been developed following a review of the existing Motor Vehicle Standards Act conducted from 2013 to 2015, the announcement of the changes proposed in response to the review in February 2016, and extensive industry consultation since that time.
The new Bill will introduce reforms to modernise and strengthen the laws governing road vehicles when first supplied to the Australian market; ensure vehicle safety; clarify vehicle recall arrangements; accelerate harmonisation of vehicles with international standards; and provide more choice through streamlining and consolidating the regulatory pathways through which non-standard vehicles are imported.
Last week the Coalition Joint Party Room gave its approval for the Bill to be introduced into the Parliament. This is an important step in the legislative process.
At every stage in developing this updated regulatory framework for the motor vehicle sector, the Turnbull Government has consulted extensively with interested stakeholders.
As we prepare to bring the legislation to Parliament there is going to be another stage of consultation. Let me explain how this will work.
The Road Vehicle Standards Bill will set out the high level legislative framework for regulating the supply of road vehicles to the market. It will be accompanied by four other shorter Bills – one dealing with transitional arrangements (as we change over from the old legislation to the new, a process likely to take two to three years) and three dealing with various aspects of fees and charges. (It is a constitutional requirement that laws imposing fees and charges need to be set out separately in their own Acts.)
Many of the key details of the new system will be set out in the ‘Road Vehicle Standards Rules’ - which will be made under the new Act. For example, these Rules will contain detailed definitions of the individual categories of vehicles which can be imported into Australia as ‘specialist and enthusiast vehicles’ – such as a high performance vehicle or an environmental vehicle.
Before the end of the year, I intend to release publicly the five Bills – and the text of the Rules. At the same time, I will take the formal step of introducing the Bills into the Parliament – a step which commences the process of the Bills being considered by Parliament.
At that time, I will also call for public comments on the provisions of the Bills and the Rules, asking for those to be received by mid-February 2018. Of course, key decisions concerning the new regulatory framework have already been taken – as set out in my media release of 16 August 2017. But it is important that we allow a further period of public consultation on the details that will be contained in the Bills and the Rules, before the Bills are then debated, and voted upon, in the House of Representatives.
After the Bills are voted upon in the House, they will next go to the Senate. It will be up to the Senate to decide how quickly it deals with the Bills, including for example whether there is to be a Senate inquiry.
This legislative package is the most important set of changes to the Australian Government’s regulation of motor vehicles in nearly thirty years. That is why it is important that we take the time to consult on the details with interested stakeholders – including the automotive sector and consumers – before the Bills are debated and voted upon in the Parliament.
I look forward to receiving the feedback of motor vehicle sector stakeholders over coming months after the Bills and the Rules are released.