I rise to speak on the Great Ocean Road and Environs Protection Amendment Bill 2021. This is the second bill that has come into play to set up a new authority around the Great Ocean Road. The last bill put in place the board and the CEO, but this is the bill that actually gives them the tasks and regulation, or legislation, around how they operate and what they have the authority to do. In the past the Great Ocean Road has been subject to over 30 organisations. If you wanted to actually undertake an activity such as run a business or improve some asset, such as the Childers Cove beach area where you needed access via stairs that might have been falling down, it was just an onerous process to be able to get anything done. So clearly we are in agreement with the government and suggested prior to the last election that we needed to set up an authority.
I am amazed at what I just heard from the member for Frankston—to say that we are unnecessarily concerned and that we are spinning a lot of furphies. At least he did admit there is a lot of work to do still. I took part in the briefing last week from the department, and thank you to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change for allowing that, because we did need a briefing on a bill that is very, very large. I think it is over 100 pages. It was quite shocking for me to hear the detail needed to be sure that the authority will actually do what is intended, which is to look after the environment around the Great Ocean Road in a way that progresses the ability for the community to enjoy, work in and protect the environment.
What we did see last Friday was many questions that were simply unable to be answered. What we were told was that legislation was going to be in place, but the questions that we were asking could not be answered, because the necessary regulations to answer those questions had not even been thought about—and they were the actual words. This is supposed to make sure that the facilities are kept in a way that protects the environment and improves the enjoyment of the region.
I get complaints in my office a lot about the fact that the toilets and the facilities are so appalling that locals are embarrassed for the visitors who come. That is not an infrequent event—people coming into my office concerned about that. I go down the Great Ocean Road a lot. We have visitors. I did a Nuffield scholarship some years ago, when I travelled the world and people hosted me in their communities and showed me their beautiful parts of the world. Well, clearly when they returned the favour and came to visit me in Woolsthorpe—which is not in the local government area of Warrnambool; it is in Moyne—I would take them down to the Great Ocean Road to enjoy that. People found it incredible. One of our guests, I might quickly state, from Austria came back after eight years to visit my family and went down there with her family, whom she had brought over to show them where she had worked with us and played and enjoyed her time in Australia—she came back to visit with her fiancé and mum and dad. She took them down to the Great Ocean Road and said, ‘My God, I can’t believe the difference. It’s just so run down. It’s so overrun. You can’t park anywhere. It’s appalling’. So this bill is absolutely needed.
But what we saw in this briefing was that this legislation absolutely gives the authority—it is basically like a new council around the whole area—the ability to raise income. It says that in the legislation, and it says also that the authority will not be reliant on state budget ties. So this authority has to raise money to be able to do all the work that will need to take place to make sure it is run well. The legislation came into this place six days ago, and I have not had the chance to consult properly, because four days to contact councils, councillors, caravan parks and businesses that may be affected is simply not enough. I am still waiting for calls back from CEOs and caravan park owners and other businesses. They are unaware, the ones I have spoken to. I spoke to Warrnambool City Council today and they said, ‘But it doesn’t involve us’. I said, ‘No, it does’.
So the maps that we got on Monday demonstrate that this now goes all the way through Warrnambool township. If you look at the map, it goes through Allansford, which incorporates Warrnambool Cheese and Butter. It cuts out the bridge in Allansford, which I find interesting, because that bridge needs a fair bit of money, some millions spent on it. So funnily enough they have cut out the bridge, because they do not want responsibility for costs it seems. Then they go across to East Warrnambool, so there are a lot of homes there that are involved that have no idea about this new authority—that they are going to have maybe some income generated from them to the authority. Then it goes across to and incorporates the foreshore area, so that makes me wonder about the night markets that go all through the summer on a Friday night. Those markets generate an income that the Warrnambool City Council now get; will that income go to the authority? And if that is the case, who takes away the rubbish from those markets when that income may then go to the authority versus the Warrnambool City Council?
Now, the Warrnambool City Council did not know they were involved. Sorry, I will go on. It then goes across Midfield Meat, the largest employer in our region. What are the implications? In the briefing we were told it was not intended to incorporate private land, but in the bill it actually says the authority, without the minister’s approval, does have the ability to incorporate more land. So I would be very nervous if I was running a business and wondering if permits were needed from the authority, if this authority is another level of bureaucracy, which is absolutely what it seems. Because that is actually what was said in the briefing as well: that there will not be less people working on this, there will just be the same amount. So I do not see how efficiency is created if you still have to go through the same amount of people to get an answer but at another bureaucracy, this ‘authority’.
So I was very, very nervous when I heard what was being proposed. Look, initially I thought it was more about car parks, and I think it is fair. When I have gone down to the Great Ocean Road and tried to park somewhere it has been an absolute debacle, so if we have got a lot of international visitors who do need car parks, do need toilet facilities, it is absolutely reasonable that they share in the expenses to service their needs while they are visiting. But there is no detail around that. I asked that question. You know, I am not a resident of the local area of the Great Ocean Road, I live 30 or 40 kilometres away. So will I be able to go there, and will I have to be charged for parking? What constitutes the word ‘local’? Because I consider myself a local to the Grampians as well. That is probably an hour and a half away, but it is an area that I frequently visit as well. It was not actually able to be clarified at all.
Six days is not enough for consultation. I am concerned about the businesses in my area. I certainly think we should put this reasoned amendment forward that gives more consultation. We are not opposed to having one authority that does the right task, but when you have incorporated very sneakily parts of Warrnambool and the Warrnambool showgrounds, the Friendly Societies Park, the fresh markets at Lake Pertobe, the Warrnambool summer markets, the motorboat hire people, the Warrnambool summer carnival, the Warrnambool Wolves Football Club, the Jubilee Park Road caravan park, the Merrivale Recreation Reserve, who do not even know about it—the councillors do not know about it, the council itself does not even know about it. They actually said, ‘Warrnambool is not incorporated’. I said, ‘Well, have a look at the map. It is quite clear. I can tell you where it goes—Nicholson Street, down across to the railway line and across the other side of Dennington. It is right here’.
So it is very concerning, and it has not been given the due diligence that the government actually promised it would. We are not talking furphies here. This is what the department told me on Friday, and on Monday I see Warrnambool included. So certainly this is a very, very concerning bill. We have seen a number of examples where the government have rushed legislation through—and who knows why this is a rush—and not put regulations in place that give people the respect of information, and have done it all in a way that keeps it all under wraps. It is just like we saw with the camping waterways legislation. The government said that they would consult and have regulations around it, and then what did they have to do? They had to backflip on that. And there are so many, like the legislation around taking the police from having to put people in cells for drunkenness but with no understanding of how that is going to work. This is how the government operates—all through secrecy, no detail, no respect for consultation. My community in Warrnambool are shocked at this and have every right to more consultation, so I commend the reasoned amendment to the house.