Northern Territory Second Reading Speeches

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Madam Speaker, I move that the bill now be read a second time.

The bill I introduce today will give effect to the government’s commitment to adopt national model legislation for the effective management and control of risks to improve rail safety in the Northern Territory. This bill is based on the model National Rail Safety Bill 2006 which was developed by the National Transport Commission following extensive consultations with rail organisations and rail safety regulators across Australia in 2005.

The aim of the national legislation has been very much to standardise and have a uniform approach to the regulation of rail safety in Australia. This approach to rail safety regulation has resulted in a model bill that more clearly delineates the role and responsibilities of operator and regulator which now specifically targets risk areas in rail operations, providing clarity in the chain of responsibility and, by doing so, improves the management and control of the risks associated with rail operations.

This bill also includes some provisions from South Australia’s
Rail Safety Act 2007 which do not appear in the model National Rail Safety Bill 2006. The inclusion of these provisions will help ensure the legislation operates seamlessly along the length of the Adelaide to Darwin railway.

High-profile fatal rail crashes in other states such as at Waterfall in New South Wales, have demonstrated an ongoing need to improve upon the current rail safety legislative framework in order to achieve better safety outcomes. In addition to improvements in safety, the adoption of uniform legislation across Australia will assist both rail operators and rail infrastructure managers who carry on business across state and territory borders, as well as government agencies responsible for the regulation of railway operations. This will help reduce the amount of red tape rail transport operators are faced with when seeking accreditation both in the Territory and nationally.

In addition to a safety management system, rail transport operations will also be required to have specific plans for the management of security risks such as theft, assault, terrorism, and other criminal acts, emergencies, the health and fitness of their rail safety workers, rail safety worker fatigue, and alcohol and drug use by rail safety workers.

Australia has adopted a co-regulatory approach for rail safety which involves: the sharing of responsibilities for regulatory development; implementation and enforcement between industry and government; government setting performance-based obligations and specific duties necessary to achieve acceptable levels of safety; government oversight through the assessment of the capacity and competence of rail organisations to be safe; ensuring safety management systems are in place; monitoring the activities of, and safety outcomes, achieved by individual rail organisations; educating rail organisations on the way to improved safety, performance; and making rail industry participants accountable for achieving required safety outcomes in return for allowing them the flexibility to identify and implement the most effective and efficient means of addressing risks of safety.

This co-regulatory approach will be enhanced by the provisions of this bill. In setting out the respective roles and duties of the responsible parties, the bill provides greater clarity to the function and responsibilities of the position of the Director of Rail Safety than is currently the case under our existing legislation. The safety obligations created by this bill are consistent with those contained in the
Workplace Health and Safety Act which require employers to ensure health and safety in the workplace so far as is reasonably practicable.

The bill allows for approval of compliance codes which will address matters such as: medical fitness assessments for rail safety workers; the management of fatigue for rail safety workers; and, drug and alcohol testing programs for rail safety workers. Rail operators will be able to determine the most cost effective means of meeting the requirements of an approved code, and their compliance with the code will satisfy certain regulatory obligations imposed on them under the legislation.

For the sake of consistency, the Northern Territory bill adopts some of the variations to the national model bill that South Australia has included in its legislation. The variations are as follows:
      • retaining the ability to appoint independent investigators to investigate and report on rail accidents or incidents;
      • creating a power to issue a prohibition notice to someone carrying out works on land in the vicinity of a railway that threatened the operational integrity or safety of the railway;

• creating a power to grant exemptions; and
      • allowing the regulator to release part of, or all of a report prepared by an operator into a notifiable incident if the release is justified in the public interest or on some other reasonable ground.

The bill introduces a new offence for a rail safety worker who has a prohibited drug, consistent with the
Traffic Act, present in their body while carrying out rail safety work.

This bill will improve the existing co-regulatory scheme for the regulation of rail safety, and will improve the safety of rail operations and increase public confidence in rail transport safety through the imposition of a range of safety duties, by making a greater range of enforcement powers available to the Director of Rail Safety, and by strengthening the range of sanctions that are available to both regulators and the courts.

This bill will also provide rail transport operators with a national regulatory framework that is consistent with the rules that they will be operating under in other jurisdictions and, in particular, in South Australia. These outcomes will benefit rail organisations and the community alike.

Madam Speaker, I commend the bill to honourable members and attach a copy of the explanatory statement.

Debate adjourned.


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