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15 October 2019

Police Legislation Amendment (Road Safety Camera Commissioner and Other Matters) Bill 2019

I rise to speak on the Police Legislation Amendment (Road Safety Camera Commissioner and Other Matters) Bill 2019 and again state that the coalition will be supporting the bill.

This bill seeks to amend the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989, the Victoria Police Act 2013 and the Road Safety Camera Commissioner Act 2011 to do three things: to enable protective services officers (PSOs) to arrest persons subject to arrest warrants, retrospectively validating arrest warrants executed by the PSOs; to enhance the ability of the road safety camera commissioner to perform the functions of that office; and to enable Victoria Police to undertake the timely disposal of unclaimed found property in their possession.

The Liberal-Nationals of course do not view, and never have viewed, our PSOs as plastic police, as the Deputy Premier labelled them in 2011. We all know that PSOs play a very important role in law enforcement in Victoria and of course are here today making sure that those of us in the chamber and visitors to this place are kept safe.

So I want to put on record my thanks and appreciation for the work they do, not only here in Parliament but all across the state. This amendment fixes a loophole and gives our fantastic PSOs the power they need to do their job effectively, and that is something, of course, that I support.

I want to turn now to the changes the bill proposes to the Road Safety Camera Commissioner Act 2011 and I want to speak briefly to those points in my position as Shadow Minister for Rural Roads.

A lot of what this amendment proposes is administrative and common sense, and is in response to the commissioner’s report into the malware infection of the Victorian fixed digital road safety camera system. It is a shame, though, that the government does not go further and make changes to how and where the safety cameras operate.

It is a missed opportunity, and it is another example of how, when we really need to see some action, we see nothing but smoke and mirrors and talk, and outcomes are not the focus of what this Andrews Labor government is really trying to do. So in response to the tragic 2019 road toll, the Liberal-Nationals announced a policy that would expand the role of the road safety camera commissioner.

We did not wait until before an election. We are genuine about our concern for this out-of-control road toll that is spiralling. Our plan would ensure that the commissioner has a seat at the table in the selection of fixed road safety camera locations, a role in setting the criteria for the location of mobile speed cameras and the power to audit compliance.

Mobile speed cameras should be on sections of the road where motorists are speeding and where they are at huge risk of road trauma. The Liberal-Nationals changes will give motorists confidence that speed cameras will be located based on the goal of reducing road trauma, not increasing revenue. Our plan, our policy, that we released some months ago would also have increased drug driving penalties, bringing them in line with community expectations.

Magistrates across Victoria are saying our laws are too weak. They are calling for increased strengthening of the laws. Our plan, our policy, was to increase roadside drug tests by 1000 tests per week. Just today we saw Victoria Police assistant commissioner for road safety, Stephen Leane, predict 50 more deaths before the end of the year.

We are already way above last year’s death toll, and it is appalling that we have seen no action from this government. We have got the plan, we have produced the policy. Is it pure arrogance that the government will not adopt it and they are happy to stand by and do nothing? Strengthening the drug laws is what our policy would do. It would put speed cameras in places where they would actually be more effective, and make sure there is more drug testing week in, week out.

It is a shame the Labor government has not adopted the changes to the road safety cameras in this amendment—again a missed opportunity. The government has a shocking record already in this road safety space. Labor has slashed the number of alcohol breath tests by 400 000 in this 2019–20 budget. They have cut $2.9 billion from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) to prop up their budget and abolished the bipartisan joint Road Safety Committee of the Victorian Parliament.

Acts like this just smack of the Labor government not caring. Many of the deaths are on rural roads, many of our rural roads are in complete disrepair and yet there is no new maintenance money. There is lots of hullabaloo about maintenance blitzes but not one new dollar announced to fix our crumbling country roads.

That joint Road Safety Committee was responsible for mandating the wearing of seatbelts in this state, so it had a proven track record of significant change in the road safety space and in a bipartisan way. In the lead-up to the 2014 election Labor promised $80 million for a trauma research centre, yet all we have seen is a $20 million display at the Melbourne Museum.

Now, I have been to see that display, and I cannot see—and it is not what I can see; it is the evidence that is on the table today with the road toll we have got—how that investment has gone any way to addressing the problem that is happening now. We have got an Andrews Labor government sitting on its hands.

The Premier is sitting on his hands doing nothing. So in the wake of this year’s spike in the road toll I moved a motion for a parliamentary inquiry into the increase in the road toll so that we could again take a bipartisan approach to find real solutions to address this spike.

We cannot continue to live on the reputation of being the best in the world for road safety with what we are doing now, which is nothing, and this piece of legislation shows us that missed opportunity. We are not going to get what we need, and that is more action to address the road toll. Unfortunately Labor refused and said it was taking its own action through the emergency road safety summit.

I attended that event and, let me say, it was a talkfest, where people on stage spoke at the audience and answered pre-organised questions. VicPol, TAC and VicRoads were all there, and the government have access to these organisations, these people, on a daily basis and a weekly basis. It was a stunt by putting them on stage to talk at the audience.

There were absolutely no tangible actions to address the road toll that came from that summit. Yes, there was the launch that day of an add-on tally, but clearly that did not come from the summit because that was launched at the summit. Since that event we have had a series of discussions around the state where people have been asked their thoughts.

That exercise has turned from summits to address the road toll to now becoming a community consultation process on the next road safety strategy. I have also been to a number of these summits, and the message has been very, very clear: ‘Fix the road surfaces and improve driver education’—fairly standard responses. Labor has been lax when it comes to road safety, and this bill again proves it.

They had an opportunity to make some changes that will actually make tangible differences, and they have squandered it. Families are suffering. People are dying. People are grieving. So while I have some concerns about Labor’s overall approach to road safety and I believe that more could have been done with this bill to make some changes in that space, I see once again a Labor government that spends more money, time and effort on telling a story and not really delivering outcomes.

We have got too many people that have died on country roads and on city roads. We can do so much more. The Liberal-Nationals released a policy, and that policy is there waiting for the government to adopt it. Stop the arrogance. Think of the people. Think of the community. More drug tests, more strengthening of the drug laws.

Do what the people of the community of Victoria, particularly communities of regional Victoria, are asking for. Fix our roads and stop leaving the people of Victoria at such great risk. If it was a workplace, as truck drivers tell me every day, WorkSafe would shut down our roads. Stop ignoring country Victoria, listen to the families who are grieving and stop this road toll disaster.