Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety, Rail and Other Matters) Bill 2017- Second reading

Mr O'SULLIVAN— I am pleased to rise this morning to speak on the Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety, Rail and Other Matters) Bill 2017, which covers road safety, rail and other matters. Mr Davis has already outlined in detail some of the aspects of this bill, and I do not intend to go over those again. As Mr Finn said, the bill is not perfect, but it does go some way to helping improve safety on our roads. I do commend the government for attempting to make our roads safer through this piece of legislation, but I think there are a whole range of other things that they could be doing that would make our roads safer.

Being a regional member of Parliament from northern Victoria, I do something like 75 000 kilometres a year in my car, so I am on the roads a fair bit, as many of the other regional members would be. I have come to know a bit about the roads over time as I have travelled along them. Some of the roads are pretty reasonable — there is no doubt about that — but some of the roads are very ordinary. In some ways, as a representative of northern Victoria, the roads there are fairly reasonable, but I have spent some time down in Mr Ramsay's part of the world, and I know that the roads down in that part of the state are probably the worst in the state.

Yes, Mr Morris, if you go down to around Colac and Warrnambool, as I have done on a few occasions for committee meetings and so forth, the roads there are terrible. Anyway, back to the roads in my electorate of Northern Victoria Region. There are a whole range of them that are substandard. In terms of road safety initiatives I reckon a pretty good place to start in terms of road safety would be to improve the roads in regional Victoria.

This government, while it wants to talk about making our community safer, at the first opportunity, in its first budget, cut road maintenance funding in regional areas. That is not a good start in terms of showing that you actually care about regional Victoria, that you care about the roads in Victoria and that you care about making them safer for people who live in regional Victoria. One of the other things they did in that very same budget was cut the country roads and bridges program. There was $160 million allocated to 40 regional councils — $1 million a year each — for them to, at their discretion, go out and do road maintenance, roadworks, upgrades of bridges, bridge maintenance and so forth.

Having just attended parliamentary committee hearings around the state, councils have said to us very clearly that that was a very important program that allowed them to get out and make a real difference in terms of being able to do the extra things in terms of bridge and road maintenance, so it is a pity that the Labor government decided they were going to scrap that particular program and funding of $160 million, which was making country roads and bridges much safer. When the government talk about cutting the country roads and bridges program, they say, 'Yes, we did cut it, but we've introduced our own program which is similar, the Stronger Country Bridges program'.

A good program. The only problem with the country bridges program, Mr Morris, is that 10 of the 32 projects were in the seat that the Premier occupies, Mulgrave.

That is a good point, Mr Morris. Mulgrave is not in the country. I do not spend a lot of time out in Mulgrave, but I understand it is only 10 or 15 kilometres from where we are sitting right now. Only a Labor government could decide they are going to spend one-third of the country bridges program funding about 15 kilometres from the central business district of Melbourne, in the Premier's very own seat nonetheless. Those are the sorts of tricks this government tries to play on country people. They say, 'We'll have a program that is dedicated to country bridges, but we're going to spend it all in the city in the Premier's very own seat'.

The people of regional Victoria will not be hoodwinked with those sorts of tricks this government plays. We have seen just this week in a Galaxy poll that 77 per cent of people in regional Victoria believe Daniel Andrews has dudded regional Victoria. And he has. They are right. That 77 per cent of people are absolutely right. He has dudded them. But what I am very curious about is who the other 23 per cent of people are. Where have they been? What rocks are they hiding under? The only conclusion that I can come up with is that they are very, very loyal Labor voters, but I think even their loyalty is being tested right at this moment because they see what this government is doing to regional Victoria.

But it is not only regional Victoria. Country people see what the government are doing in the city as well. They look at what is happening in the city and see money being wasted all over the place — $24 billion I think Mr Finn said it was — in terms of blowouts. There has been $24 billion of blowouts already. People are seeing what is happening in the city and saying, 'Look at all the projects they're wasting money on'. They are spending money on projects, and it is fair enough that they upgrade infrastructure — that is fair enough — but they are wasting it with all these blowouts. There has been $24 billion of blowouts.

Then people are absolutely disgusted when you mention the east–west link. There has been $1.3 billion spent to not build a road. With the congestion we have got in Melbourne right at this moment it is absolutely crucial that we have both public transport and road upgrades to cater for the 120 000 or 130 000 extra people coming to live in the state of Victoria. Most of them actually come to live in Melbourne. The Liberal-Nationals, when next in government, will have an extensive decentralisation policy which will try and get some of those people to go and live and work outside Melbourne, which would ease the congestion in Melbourne and would be a real boost for regional Victoria in terms of having those extra people living out there.

As I travel around regional Victoria it is amazing how often you have to dodge and weave all the potholes. You can be driving along at 100 kilometres an hour with cruise control on, and the next thing you know there is this huge pothole. You have got to pretend you are Michael Schumacher to try and get around it because it is that big, which is actually very dangerous, because if there are cars coming the other way on an undivided road, it can be dangerous if you have got to suddenly steer very violently to miss the potholes. Mr Morris has mentioned before in this chamber that people have actually damaged their cars by running into potholes. They can break wheels.

That's right. I'm coming to that, Mr Morris. So with all the potholes and degradation that we see on roads out in the country, what a normal government would do is say, 'Let's put some money into maintenance to fix these problems'. That would be a pretty good place to start, I would have thought.

But what do this government do? They decided that the best way to address it was to put up a sign there. Where there is a bad piece of road that needs maintenance, that has got potholes, that is degraded and that desperately needs works, what this government does is it puts up a sign telling people that they should slow down. That is their way of solving the poor roads in regional Victoria. They tell everyone to slow down to 60 or 40 kilometres an hour and then they think, 'Oh, well, that's all we need to do. We'll just slow people down to 40 kilometres an hour. Therefore they're going much slower, so we don't have to worry about fixing up the roads. We don't have to worry about fixing the potholes. People will just drive slower'. That is the solution of this government, which is absolutely crazy. I just do not understand it whatsoever.

One of the other things that particularly annoys me is that when you are driving along some of the highways out in regional areas you see all these wire rope barriers being put up for kilometre after kilometre after kilometre on both sides of the road, and up the middle as well. People are saying to me all the time, 'Why are they spending millions and millions of dollars putting up these wire barriers when they're not doing anything to actually fix the roads? Why don't they take that money and put it into the roads?'. I am not saying the wire barriers are a bad thing, although anyone who knows a motorcyclist would know that they call them cheese graters, because if you fall off a motorbike and you run into one of those wire barriers, it just starts chopping you up like a cheese grater. Those wire barriers might have an impact if you are in a car, but if you are on a motorbike, you could be in real strife, and I think that is something that needs to be looked at as well.

Also in some areas where wire rope barriers have been put up, they have been put up too close to the actual road. If you have a flat tyre and you need to pull off onto the side of the road to change a tyre, those wire barriers do not allow you to get off the road far enough and a portion of the car is still actually in the lane that you are meant to be driving in. If the wheel that you need to change is on that side of the car, it can be very dangerous because you are trying to change a tyre with cars whizzing right past you. I think that is an issue that is also a mistake.

The problem also is that once those wire barriers are in, you cannot just pick them up and shift them out another foot or two to make it safer. They are actually there for good; they are cemented in.

Mr Ramsay is right: they are cemented in. That is something that I think is very strange.

I was driving down the Hume Highway a couple of weeks ago. I was up at Nagambie where I live, and I had been for a drive and very nearly hit a kangaroo. I was on a gravel road and had to dodge a kangaroo, so the kangaroos that are around northern Victoria were front of mind. I was driving back down to Melbourne for Parliament, and I saw a few dead kangaroos on the side of the road. I thought to myself, 'I'm just going to count them'. Between I think it was Seymour and Wallan I counted 55 dead animals. I think most of them were kangaroos; there were a few dead foxes. So I saw 55 dead animals in 59 kilometres. I started to think to myself, 'That's a real problem', because obviously those kangaroos have not died of old age on the road; someone has actually run into them.

I dare say that it was not a big Mack truck with a big bull bar on the front that was running into them; it was probably ordinary families in ordinary cars without a bull bar where it would do a hell of a lot of damage. Could you imagine going down the Hume Highway at 110 kilometres an hour and then — bang! — driving straight into a kangaroo? You are going to do a huge amount of damage, and it is dangerous. Some people instinctively try to avoid the kangaroos and dodge around them, and they can run off the road and cause all sorts of problems running off the road at that pace.

I was thinking to myself, 'Why are there so many dead kangaroos in this patch?'. Obviously there are a lot of kangaroos around, which is another problem that I will talk about at another time. But I wondered whether the kangaroos are getting onto the road but because of those wire barriers they are having trouble getting off the road, so the barriers are therefore actually containing them within the road space itself. Those barriers are about 18 inches or half a metre to a metre high. I wondered whether some of the kangaroos were actually getting trapped in and could not escape that roadway.

In this place I have directed an adjournment matter to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety on whether VicRoads needs to undertake an investigation to see whether those wire barriers might actually have increased the incidence of kangaroos being hit by cars. I have not got a response as yet, but I am sure the minister for roads will get back to me when he can. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I asked the question of the minister. But I would be very interested to know whether those wire barriers actually might contain the kangaroos in the road space and have led to an increased incidence of kangaroos being hit by cars. I hope that is not the case, and I hope that investigation will come back and say that, no, it does not have an impact. I just wondered to myself, with the large number of kangaroos that were dead, as to whether that was the case.

In terms of regional roads there is no doubt that there needs to be more investment to make those roads safer. Unfortunately the government actually cut road maintenance budgets in their first budget and cut the country roads and bridges program, which was really disappointing. They will say that they have put extra money into maintenance, but I think you would probably find that that is just the standard recurrent money that VicRoads has in its usual budget. I certainly look forward to a Matthew Guy-Peter Walsh coalition government in a bit over a year when we can start to really look at the deficiencies in regional roads — and also rail, for that matter, but we are talking about roads here today — and we can really get on with fixing up the roads, maintaining them and making them better.

In terms of road safety, with Christmas and the holiday period coming up, I hope that everyone out on the roads travels safely. I hope that people avoid kangaroos, I hope they can avoid the potholes and I hope they can get to and from their destination safely, and I hope they have a safe Christmas with their families and friends and have an enjoyable season. It is very important that everyone out on the road is safe, because one of the things that we all agree on is that the road toll over the holiday period is tragic. We hope that it is zero this year; that would be delightful. Let us hope that people do everything that they can to stay safe on the roads at the moment.

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