Marine Safety Amendment (Better Boating Fund) Bill 2020

I rise to speak on the Marine Safety Amendment (Better Boating Fund) Bill 2020. I will begin by saying that this was a commitment made by the Liberal-Nationals: that we would put all the money that comes in from licensing and registration into infrastructure for jetties and infrastructure around the lakes and coastline in recognition of the ageing infrastructure and the understanding that we have of the importance of tourism, the importance of recreational fisher men and women and the importance of boating. It was no surprise that pre-election the Premier also matched that commitment. But the point that is needing to be made today is that he did not match that commitment, because what he said and what he has done in this bill are very different. The fact is that he promised—and I quote from the Premier’s announcement:

… every cent of licensing and registration fees will be spent on boating safety and facilities.

In this very bill that is actually not what it does. They have used very, very clever words to say that the Treasurer might or may or can. Really, it is a way of tricking the community into believing that they have an intent. We will watch and we will see, and we will see many of these funds go everywhere but into the infrastructure needs that were promised, that we had a very strong commitment to and still do.

I look at the opportunity that has been missed in this broken promise from the Andrews Labor government. I only have to look down the south-west coast to Warrnambool in fact, where we have got a breakwater. It is a very important piece of infrastructure—important to the local economy and the tourism industry and certainly a feature of our community—but it needs a lot of structural work to be sound for the future. So will we ever see a commitment from this government to use these funds, of which we will not see the amount we should initially? Will we see these funds come down to the south-west? We also have got the boat ramp at the breakwater, which has been an issue for a very long time.

It has had many studies done on it. The designs have been drawn up; it is ready to go. My plea to the Andrews Labor government is to think about the trouble we are having with COVID and the challenges we have got for tourism and to think of our region. In the budget please fund the work that needs to be done on the breakwater, and it would be a really good boost for our local tourism sector and local economy for the shovel-ready project of the boat ramp in Warrnambool to be funded in this budget.

There is also the issue that comes to mind of infrastructure needs in other parts of my electorate, such as over at Nelson where we have got a shed sitting on a jetty. The shed is quite old. It is just a little shed. A guy by the name of Brett Carson actually operated a boat hiring venture out of there. It has actually been a bait and boat shed for about 50 years. Now, Brett has been there for some years and his cousin before him. He has just had no end of trouble asking the government to understand his business. They have decided the building should be condemned. They locked him out on 1 July and he is now operating nowhere. They have not committed to where he can go to run his business.

He has actually been left languishing. It is not up to local committees of management to come up with funds. That is what these funds should be for. This situation in particular should be fixed immediately, because little places like Nelson on the Glenelg River are where people go to fish, to have a lovely relaxing holiday with canoes, to hire boats with the kids. These are services that people like Brett offer to the whole of the region. Having those activities for young families to go and do when they visit towns like Nelson keeps those towns very attractive and viable.

So it is very disappointing to see that this fund, the Better Boating Fund, which was established so all that money could go back into those infrastructure projects and towards boating safety, is simply not going to happen. But what is really disappointing is that the people of Victoria continually have these promises made to them and those promises are then broken.

I mean, another one of the broken promises that springs to mind is the Murray Basin rail project. I remember the Premier down in Portland actually talking about the project and how it would be of great advantage to Portland as the grain that comes from the northern part of the state would have the opportunity to go to the three ports and it would be competitively able to happen that way. But because of the current infrastructure, Portland is at a significant disadvantage to the port of Melbourne and the port of Geelong. This was a project that the Premier promised.

They had $440 million—$220 million from the feds and $220 million from the sale of the Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria, half of which they held back—and now it is all wasted. The project has been botched. Not only that, but the capacity of that rail is less then when the government first touched it. So that is an extraordinary statement—that someone can say they are going to fix something, and they have a go and they do such a bad job that they have got less capability than before they began. And now—how about this—they actually have the audacity to ask the feds to come in and fix the problem and wipe up the mess.

But I know I am going to get called back—

Members interjecting.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines): Order! It would be good if people could take their conversations outside while the member is on her feet.

Ms BRITNELL: Thank you, Acting Speaker. I was discussing the fact that we have got broken promise after broken promise. And when we are really looking forward to being able to help projects in Victoria—particularly projects on the coastline and on the lakes, where we have at the moment the issue around COVID causing such challenge in the communities where tourism plays a massive part—it is very disappointing. I was actually just referring to another broken promise, the Murray Basin rail project, and how the government has botched it and it is now worse than it was before they began.

It is nothing short of disappointing, but it is not surprising because we have been seeing lots of hoodwinking and lots of stunts that demonstrate that what we are being told is going to happen is not what does happen. And there is no better example than this one today, with the promise of transparency as well. I have not even mentioned that, but in the bill there is no way we can even know where into the future the projects that do get prioritised out of this Better Boating Fund are even going to be.

So how can we monitor the progress of what we are going to get as a community—our return on investment for that money that the boating people are actually putting into this fund—and where they are going to get the return on that for their activities? I do not think we will ever know, because that is clearly the intent of the government: to make sure transparency is the least obvious activity that will be able to be achieved.

I might finish up by saying that it is really important that the government takes some time to recognise the importance of tourism, particularly down in South-West Coast, where we have taken a big hit. I think it was reported last week that over 5000 jobs will be lost from the region, which is an extraordinary amount, so let us put some effort into building projects that are ready, like the boat ramp at Warrnambool.

Let us get on with putting Brett Carson back into business by building him a shed so that he can start his business again instead of leaving him high and dry with nothing. Let us get the breakwater fixed. I mean, this is a project that requires I think around $10 million to ensure it is structurally sound for the future.

These are very important projects, and I think there is no reason why in a few years time these people who spend their money on the licences and who have been promised that the money will go back 100 per cent into the Better Boating Fund should not actually see that there have been some outcomes. Unfortunately it looks to me from the way this bill has been structured that they have absolutely no intention of delivering on that promise to the recreational fishermen and the boating community of Victoria.

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