The Australian Transport Unions Federation (ATUF) welcomed announcements in the federal budget related to regulatory reform and a massive funding boost for transport infrastructure, skills and training.

Maritime Union of Australia National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin, said the budget delivers new transport intrastructure, particularly for freight transport in the context of the National Ports strategy and draft National Land Freight Strategy.

ATUF strongly endorses the long overdue tax changes aimed at encouraging new investment in infrastructure, which will provide a platform for industry superannuation funds to consider investing worker's savings in nation building projects that will secure long-term employment for the industry's transport workforce.

"The training changes are important because they provide opportunities for industry training bodies to work more closely in direct partnership with industry to target skills shortages and training where it is required," Mr Crumlin said.

The Budget also announced funding to move Australia closer to one set of modern, nation-wide laws covering maritime safety, rail safety and heavy vehicles. The $25.3 million investment over two years in the 2011-12 Budget builds on the $8.3 million provided in 2010-11 and will be used to complete the:

  • Establishment of a new Brisbane-based national heavy vehicle regulator with responsibility for registration and aligning regulations applying to trucks and buses over 4.5 tonnes;
  • Establishment of a new national rail safety regulator in Adelaide with oversight of the country's urban passenger rail networks and interstate freight operations. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) will become the national investigator of rail accidents;
  • Extension of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's (AMSA) regulatory responsibilities to cover all commercial vessels, not just those involved in interstate and international trade.

Transport Workers Union (TWU) National Secretary Tony Sheldon said that with an increase in articulated truck deaths on our roads each year, the funding for a national regulator would help with productivity and safety in the industry.

"The latest figures available have seen articulated truck deaths rise by 6 per cent across the country up to September 2010 - with NSW seeing an increase in deaths of 28.3 per cent. This is an industry in dire need of an overhaul," Mr Sheldon said.

"The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will make it easier for drivers who cross jurisdictional boundaries by removing confusion, and giving them the one set of laws to follow. This will become a one-stop-shop for owner-drivers and will assist them, and it is promising to see the government continue on its promise to help improve safety in the industry.

"But the key to safety in our industry will be through the system of Safe Rates the government is in the process of putting into place. This system will allow for client accountability, as well as arbitration and conciliation on rates of pay for owner drivers and employee drivers, so they are not forced by economic conditions and client demands to operate as a sweatshop on wheels," Mr Sheldon said.

Rail Tram and Bus Industry Union (RTBU) National Secretary, Bob Nanva, commended the federal government's investment in rail freight and urban passenger transport in light of Australia's booming population and the doubling of freight volumes within the next 20 years.

"A national review of Australia's export performance found that many businesses were struggling to stay afloat because of infrastructure bottlenecks, particularly with the movement of goods by rail," Mr Nanva said.

"With freight movements expected to double within the next 20 years, it has never been more important to have an integrated freight transport plan which includes a much greater investment in the future of our railways, and we're pleased the government is listening."

Mr Nanva also welcomed the Gillard Government's investment in urban public transport.

"While conservative governments have previously shifted sole responsibility for public transport to the states, the Gillard Government will invest $7.3 billion to give Australians cleaner and faster ways of getting around town," Mr Nanva said.

"There is no doubt that our cities would grind to a halt if these ongoing investments weren't made nationally to shift more people and goods on to our railways, buses and trams."