18 May 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:45): I rise to indicate the Greens' support for the Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) (Fees) Amendment Bill. The Greens believe that high-quality national freight and passenger rail is essential to our modern economy and our society. Many in this place know of my ongoing interest in rail as a mode of transport, particularly in regional areas. Rail transport is accessible, it is low emission and safe.
This bill establishes a new cost-recovery method to fund the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator. This model will align accreditation fees with the risk profile and regulatory effort expended by the regulator. These provisions will create a more equitable fee structure for rail operators. Furthermore, heritage and tourist rail operators will be exempt from accreditation and registration fees.
Currently, these operators are charged an annual fee of $2,000, which is sometimes covered by the government as a community service and usually only covers less than 5 per cent of regulating the sector. There are a number of these heritage and tourism operators in South Australia, including the mostly volunteer-run Pichi Richi Railway and the SteamRanger.
I actually went on the Pichi Richi Railway many times as a kid and I was surprised to know that they were paying a fee. These organisations are preserving the heritage of our rail networks and it is welcome news that they will now be exempt from these fees. The Greens support these changes, which will create a model with equitable fees as agreed by the Council of Australian Governments and the transport ministers. The introduction of a more proportionate fee structure to fund the Office of the National Safety Regulator is a positive step forward.
I want to use this opportunity to urge the government to look seriously at rail, particularly rail in the regions. As you would know, Acting President, I was chair of the parliamentary inquiry into public and active transport. I have not yet had an opportunity to meet with the transport minister. He has not responded to any of my requests to meet. I would welcome the opportunity to talk to him about the myriad issues in the transport portfolio, particularly relating to rail.
This bill plays an important role in addressing one issue but there are a whole heap of other issues that could be addressed. Of course, the Hon. Connie Bonaros asked questions today about the end of Rex in some of the regions. There are regional communities that are at risk of being cut off and they really rely on rail as a way of connecting them with the broader South Australian community. I urge the government to dust off that report and to meet with me so that we can discuss what might be done.