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12 November 2019

Second Reading: Transport Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.

I welcome the opportunity to have the time to speak on the Transport Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.

This bill is an omnibus bill which deals with many issues, but basically it is restructuring the Department of Transport, abolishing VicRoads as a standalone organisation and enabling the transfer of staff to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

I will mainly talk on a few areas of this bill that relate to my shadow portfolios as Shadow Minister for Ports and Freight and Shadow Minister for Rural Roads and that are relevant to my electorate.

It is rather disappointing that what we see this government focusing on is spending money on reshuffling a department. What you need to ask yourself is: what is the point in working out whose boss is going to be whose boss? It is just a case of deckchair shuffling from what I can see.

Now, there are a couple of other things in it that I will say are good later on, like the removal of offensive slogans from hire cars, but mostly, when you look at these 259 pages, what the bill actually does is reshuffle.

It just astounds me, and I do not know for how many years I have been hearing from people how offensive they find the cost of these shuffles. Cars have to be rebadged, the emails of people have to be changed, they have to change the Windows branding of the computers and there is data sharing—these in themselves will cost in excess of $1 million.

So it does not really please the people of Victoria to hear of this excessive waste of their taxpayer money that they work very hard to be able to contribute to the state of Victoria for improvements. What we are not seeing from this is improvement.

That $1 million that the data sharing and those things I just quoted before would cost—how many potholes would that fix? Are we seeing that trains are going to run on time, that trains are going to be upgraded or that we are going to be able to get people into regional Victoria—places like Warrnambool and Albury—better and faster?

This government has got a terrible, terrible track record on being able to manage things efficiently—and I do not think the word ‘efficient’ is in the mantra of the people opposite me.

I think we can back that up by saying that spending $2 billion on a line to service people out on the Frankston line and then having slower trains after spending $2 billion and saying that is good for commuters is absolutely absurd. Mr Richardson: Wrong line.

A member interjected

Ms BRITNELL: Yes, wrong line. I do not know—Sandringham?

Mr RICHARDSON: Pakenham.

Ms BRITNELL: Pakenham—thank you for the correction. It is somewhere out there.

But it is still a failure. It does not detract from the fact that $2 billion got spent and we have got less faster trains—we have got 90 slower trains. Only 15 trains are actually any faster.

So are the people of Victoria pleased to see a reshuffling of a department in a 259-page document which mainly shifts the deckchairs around? I have been looking across Victoria; I was in the north-east of Victoria last week, and their roads are appalling—the people are angry.

Coming back to my area, I have had people send me some footage of a road that I have put up on my Facebook site. It is the Warrnambool-Caramut Road, and Ros Russell sent me some footage.

Go and have a look on my Facebook page at it—it is absolutely appalling. I got a text from another constituent just yesterday with a photo of it being fixed—and it is not fixed.

It has been filled with some slurry. You watch—next week with a bit more rain it will be gone, and it already looks absolutely appalling.

I had a phone call from Simon Cozens, another constituent, just as I was coming into the chamber to say to me, ‘Have you seen this road?’. And I said, ‘Yes, I’ve actually seen it; I’ve been told about it many, many times’.

You have to actually cross double lines on a bend to be able to avoid the pothole—it is that big. Now, it has got slow down signs on there; it is now down to 60. But the word around town from people who travel this road every single day is that you actually have to go at 20 to be able to get around it.

This is significant. Since that Facebook post I have had numerous people sending me videos of the Mortlake Road as you come into Mortlake from the Melbourne side and the Lismore-Scarsdale Road, I think it is, on the way to Ballarat.

So many videos have been sent to me that I will actually put a few more up on my page. But it is absolutely appalling.

When this government talks about spending money, it is spending money in Melbourne at the expense of country Victorians.

We see that with our rail line as well. I heard the member for Ballarat saying that the government is spending money in the regions, but we are not talking about Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.

The regions are further out to the borders of Victoria as well as Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo. Fair is fair, and that is not happening—we are not getting a fair go.

When I look at the trains in Warrnambool, I get inundated daily with people telling me about the appalling situation we have in Warrnambool with the trains there. They are very old, they lack disability toilet access on many trains and the station toilet is inaccessible to many of the disabled people coming down to the train station to use the service.

The trains are continually breaking down, they are running late and they are replaced all the time with buses.

We have a 92 per cent punctuality target set by the government, and that has only been hit 12 times in a decade and only once in 2019. Today is 12 November and we still have not seen the figures for October, so I am assuming there is something more to hide because they are appalling figures.

Only once this year have we met that target. We need more road maintenance—more than just token gestures and repackaging announcements of the same money.

The roads are appalling. Do not waste time spending money on pothole after pothole after pothole that have to be refixed because it is not done properly. That is a reactive treatment; it costs $175 per square metre to do work like that, whereas proactive treatments cost 30 cents. I have not got my figures wrong.

They are quoted in a Victorian Auditor-General’s Office report. One thing if the department is going to change its name: I hope the new department looks at the VAGO report, which clearly recommends an overhaul of VicRoads.

It is a good thing that the legislation will transfer the staff across from Victoria to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. I met with the CEO last week, and I thank him for giving me his feedback. They are doing some terrific work in getting smoother systems in place for truck owners to apply for permits and to have a better process.

They are collecting data to justify the way they plan, and that is fantastic. They are doing great work with local government.

A lot of people have been saying to me that the final say on infrastructure comes from the state authority, and unfortunately VicRoads has a reputation right around the nation of being very, very poor when it comes to issuing permits and doing things smoothly.

I hear that all the time. I have not heard anyone talk about the government’s running of VicRoads being very effective at all. I am actually told we are the worst in the country and are creating all sorts of hassles, so it would be good to see a focus on state-based infrastructure and having the testing of culverts and bridges being done so that we can get more efficient transports like A-doubles from one state to the next and throughout Victoria more smoothly.

I heard an example from just a couple of weeks ago where a truck had to stop at the border and unload because they could not actually bring efficient transports into Victoria on certain routes to get cattle to markets. I would like to take a minute to talk about the slogans that this legislation will remove from hire cars.

We have a lot of vanpackers—backpacker-type people—coming down the Great Ocean Road into my region. I wrote to the minister last year or the year before about this because they are really offensive.

I had a young girl of 26 come to my farm and stay, and she had a vehicle that she was so embarrassed to have hired. But she had no choice; it was preplanned when she was overseas in England. It had something like, ‘When I think of you, I touch myself’.

She was a single 26-year-old woman, and she felt really uncomfortable driving around—and I thought it was pretty revolting as well. But we see examples of that all over the place, and it is not something that I want my 16-year-old daughter to be subjected to and to read in our district. One thing I do like—and it is only a word change in this legislation—is a driver on L-plates being ‘supervised’ rather than ‘accompanied’.

It might sound minuscule, but we do have a real responsibility to teach our learner drivers to learn to drive—and supervising means supervising. We can do it a lot better.

I think we have changed a lot of things in cars and on roads and whatever, but we have not changed how we actually educate our L-platers other than to give them 120 hours—which I am working hard on with this child, my fourth one that I have done this role with.

Sometimes I wonder if I am just passing on my bad habits. We now see virtual technology. Lisa Skaife is doing a wonderful job with that, and we should put that in the schools so the kids can use it.

I would like to finish up by saying: fix the roads and fix the rail.