I rise to speak on the Transport Legislation Amendment Bill 2020. This is a bill that has about 58 amendments in it. I obviously will not be concentrating on all 58, but there are some that I see that are good.

Mr Richardson interjected.

Ms BRITNELL: Why not? I do not have long enough. But there are some that I have concerns about, so I will begin by making reference to the second-reading speech given by the Minister for Roads and Road Safety when introducing the bill. He says that the objective of the bill is to:

… support the delivery of Big Build projects …

I would like to start by making reference to that. There was a report released last week by the Grattan Institute, which makes some comments that I think are worth noting, and they are that governments must rethink their megaprojects—those with a price tag topping $1 billion—as they search for infrastructure-led coronavirus recovery or risk delivering a herd of white elephants. It goes on to note that the Victorian government’s biggest projects, North East Link, West Gate Tunnel and Metro Tunnel rail link, will cost between them at least $11 billion more than originally promised. This is really concerning, because we have got big projects and we have got a government that cannot manage projects without blowing them out.

When taxpayers are facing a post-pandemic time when we have got to get the state back on its feet, that is most concerning. But the part I wanted to focus on here, relevant to the bill, is that taxpayers would get a bigger bang for their buck if politicians steered clear of what they call ‘nation-building’ and ‘city-shaping’ megaprojects and instead spent more on upgrading existing infrastructure.

Now in that case, with two weeks until the budget, I hope the government is thinking seriously about the state of our road network, in the regions particularly. It is broken. The roads are in a disastrous state, particularly in my electorate of South-West Coast. So I implore the government to take note of those recommendations from that report and invest significantly in the roads. This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity coming up, with the amount of money that the government have made clear they are going to be spending and borrowing to get Victoria back on its feet. There is clear evidence that for jobs in the region, for better outcomes, we need our trucks on roads that are built to the needs, to the demands, of a modern community that needs transport that can get product to market and get kids safely to school and families safely to work and home again. What we have got is an opportunity to do that.

The other thing I implore the government to consider is to not only put a massive injection into our regional roads and the maintenance of those and upgrading of those but to make sure that the processes are in place to ensure that the job is done well once and we do not see what we are seeing in the regions—and our community are well aware of this—that these roads are breaking down within a matter of weeks to months.

So I again implore the government to listen to the community. They are not fooled by the spin-doctoring that says, ‘Look what we are doing in regional roads’. They are driving on them every day. They have had enough. If you are going to put a lot of money into the economy, listen to the Grattan Institute and also Infrastructure Victoria: they both say, ‘Get out there, fix the regional roads’. It is going to be good for our economy and good for our exporters, and therefore good for the state.

I will now go to the section of the bill that talks about the rail crossings. This is where I am a little concerned, because in the briefing that we received from the government they actually said that there was no knowledge in the department of how many private rail crossings there are. So in the bill in clause 7 they want to insert a division 1B after division 1A of part 4 of the Rail Management Act 1996 to provide for new powers for the secretary to close private crossings and acquire land adjoining private crossings where required and to provide for associated compensation processes.

Now, in the second-reading speech the minister said that there are very few or a limited number of private crossings, yet in the briefing what we heard was that there is no knowledge of that and they will only find that out as they do their due diligence. So these corridors on private land originate from a period when the rail corridor was first created. He went on to say that:

The State will also be able to acquire surplus land, and the compensation process will include this land. Alternative access may—

so that is not a guarantee—

also be provided if it is feasible to do so.

This is really concerning. You have got farmers who have these private crossings on their land, and they will be absolutely implicated in any change and not necessarily aware of this.

I am concerned that in the briefing we were told there was not a comprehensive list, as I said, nor where these crossings are or in fact if there really is any intent to create a list with that knowledge. The fact that the minister is saying in the second-reading speech that there is a limited number is interesting, as is the fact that the member Eltham said there were 1700, which is absolutely not what was provided to us in the briefing. They said they did not know and that there was no intent to find those assets and to make a list.

The Warrnambool line has been earmarked for upgrades thanks to funding from the federal government, who are providing 90 per cent of the cost of that project. Although what we have seen is the Minister for Transport Infrastructure going out there claiming all of the credit for it, which is completely wrong and false.

Vast sections of the Warrnambool line beyond Geelong run through private farming land, and I am concerned that we are going seen an issue like we saw in Waurn Ponds, where Stan Larcombe, a fifth-generation farmer, had his land compulsorily acquired by the government to build a new train maintenance facility, but this left his farm completely cut in two and unviable.

I am concerned that because there is not a list of crossings farmers in my part of the world are one day going to get a knock on the door with someone saying, ‘We’ve just realised you’ve got a private crossing, and we’re going to take a bit of your farm away because it’s not viable to replace it. You won’t be able to access the other side of the railway line, but don’t worry, we’ll give you some compensation’. Compensation will not help the land be viable for farming businesses, and the lack of access will reduce farms’ resale values. You have to actually have access.

Much of it is dairy country, and crossing cows across the road twice a day for milking is what they actually need to do. We need a much greater commitment from the government to provide alternative access rather than them saying they may do it if it is viable. And who decides if it is viable to replace the crossing? That is a big question. Who will make the judgement and what criteria will they use? So whilst we do not oppose this bill, we will be making sure that we have consultation with farmers and the Victorian Farmers Federation and that we get an amendment into the upper house, because I am greatly concerned for the farming communities.

This leaves just too many questions. The government must guarantee an alternative access will be provided, and it must release information on how it will decide whether it is viable to replace a crossing. They cannot leave it so grey. There is potential for significant issues, and the best way to deal with this is now rather than down the track when you have got 50 farmers whose farms have been cut in half.

Providing alternative access is not just an issue for farmland along the Warrnambool line. The South Warrnambool rail crossing in Gilles Street has been closed after an unfortunate accident down there where someone actually took their own life. This was the initial reason given for the closure, but now the government are actually saying they are keeping it closed because they need the land for future train site stabling. So it will stay closed, and no other options have been made available for that area.

Now, that crossing connects the Warrnambool CBD to the wonderful trails of Lake Pertobe and to the foreshore area, and it is a safe cycling link for those living in South Warrnambool to ride their bikes or to walk to the city centre. You just cannot take away access and not replace it.

The community down there, particularly led by Ray Lougheed, who I have had many chats about this with, have been very vocal about having that crossing reopened, and I support them in that. The government must provide an alternative and not just say, ‘It’s closed. Find another way’. Listen to the locals, do the consultation and open it up with a safe crossing.

I will conclude there. I did say there are some good aspects of the bill. One of those is that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator are able to give their employees authority to enforce Victorian laws, which was an oversight in the transfer of employees from VicRoads to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. It would have meant that the employees did not have authority to enforce Victorian laws, so that has been fixed. One of the 58 changes in the bill is about bringing heavy vehicles over the 4.5 tonnage into line with the .00 law rather than the .05 law, and I think everyone would agree that any improvement to road safety is something we can all agree on. I do not oppose the bill, but we will be consulting between here and the upper house and producing some amendments in line with that consultation.

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