Transport Legislation Amendment (Better Roads Victoria and Other Amendments) Bill 2018

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran)  — I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens to the Transport Legislation Amendment (Better Roads Victoria and Other Amendments) Bill 2018. This bill covers a range of areas, primarily looking at the funding of roads, particularly in rural and suburban interface areas. There are some changes to how interlock devices are administered and a number of other administrative and technical amendments that I will address.

I will focus on the roads funding part of it first. Essentially we have got an existing Better Roads Victoria trust account that is used for road funding. This bill will formalise that payments going into that account will be fines from speed cameras and, I believe, other road offences. This bill will add some additional specifications as to where those funds go. There is a section in there providing that funds must be used for the repair and upgrade of roads in outer suburban interface communities, roads and level crossings in rural and regional Victoria and roads and level crossings in metropolitan areas in Victoria. There is an additional requirement on what percentage of those funds need to be spent on both rural and regional roads and interface and outer suburban roads, which has been given as 33 per cent for each, with the balance, I think, to be at the discretion of the government. The opposition has circulated an amendment saying that that should be boosted to 40 per cent. The member for Broadmeadows has said, 'Hey look, we are overcommitting. This is not just a set figure. We are actually overcommitting to that'. But it does look like they are putting into it because perhaps this government or governments cannot trust themselves to actually spend the money required in those outer suburbs and rural and regional Victoria, which is a bit of a shame because much of the urban growth and urban sprawl has been in outer suburbs.

It has been an ongoing issue. Governments of both sides are happy to have that urban sprawl and the increased development and population growth in those outer suburbs and interface communities, and we know they are very active in advocating for their needs; certainly I and my Greens colleagues have met with interface communities. But the infrastructure required, like roads, just has not been kept up, and that has been a problem Melbourne and Victoria-wide.

Obviously the Greens have always been very much about investing in public transport over those mega toll road projects and freeways, but we are aware that there does need to be investment in roads and we are aware of the needs of suburban and interface councils. I grew up in Frankston and drove to work in Hawthorn on the South-Eastern Freeway every day. Driving down Cranbourne Road you have got areas not just in Frankston but across Melbourne where you have got once single-lane country roads that are now supporting new housing developments or funnelling traffic onto a freeway. They are the ones that are really just ill-equipped to handle the sudden increase in traffic loads that they are facing. If governments do not feel that they are able to use their usual budget processes 
to allocate funding to roads on a needs basis, or if they do not trust that the other mob will do the same if they get in, then we are happy to support the provisions in this bill.

The second aspect of this bill is in relation to interlock provisions. It takes interlocks out of the hands of the courts and puts their administration into VicRoads, which I do understand will still have the ability to appeal to the courts. I think there are some serious offenders that will still remain with the courts. I think the idea of freeing up the courts from dealing with these sorts of offences is a good move. Certainly something that the Greens have generally pushed for within the justice system is freeing the courts from some of those offences that really do not need to be dealt with through the courts.

I think the member for Croydon read out either a letter or an email from someone who said perhaps the Department of Health and Human Services should be involved as part of an early intervention process for these sorts of offences, and I take that point. I thought it was a good point. But with this particular change there is a tightening of when an interlock is applied — the regime is being expanded to include offences of dangerous driving, fleeing a police pursuit or theft of a vehicle when under the influence of alcohol, which I think is fair enough. Under this change a first motor vehicle offence where the offence was committed under the influence of alcohol will now require the driver to be subject to a mandatory alcohol interlock condition for a period of no less than six months.

There are a range of other technical and administrative amendments that we are supportive of, although one that did grab my eye was the requirement that the Treasurer no longer has to sign off on VicTrack selling, developing or disposing of land. The government says that this will avoid unnecessary administration costs for the state and reduce the potential for delays. That power will now remain only with the minister. I know that this government does like to sell things off — they have got a very aggressive privatisation agenda; probably the most aggressive privatisation agenda since Jeff Kennett — but I do think that perhaps the Treasurer should have or might want to have a say and that there should be some extra oversight into selling public land, so I will await some further justification from the government on that particular matter. Maybe we will look to amend that in the other place.

Given that this bill does address various aspects of transport governance, I did want to address a bit more generally transport governance in this state. I have noticed that there have been reforms over the term of this government in terms of transport governance. We have had the creation of Transport for Victoria, but I still think Victoria is probably falling a bit short of best practice in what we have got for transport governance. If you look at the model of Transport for London where there is a single super-agency instead of having separate statutory authorities — as in the Victorian case where you have still got VicRoads and Public Transport Victoria — you have now got the roads, public transport and all of those areas operating as units sitting within the one single organisation. They have also got a far more transparent and open process in terms of what they are doing and how they make decisions, with several boards covering across several issues. I think they have public meetings, or at least the minutes are put online. It is a very much more transparent process and it is still a process that takes a more holistic view of transport in the state. Whilst this reform is being made and Transport for Victoria are obviously doing some planning across all transport in the state, I think we would still be better served with the one single agency to cover planning the operations of transport.

I think we would be right to raise some questions, given the government's Suburban Rail Loop announcement, and I think there were a few people who did raise the fact, and rightly so, that this was done within Development Victoria and not done through Transport for Victoria or Infrastructure Victoria. I think that is quite interesting. If we have created Infrastructure Victoria and if we have created Transport for Victoria, I think the government needs to explain what they are there for if they are not going to use them.

Mr Pearson interjected.

Mr HIBBINS — It is funny, you know, the member for Essendon only comes in to heckle when the Greens are speaking. Let the National Party go. Let the Liberal Party go.

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr HIBBINS — It is very funny — every single time.

Mr Pearson interjected.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ward) — Order!

Mr Pearson — You think you are special. You are just a rat.

Mr HIBBINS — Diddums. So I would say, further on transport governance in this state, what we are lacking in this state is that integrated transport plan. It is good to see a big project like the Suburban Rail Loop with a long-term vision, but that is a single project. What has consistently been raised is the lack of that long-term integrated transport plan, which we last had under the Brumby government — it had a Victorian Transport Plan — and it was actually mandated under the Transport Integration Act 2010 that they brought in. Since that plan expired no government has actually met the requirements of that act by having an integrated transport plan. We have raised it a few times during the estimates process but I do not think there has been a positive response from any of the ministers or those in the department that that is something we are going to have in Victoria. I guess the concerns are particularly —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ward) — The time has come for us to have some lunch. The member for Prahran will have the call when the matter is next before the house.

Sitting suspended 1.00 p.m. until 2.01 p.m.

Business interrupted under sessional orders.

Debate resumed.

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran)  — In concluding my remarks on this bill, which we are supportive of, I was just making some general points in regard to transport governance in this state and the lack of an integrated transport plan even though it is required by the Transport Integration Act 2010. In fact multiple governments since the Brumby government have actually been in breach of that act by not having a plan. The result of not having a plan is essentially that we are now seeing pop up out of nowhere projects of various benefit. Obviously we have had the Suburban Rail Loop pop up out of nowhere — it did not seem to have anything to do with Transport for Victoria or Infrastructure Victoria — although we certainly welcome a long-term investment in public transport.

The other project is the West Gate tunnel proposed by Transurban. It is such an incredible project. I have described Transurban as essentially the first privatised transport department in the country. Transurban now are essentially planning, building, owning and operating transport projects in this state. Instead of getting their appropriation from the budget, they are getting it from a sweetheart deal to extend tolls that go straight into their profit margin. It is such a sweetheart deal that even the opposition are not impressed with it. In a long-term transport plan for the state no doubt you would see those other options available to serve the west, whether it is Melbourne Metro 2 or of course the government's first original proposal, the West Gate distributor project and the $500 million off-ramps there — I think there was community consensus that was the right way to go — instead now we have got this incredible project that even the Liberals think is a bit too much of a sweetheart deal with the private sector. That is what happens when you do not have an integrated transport plan, which is certainly what we need in this state.

I would also make the point that if money from these funds is going to be expended on various roads, upgrades and repairs, we do actually need real, meaningful community engagement and community involvement in decisions in regard to transport projects in their area. You probably could not find an electorate or community that has not been, quite frankly, appalled by some of the consultation and by the decisions that have been made by transport agencies in regard to projects big or small.

In my own area, the Prahran electorate, we had the case of High Street, where without warning, without anyone telling us, the speed limit was lowered to 40 kilometres an hour and some solid bike lanes were put in. I thought the bike lanes were good, but they were dropped unawares on the community. Sure as day, several months later the bike lanes disappeared, replaced by some dotted lines, again with no real explanation or consultation. After that suddenly we saw an ad on Facebook that they were going to do some community consultation about what to do with High Street.

Another example was the Hornby Street crossover. I think some mail went out saying, 'This is what's happening' — that this crossover was being closed. It took a very long time, community petitions, some meetings — I met with residents on the street — but VicRoads finally were convinced to hold some community engagement and meet with residents there, and there was complete, absolute chaos about whether this was just information or whether they were actually consulting on what was going to happen. Was this just VicRoads telling residents what was happening or were they actually genuinely seeking feedback? There was chaos in terms of how many people they thought would turn up and what the location was. If you really want to fire up a local community, that sort of failed consultation is the right way of going about it.

I can mention several other cases where people in a local area were quite unhappy about not being involved in meaningful decision-making about transport projects in their area. Certainly we should look at involving local groups in public meetings so that all transport projects, big or small, in a local area can be taken to a public meeting and we can have a formalised process with decent, meaningful community engagement in decisions about transport projects in their own area rather than, quite frankly, what is often a pick-and-choose approach from the transport agency as to what level and what form of engagement they are going to have on transport projects in local areas.

With that, we are supportive of this bill. As I said, we will probably have a bit of another look at the provision to not require the Treasurer to sign off on VicTrack selling, disposing of or developing land, but other than that we are supportive of this bill.