Roads Speeches | March 05, 2019
Second Reading - Transport legislation amendment
Victorian Parliament - 5 March 2019 - Ms KEALY (Lowan) (15:49:48): I am pleased to rise to speak on the Transport Legislation Amendment (Better Roads Victoria and Other Amendments) Bill 2018. This is a broad-ranging bill, but there is one certain element I would like to focus on around the amendment to the Business Franchise (Petroleum Products) Act 1979. In particular, this amendment seeks to hypothecate the speed camera fine revenues into the Better Roads Victoria Trust Account for the purpose of repair and upgrade of roads, with funds to be allocated—a third to outer suburban and interface areas and a third to rural and regional areas—with the remainder available as a float across the state wherever it is deemed necessary to be allocated. There are many other elements of this bill, including an amendment to the Road Safety Act 1986 regarding the administration of alcohol interlock devices. It removes that from the courts so that it is now processed through VicRoads. I think if this helps to unburden the judicial system, then this is a good thing. However, we need to make sure that the VicRoads administration is not overburdened with having to manage an additional requirement. We need to make sure that there is sufficient staff in those areas, because I do get complaints from time to time around difficulties in responsiveness within VicRoads. Fortunately, whenever my office need to contact our local VicRoads office we find our local people very, very responsive, but things can go pear-shaped from time to time. So I do encourage the government to ensure that they keep a close eye on this and if there is additional burden upon VicRoads administration, that we do see some more staff allocated there or an improvement of process so that they are not overburdened and so that, importantly, people who are seeking to have an interlock device removed or have that situation amended in some way are not delayed in an untimely way. There are other positive elements, but the main concern I have is that this bill does not appropriately recognise the complete underspend on and under-maintenance of our rural and regional roads in particular. therefore support the reasoned amendment that was put by the member for South-West Coast, which is to basically reallocate the split of the speed camera fine revenue so that there is a greater proportion allocated specifically towards rural and regional roads and to the urban interface areas as well—that is, that 40 per cent of the revenue that comes to the government via speed camera fines is allocated to rural and regional areas. There has been some debate on this bill about whether there is a sufficient amount of roads maintenance going on and how much money is being allocated. I know from reviewing the budgets over previous years that certainly in the first three years of the Andrews Labor government in the last term of Parliament there were significant cuts to the road asset management budget. In speaking to many people, whether it was civil contractors, people who work within VicRoads or people in our local community, a large number of concerns were expressed to me that we were not managing this enormous asset that Victoria has—it is an extremely large road network; it is my understanding that under VicRoads there are 24 000 kilometres of pavement that have to be managed through this organisation—and that it simply was not good enough. We had, I think, in the first year of the last term of Parliament a 17 per cent cut to the road asset management budget. We also saw the scrapping of the country roads and bridges program. This put an enormous amount of pressure on both VicRoads and local government to maintain this important asset of our road pavements. This issue is something I hear about more than anything else in my community. We have got other hot issues at the moment, such as those around the government’s mandate to move all hospital and government banking, school banking and even cemetery trust banking to a centralised account with Westpac in Sydney—even moving it out of the state. This is putting enormous pressure on communities, and there are huge concerns across my electorate about the impact this will have, not just on the smaller branches of those big four banks in our most remote rural communities. We have already seen a number of bank closures, but I am certain we will see more in the future because of the Labor government’s decision. It is also putting an enormous amount of pressure on our community bank model. Community banks donate so much money to our local communities. When I was CEO of Edenhope hospital we had $100 000 donated from the community bank to the hospital to build our first-ever purpose-built medical clinic. I do fret that those donations to the community will not be replaced by the Andrews Labor government in this change that they have put forward. Ms Thomas: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I think the member for Lowan has now strayed rather far away from the contents of the bill. She is talking about things that have nothing to do with the bill, and I would ask you to bring her back to speaking on the bill. The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have been listening to many members speak on this bill, and many members have strayed far and wide from the bill, but I do ask the member for Lowan to refer to the bill. Ms KEALY: Thank you very much, Deputy Speaker. In addition to some of these changes by the Andrews Labor government, we did see a significant cut to the VicRoads road asset management budget. Of course there was a bit of a change in the last budget, and I will acknowledge that. We have seen a large number of roadworks on our major roads, and that has also been supported by a major injection of cash from the federal coalition government, which is really working to improve our roads—particularly those major highways that it assists to build—and it is positive to see that it is supporting the maintenance of those as well. There are so many issues when it comes to the management of our roads. We do need to see a greater injection of funds, but we also need to see our roads managed in a much more proactive and positive way. Too often we hear of poor maintenance works and poor repair works. I was on the Casterton-Apsley Road late last year and I was appalled to see that after some road patching was done—it had been done a couple of days beforehand—I could actually stick my finger into the asphalt that had been put in the pothole. It was that poorly mixed that it had not properly set. Just to emphasise why that is important on this particular road, there are a number of timber coupes in that area, and timber trucks that are fully laden travel along this road along with other community vehicles—domestic vehicles, farm vehicles and of course other freight vehicles as well. It is not good enough that we are spending good money to get these roads maintained and then we have got potholes blowing out not just after a few months; sometimes it is after days or even hours. I recall being in Penshurst last year and seeing somebody shovel some asphalt mix into a pothole, step on it once with their boot and then get back in their car and drive off. Not less than 30 seconds later, a fully laden log truck drove through it and blew out the pothole. This is what we need to look at to make sure that we have high-quality works when we fix our roads. We can talk about the amount of money that we are spending on roads, whether it is less or more, until the cows come home, but at the end of the day our roads are in terrible condition in western Victoria. It is not just me who says it; it is not just my constituents who say it. The RACV have undertaken extensive research that shows that western Victoria has the worst roads in the state. The Auditor-General’s report of 2017, Maintaining State-Controlled Roadways, reaffirmed that western Victoria and south-west Victoria have some of the worst roads in the state. Further, this report did have a number of recommendations, particularly in relation to VicRoads adopting a road maintenance strategy, revising program guidelines to include pavement condition data in preventive maintenance programs and revising data management requirements and data collection. Astonishingly, there was a recommendation to develop statewide key contract outcomes and KPIs to measure contractor performance—I cannot believe that that is not in place already; it must be implemented immediately—and also to provide meaningful reports and data on road conditions and performance to ensure the public is fully informed of the road pavement maintenance program. It is not just about this issue. We need to make sure that we manage our assets appropriately. While it is prosecuted that the wire rope barriers are saving lives, we are not seeing them on dangerous corners where we have actually seen cars and trucks come off the road. We have not seen an additional injection of funds that would enable these wire rope barriers to be properly maintained. I still find it astonishing that the road quality and pavement quality is not taken into account when it comes to maintaining our roads and having safe roads. So while I can see some positives around this legislation, I do call on the government to provide a greater weighting of funds for the maintenance of our rural and regional roads, because if we fix our country roads we will save country lives, and surely the people of country Victoria deserve to drive on safe roads.
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