Bill Speech: Rail Safety Legislation Amendment (National Services Delivery and Related Reforms) Bill 2019.

Ms SPENCE (Yuroke) (14:55:44): I am not really sure that the member for South-West Coast actually spoke on the bill, but nonetheless I am very pleased to rise and speak in support of the Rail Safety Legislation Amendment (National Services Delivery and Related Reforms) Bill 2019. One of the primary purposes of this bill is to complete the national scheme of rail safety delivery by transferring the residual service delivery and regulatory functions from the Victorian regulator, Transport Safety Victoria, or TSV, to the national regulator, the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, or the ONRSR. After just a few short weeks ago welcoming Western Australia to the Legal Profession Uniform Law scheme, it is quite good now to be speaking on a bill that puts the final piece in the uniform rail safety scheme. To understand the purpose of this bill it is important to go over the history of how we got to where we are now in regard to rail safety regulation. This bill, as we have said, will complete the national reform of the regulation of rail safety, a process that began in 2011 when the Council of Australian Governments signed an intergovernmental agreement to establish the national scheme of rail safety regulation. This COAG intergovernmental agreement led to the approval of the rail safety national law that established the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator in July 2012, whose role is to administer rail safety regulation and enforcement across Australia. That regulator commenced operations in January 2013. Victoria entered into this single national regulatory scheme for rail safety in May 2014 through the enactment of the Rail Safety National Law Application Act 2013, referred to as the Victorian application act, which applied the national law as the law of Victoria. However, at that time there was concern about moving immediately to a direct delivery model, given the unproven record of the national regulator and the size and complexity of Melbourne’s metropolitan rail systems. As a result the Victorian application act provided for rail safety regulation in Victoria to be delivered through a service level agreement between TSV and the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator—a similar approach to what was adopted in New South Wales. Now, this bill implements the transfer of all rail safety service delivery and regulatory functions from TSV to the ONRSR by repealing the provisions in the Victorian application act that require that service level agreement between TSV and the ONRSR, and instead moving to a direct service level agreement. What is the difference between a service level agreement and a direct service level agreement, and why is that shift now appropriate? Firstly, a service level agreement sets out the boundaries under which the Victorian regulator will assist the national regulator to undertake its work. In Victoria this service level agreement applied to the regulation of heavy rail operations whereby TSV staff applied the national laws, including the national compliance and enforcement framework. TSV staff also applied the local laws in relation to tram and local tourist and heritage operators. In contrast, the direct service level agreement or direct delivery model means that the officers, which were formerly the TSV staff, are employed directly by the ONRSR whilst undertaking compliance and enforcement functions. This means that the rail safety officers will be transferred from TSV to the ONRSR as employees under the same terms and conditions that currently apply, and they will continue to regulate rail safety of Victorian rail operators as employees of the ONRSR, not TSV. The transfer will support the retention of staff with the necessary skills and experience to work constructively with industry to ensure that risks to safety continue to be managed effectively and are minimised. The retention of these staff will also help to ensure that the final stage of the national reform is delivered seamlessly. In practice this means that around 35 Victorian public servants will transfer to the national regulator, with their employment terms and conditions under the Victorian public service agreement being retained for the life of that agreement and a guarantee that all employees will be no worse off under the national arrangements. TSV will continue to exist as a body which provides support to the director of transport safety in undertaking the remaining functions, which include regulation of recreational boating and piloting services as well as bus safety under the Bus Safety Act 2009. So why is this shift now appropriate? That is for two reasons. Firstly, the ONRSR has a proven record that it is an efficient and effective national regulator; and secondly, an independent review has affirmed this record. The ONRSR has demonstrated that it is an efficient and effective risk-based regulator that gives due regard to state issues and is responsive to state and territory government needs and priorities. The independent review that was undertaken in 2017 also provided specific recommendations on the most effective delivery model for rail safety regulation in Victoria. In considering the merits of removing the service level agreement and allowing the ONRSR to regulate Victoria’s industry directly, the review included consideration of safety risks, organisational risk management systems and ONRSR competencies and capacities, the result of which is that the Victorian government is confident that the ONRSR can take full responsibility for rail safety regulation in Victoria without any risk of reduced safety. The review also considered the most efficient and effective approach to regulating Melbourne’s tram network and tourist and heritage railways that operate on their own tracks and are regulated locally under the Rail Safety (Local Operations) Act 2006, which is repealed by this bill. In doing so the review considered whether regulatory responsibility of trams and tourist and heritage railway should transfer to the ONRSR, as is the case in other states. On this issue the review found that the regulation of trams and local tourist and heritage operations would be more efficiently and effectively delivered under a national scheme and that tram operators have significant differences in risk profile, engineering and technical and operational standards to heavy rail systems. It noted that a competent regulator needs to have sufficient skill and experience to understand these differences for the purposes of assessing an operator’s competence and capacity to manage their risks. The review found that on the assumption that the relevant TSV staff would transfer to the ONRSR under the direct delivery model, then the ONRSR would have available to it no less skills, knowledge and expertise than are currently dedicated to regulating tram operations in Victoria. Furthermore, the ONRSR would bring additional skill and experience to the regulation of trams and tourist and heritage operations in Victoria. As such, the findings of the review gave the Victorian government confidence that the time is right to complete the transition to national regulation. We expect the national regulator to deliver on its promises, and we are confident that it can. In conclusion, this bill complements the significant investments that are being made in our rail system by this government by reducing the administrative complexity and eliminating the fragmentation of regulatory responsibility between TSV and the ONRSR. It will eliminate the duplication of administrative systems and enable cost savings to be progressively realised. Importantly, it will also enable the final stage of regulatory harmonisation benefits to be delivered to the rail industry and it will provide certainty to rail safety officers about their future. The Victorian government has confidence that the consolidation of rail safety regulatory responsibilities, skills and knowledge will improve the oversight of our railways and bring about improvements to rail safety over time. I am very pleased that this bill completes the national scheme by Victoria removing that last bit of the service level agreement and going to the direct delivery model, and I commend the bill to the house.