Roads Public Transport | September 05, 2018

Transport legislation amendment (better roads victoria and other amendments) bill 2018

Victorian Parliament - 5 September 2018 - Ms KEALY - I am very happy to speak on the Transport Legislation Amendment (Better Roads Victoria and Other Amendments) Bill 2018. Roads is by far the biggest issue in my electorate. Lowan is the largest electorate in the state, representing about one‑sixth of the state of Victoria. We have extensive road networks. We have an extremely poor public transport system. We do not have any rail services in our part of the state. We have some connections with coaches, but not enough to help our people to get from A to B just using the public transport system. We heavily rely on our local roads, our state roads and our federal roads. We need our roads to get to work safely. We need to be able to get our children to football and netball training and to school. We need to be able to use our roads to move around the fantastic amount of freight that we produce in our region. There is our grains production, and we have a lot of stock movements for our sheep and our cattle.

We rely heavily on having a very good quality road network. Therefore I was of course quite excited to see that we had legislation coming through the Parliament, the title of which would indicate that finally we might get a better deal for roads in country Victoria and particularly in the electorate of Lowan. There are elements of this bill which I will refer to early on, and then I would like to get down to the details around the Better Roads Victoria Trust Account and also of course the reasoned amendment that my colleague the member for Croydon has put forward today.

There are a number of administrative changes that this legislation will put into place, particularly provisions around giving greater responsibility for the administration of alcohol interlock devices to VicRoads, taking pressure off court resources. This sounds like a very good idea to me; however, we do need to make sure VicRoads is properly equipped and able to deliver on that work. My office receives complaints about the ability of VicRoads to deal with the demands already upon them, so we need to ensure that appropriate support is there so that there is not diminished service, particularly when we are talking about alcohol interlock devices. It is important that people who have been ordered to use these devices are able to get these devices checked quickly and put on quickly, and of course they need to be evaluated, removed and assessed at that point in time as well, so we do need to make sure that VicRoads can manage that.

The bill proposes minor amendments to the Heavy Vehicle National Law Application Act 2013, the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Act 2017, the Transport Integration Act 2010 and the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 to reduce red tape and streamline transport authority activities. The bill also amends the Business Franchise (Petroleum Products) Act 1979 in relation to the Better Roads Victoria Trust Account.

I would like now to go into further detail around the roads issues in my part of the state. As I referred to earlier in my contribution, roads are the only way many of my constituents can get from A to B. It is the way that they get to medical appointments, do their shopping, get to work and attend their sporting events. Whatever it may be, we rely on our roads. Unfortunately over the past four years our roads have gone into an almost dangerous state. A comment that is put to me quite frequently is that we need cars to be roadworthy, but why are our roads not car worthy? This is something I know the Victorian Farmers Federation have pushed very, very hard through their president, David Jochinke, who is a constituent of mine in the Lowan electorate. He knows all too well how dangerous it is to have crumbling roads — roads that are riddled with potholes and have crumbling edges.

When we see some safety improvements to our roads, they are not focused on improving our road surfaces but instead are put forward as safety initiatives which are actually making our roads more dangerous. I refer specifically to the recent flood of installations of rumble strips on roads in areas of my electorate which simply are not wide enough to be able to cope with the increased transport width that is required when you put a rumble strip up the centre of the road. The edges are crumbling, and it is just plain dangerous.

On the Borung Highway between Dimboola and Warracknabeal we have had many, many complaints from constituents who are deeply concerned that for trucks that are travelling up the road they have the awful choice of either having to straddle the rumble strip while driving up the centre of the highway, putting their tyre into either the potholes or the crumbling edges on the sides of the road, risking putting their load off balance and having a horrific accident themselves, or of course driving along the rumble strips, which can actually lift the rumble strips. We have had reports of rumble strips lifting from the centre of the road and flying up, and people have witnessed that. Fortunately they have not hit a motorcyclist or another vehicle and created vehicle damage, but I imagine that would be a horrific outcome if they did.

Last week I did my mobile office visit to the west of the state and visited the community of Goroke, and at Goroke we heard a number of concerns from residents about rumble strips which had been installed on the road to the east of the Goroke community. I drove over that road and was absolutely appalled and frightened for my own safety. Basically one whole side of the road was all potholes. It had been entirely ripped up. There are these rumble strips up the middle that are supposed to make the road safe, but at the end of the day if your road surface is falling apart you have got drop‑offs and a dangerous road surface. If we have got rumble strips, it is not going to make the road safe. We need to get that fixed.

I also had complaints about the Henty Highway between Horsham and Warracknabeal. All of these roads carry a lot of heavily laden trucks and B‑doubles. They carry school buses and schoolchildren. They carry people who are just getting about and doing their daily business. They carry people who are going to work. It is just simply not good enough that Labor has allowed our road network to fall apart so devastatingly, putting local lives at risk.

Labor scrapped the country roads and bridges program, which put an enormous amount of support and assistance into local government so that they could maintain their local roads. We, the Liberals and Nationals, have committed that we will bring back the Country Roads and Bridges Fund, and I can tell you that has had overwhelming support from my local councils. They know now that they would have a fund that they could rely on and they could help to get their local roads back up to scratch.

We also saw from Labor as soon as they came into government the scrapping of hundreds of millions of dollars — cuts of hundreds of millions of dollars — out of the road asset management budget. These are the funds that VicRoads uses to keep our roads up to scratch, so it is no surprise that we are seeing roads falling apart, that we are seeing more and more potholes and that we are seeing roads simply not being fixed. Perhaps a reduced speed limit sign is put up every so often to avert responsibility under the Road Management Act 2004. VicRoads is no longer liable for damage on those roads if there is a reduced speed limit sign.

We have seen terrible quality of workmanship whereby checks are not being undertaken on roads when works have been put in place along with extensive patching rather than rebuilding, because VicRoads simply does not have the money that it needs to keep our roads safe. This is something that I have spoken about on so many occasions. I have spoken to people in my electorate, and it is still the number one issue for people within the Western District and Wimmera communities. It is something I have spoken about with the minister. I have raised it in Parliament on so many occasions. The media have run the issue so many times, but unfortunately Labor just will not listen. Even if they put forward legislation such as this to say that they are going to have this new entity, Better Roads Victoria, that is going to make all the difference, we know deep down that that does not have the money associated with it that is going to make a big difference.

There is a good change in here. I will refer to it — and I think most people would have thought that this was happening already — that is, that any road infringements will be redirected into a Better Roads Victoria trust account. A third of that will go to rural and regional roads, a third to interface council areas and then a third for the minister to do as he wishes. The reasoned amendment is something that I strongly support because it is about evaluating how we are going to share those funds around. I strongly believe there should be greater consideration and greater due diligence done in terms of providing more of that revenue into these rural and regional roads that are absolutely falling apart, impacting on our productivity.

I have got another truck driver, John Wyld of Tarrayoukyan, who reported to me last week that he has had to drive his truck much more slowly than the 100 kilometres an hour on Dunkeld‑Cavendish Road because it is simply not safe. We need to fix our country roads and save country lives.


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