Call in Second Retirement Village Application Now!

Legislative Assembly 3 May 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:20): (6344) My adjournment matter this evening is directed to the Minister for Planning, and the action I am seeking from the Minister for Planning is that he call in planning application P21/1949 to the Mornington Peninsula shire planning scheme—it applies to a property at 60 Kunyung Road, Mount Eliza—and reject it.

Speaker, I think with you in the chair I have raised matters relating to this property on many occasions in this house over the last three years, perhaps a little bit longer, most recently with regard to planning scheme amendment C270 for a rezoning.

This is the second planning application on this site. The first one was rejected, quite rightly. The applicant has done what—and I do not blame them for doing it—so many applicants do: they put in the ambit claim, put in the big one, then they come back with a smaller one and say, ‘Well, how does this fit?’.

The first application was rejected, and the second one should absolutely be rejected as well. This is a site outside the urban growth boundary. It is a site in the area that amendment C270 seeks to rezone to green wedge. It is a landmark site right on the southern side of Mount Eliza.

What is proposed here is a development with a footprint of nearly 15 000 square metres. It is not a modest, sympathetic extension to an existing facility, it is a massive development—yes smaller than the first one, but it is an absolutely massive development with numerous three- and four-storey buildings.

As I mentioned, it is outside the urban growth boundary. To approve this application would be totally contrary to planning policies that go back to the 1970s in this area.

There is a Mornington Peninsula planning statement, or localised planning statement, that expressly talks about providing a clear separation of the peninsula from metropolitan Melbourne, protecting the character and functions of the towns and villages, protecting areas of special character and having developments sympathetic with, respecting and enhancing the natural environment.

In this case this is a linear development between towns. It is effectively an expansion of the urban area of Mount Eliza.

To those of you who are familiar with the Planning and Environment Act 1987, this would be contrary to the intent of the Planning and Environment Act, where every expansion of the urban growth boundary needs to be agreed to by a motion by this house and by the other place. So this application is totally contrary to every agreed policy.

I request the minister: call it in and knock it on the head.

Port Reform or Political Fraud?

Legislative Assembly 7 April 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (11:50): I am pleased to rise to make some comments on this alleged ports reform bill, the Transport Legislation Amendment (Port Reforms and Other Matters) Bill 2022.

It establishes Ports Victoria on a legislative basis. I understand it is currently an administrative unit. It defines some functions for Ports Victoria in terms of pilotage and towage, and it renames and, frankly, severely limits the port of Hastings—the current Port of Hastings Development Authority; it limits that enormously. There are some consequential amendments, and there are a number of random changes to other transport acts. Apparently the only common thread is the fact that they are associated with the Department of Transport (DOT), and that appears to be the ‘Other Matters’ referred to in the short title.

I am glad the member for Footscray says this is an important bill, because it is, but you would never know that from the way the government has approached this issue. This is a serious business.

The port of Melbourne puts through $26 billion worth of exports each and every year—$26 billion just of exports, not counting the billions and billions and billions of dollars of imports that go through that port. Yet the government is playing games. They are playing politics with an industry that is absolutely critical not only for trade but for the Victorian economy. It is a central part of the Victorian economy, yet the government is playing games with this whole issue.

They have a strategy that simply does not stand up. It does not stand up in any way at all. Then it says, in the second-reading speech, ‘The main purpose of this bill is to get on with the job of implementing commitments made in the response to the independent ports reform’. One of the dot points is:

Implements review recommendations in relation to local ports …

No, it does not. It does not go anywhere near doing that. So it is about playing games.

They claim that the government have accepted all 63 recommendations of the independent report. It might be more accurate to say they have not rejected any of the recommendations. When you read through the response document, it is clear they have not accepted them—support in principle or, ‘Yeah, that’s the right direction. We’re heading in that right direction’. That is not what is happening there.

Then we get to the briefing. Now, a few weeks ago I was very complimentary about a briefing the Attorney-General’s office organised for one of the justice bills. It was a thorough briefing and, as I mentioned at the time, conducted very effectively.

With this briefing unfortunately I was detained on committee business, and I was not able to attend. But I understand it was Friday afternoon at 1 o’clock, take it or leave it, and then access to the officers from the Department of Transport was either extremely limited or not available.

That is not acceptable in any way. This is not a rubber stamp. We are legislators. Any member of Parliament is entitled to be briefed properly on a bill and have access to the public service to get an honest answer, not filtered through the minister’s office—any member of Parliament.

For this sort of game to be played with the opposition, the principal alternate party in the Parliament, is completely unacceptable and should not happen.

I want to make some comments about the impact of this legislation on the port of Hastings. Clause 20 of the bill changes the current definition of the Transport Integration Act 2010. The current definition talks about facilitating:

… the development of the port of Hastings as a viable alternative to the port of Melbourne as a container port in order to increase capacity and competition in the container ports sector to accommodate future growth …

Clause 20 of this bill strips all that out so it is now:

… to manage, develop and operate the port of Hastings consistently with the vision statement and the transport system objectives—

which is already in the existing act. The minister’s press release goes on to say the change will be to:

… reflect its future role and open the potential for investment and development across a range of dry and liquid bulk trades.

In other words it will limit severely the opportunity for the port of Hastings to expand. It does not just limit it, it neuters this organisation. That is effectively what this legislation does. It neuters the port.

It is an endeavour, clearly, to promote the government’s harebrained Bay West scheme, which is a political fix. It is just a political stitch-up. It flies in the face of physical reality, of depths of water, of where trade is occurring, and it makes no economic sense.

The channels leading into the port of Geelong are 12 metres deep and 120 metres wide. The channel leading into the port of Hastings is 14.2 metres deep and 180 metres wide. It makes no sense to move a whole lot of sand out of Port Phillip Bay, with all the environmental damage that that includes, and starve Hastings of trade, in any other way than in a political fix—and that is exactly what this is. That is exactly what this bill is.

We know Infrastructure Victoria is an apologist for this government. Ministers and members will say, ‘Oh, but it’s independent’. It is not independent. There are some good people there, I do not doubt that for a moment, but their board is dominated by secretaries—secretaries whose job it is to do as the government directs, to follow the policy of the government—so to suggest that Infrastructure Victoria is providing independent advice is complete and utter nonsense.

There are some recommendations in the Independent Review of the Victorian Ports System relating to the need to protect land. Here we go—the need to ensure that there is not inappropriate encroachment on the boundaries of the port environs and to make sure the corridors are retained.

The reality is that the corridors and the land were established in Western Port in the 1970s. I am a former member of the Westernport Regional Planning and Coordination Committee. We reviewed that land and those corridors in the 1990s. They were again reviewed under the then Minister for Roads and Ports in the 2000s. All of that infrastructure is in place, yet it is being ignored by this government in a political stitch-up.

The next point I want to move to relates to local ports. Now, the story of local ports is a very sad one, and despite the Minister for Ports and Freight’s claims—I am delighted to see she is at the table—this bill does not implement the review recommendations in relation to local ports.

As the Age reported earlier this year, 19 piers and jetties are completely or partially closed in Port Phillip and Western Port. I have spoken recently about Fisherman’s Jetty in the Mornington harbour, which has been closed and, if it is left to the government’s own devices, probably will never open again.

The local community has stepped in and is seeking to open it. But the report made clear in terms of local port funding that none of the local ports operations are sustainable without funding administered by DOT and many of the local port assets are now approaching end of life—local port assets approaching end of life. 

Then we have the government response, which says absolutely nothing about funding despite a direct recommendation in the review of Victorian ports that funding for local ports needs to be addressed.

What is in the response—‘Oh, we’ll get to it. We need a funding formula’. Yes, we do need a funding formula, and we need it now, because the local ports framework talks about all the money they are spending—‘Oh, we’re spending $16.6 million to fund our local ports program’.

On $650 million worth of assets that is 2.5 per cent per annum, and the report acknowledges these assets are approaching end of life. So it is not like you are starting with brand new assets and you can work over 40 years, which is what the 2.5 per cent works out to, to deal with those.

The government’s own report has indicated these assets are collapsing, they are at their end of life, and this bill and this policy do absolutely nothing to fix that. 

There are a number of other changes in regard to the Tourist and Heritage Railway Act 2010, which I think are worthwhile changes, and there is an interesting one that extends to officers of the Victorian Fisheries Authority—or the CEO of the Victorian Fisheries Authority—the capacity to have delegation actions under the Conservation, Forests and Lands Act 1987, which is interesting in this bill.

But this bill as it is presented is a total fraud.

Brain Injury Matters

Legislative Assembly 6 April 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (09:53): I rise this morning to seek additional support for the Brain Injury Matters organisation as part of the forthcoming Victorian budget. The Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers would, I am sure, be well aware of the organisation. It is a not-for-profit run by people living with an acquired brain injury. BIM run a number of programs, including the highly valued peer support groups. A constituent has written recently:

I am a member of a weekly BIM Peer Support Group meeting in Frankston and have benefited a great deal from being part of the group. I have made friends, developed skills, accessed the community and had a lot of fun. I am afraid of increasing isolation and lack of confidence if BIM cannot find funding to continue my Peer Support Group. BIM’s research has found that addressing social isolation continues to be a key need for Victorian adults living with brain injury.

BIM would welcome an increase in the recurrent funding amount. This would allow the continuation of the BIM Peer Support Group I attend. Funding for the project team which runs the PSGs ends on June 30, 2022.

The Department of Health provides some modest funding which assists with staffing and accommodation costs, but that is not sufficient to ensure the ongoing operation of the peer support groups.

I think we are all only too aware of the mental health cost of the pandemic across the community, and that impact certainly extends to people with an acquired brain injury, so I do urge the minister to provide additional funding for this worthy organisation in the upcoming budget.

Approve C270 and Protect the Green Wedge Now!

Legislative Assembly 6 April 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:09): (6321) I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Planning, and the action I am seeking from the minister is that he expedite the approval of amendment C270 to the Mornington Peninsula planning scheme.

Amendment C270—there is a lot of history here—has recently been exhibited, and exhibition closes on Friday.

Normally there would be a very long process from then until the amendment is approved, but I stood up in this house more than two years ago, in February 2020, and asked the minister to expedite the exhibition of the scheme. Two years on, it finally got on exhibition in February of this year. 

Since then I have raised the issue on at least three occasions. The reason I have done that is that this is critical for the future protection of the green wedge on the Mornington Peninsula.

The amendment itself deals with a number of sites that are outside the urban growth boundary but are not currently protected by green wedge provisions.

One is particularly sensitive and is one I have mentioned on many occasions in this place, and that is an application for a retirement village outside the urban growth boundary in Mount Eliza. The first application was knocked backed by VCAT. It is now the subject of a Supreme Court appeal. The second application is currently on exhibition and closes on Friday.

Just to give the house a sense of the scale of this development outside the urban growth boundary, land that is supposed to be protected, its total footprint is 14 963 square metres. There is the addition of three wings to the existing historic mansion, two four-storey and one three-storey; three freestanding four-storey buildings; two freestanding three-storey buildings; 246 car spaces; and a place of worship. So it is a very, very significant development in a totally inappropriate place.

Further down the road we have another application that is not affected by this planning scheme amendment but which seeks to turn an existing nursing home into a much, much larger retirement village with a significant footprint.

Again and again we are seeing these sorts of applications. In part it is a function of the value of the land—I understand that—but either we are serious as a Parliament and as a state about protecting this area or we are not.

I do urge the minister, as a first step in beefing up the protections for the green wedge, to get on with C270 and truncate the process period to the extent that he can, and let us get it approved.

Workplace Safety Must Be Protected

Legislative Assembly 22 February 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (16:32): It is a pleasure to join this debate. I think the member for Oakleigh referred to this bill as a grab bag; I probably would not be quite that kind.

But you would have to say the workplace safety issues certainly do dominate it through the Accident Compensation Act 1985, the Dangerous Goods Act 1985, the Equipment (Public Safety) Act 1994, the Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Act 2019—parliamentary counsel really let themselves go on that one, didn’t they?—the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 and the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996.

I guess the two that really do not fit into that overarching theme of workplace safety are the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act changes and the Victims of Crime Assistance Act changes. I certainly have no problems with the changes that are proposed for both of those acts of Parliament, but I do question what the hell they are doing in this bill. It is in that sense, as the member for Oakleigh said, a grab bag.

Six acts basically cover the same area; the other two are just tacked on.

It seems to me that the only reason they are in fact there is that the minister happens to be in the same department. There seems to be no other logical connection at all.

I just make the observation that that really is a bad precedent, because clearly the minister who has management of this bill is across the workplace safety aspects, across those aspects of the portfolio, but—and this is not a criticism at all—it is just not practical for that minister to be across the detail of other portfolios to the extent required. I make the point that in the briefing that was provided to the member for Ferntree Gully and a number of us I asked a question about a particular piece of legislation and the people doing the briefing could not give that answer. I mean, they went off and found the answer and got the information for us, and I appreciate the briefing and I am not critical of the fact they could not provide the information, but the point I am making is that that inability to provide information arises from the fact that these two changes have been lumped in with a package of changes to workplace safety laws, and they in my view should not have been. But that is probably enough on that.

The changes proposed by part 2 to the Accident Compensation Act improve compensation arrangements for workers with—I love the language—‘certain work-related injuries that are progressive in nature’. I think the member for St Albans talked about the impact of silicosis. This is a terrible scourge, and it is absolutely essential that we keep all legislation, but particularly workplace safety legislation, up to date because the dangers change all the time.

The manner in which the condition, if unfortunately it is contracted, needs to be dealt with and the way in which compensation measures apply need to keep evolving, and what is proposed here in terms of those changes is entirely appropriate. Also the changes with regard to allowances for attendance at funerals, but that is a relatively minor part of part 2.

A number of speakers in this debate have rightly made the point that workplace safety is not negotiable, that it is a right that everyone should enjoy.

To me it is not just about safer workplaces in the physical sense. In the context of these conversations we talk a lot about physical safety. We have had the conversation about particularly disabilities arising from incidents or at worst deaths, but there are lots of other ways you can be injured in the workplace. We need to protect mental health for workers. We need to make sure that workplaces are free from bullying.

To me, regardless of what you are doing—it does not matter, frankly, whether you are working on the Metro Tunnel, whether you are a chippy on a block out at Clyde or whether you are working in this place—you deserve to be protected and not just physically. You need to be protected in terms of mental health and you need to be protected from bullying.

We have heard lots of talk from many people on the government side not just in the context of this debate but in innumerable debates over my 15-plus years in this place where it is the high moral ground all the time. But unfortunately walking the talk does not always happen.

I will not go to the obvious incidents that are current, but I think we need to be aware of the hypocrisy that unfortunately is shown so often.

There is I think a concern with regard to the changes to prohibition notices. I know there are two views on that one. The expansion of circumstances in which prohibition notices can be issued has the potential to lead to a situation where inspectors are simply issuing penalties rather than seeking to get the problem solved, and in the context of workplace safety getting the problem solved, to me, is paramount.

It is not about additional income; it is about getting the problem solved, and I am not sure the legislation does that appropriately. You need to encourage collaboration. We talk about the need for collaboration between employers and employees. You need collaboration between the inspectors and the operators of the business as well. Simply whacking a fine on people does not solve the problem, and that is a concern.

Parts 3 and 4, the amendments to the Dangerous Goods Act and the Equipment (Public Safety) Act, essentially both clarify that the funds that are collected from infringements are paid into the WorkCover Authority Fund. So it is hypothecation. I know the Leader of the Nationals—and I heard the member for Ripon—talked about this. I probably have a slightly different view to some of my colleagues. Hypothecation has its place.

A couple of years ago, I think it was, I was very keen to see the amounts collected from boating licences hypothecated to the Better Boating Fund. That was the commitment that the government of the day—the current government—had made, but when we came to the legislation the hypothecation was not there. It was simply, ‘Trust me, I’m the Treasurer. Whatever comes into that fund I will allocate, but it’s still going into general revenue’.

Yet in this case I think it is very different because we are talking about infringements. We are talking about penalties issued at the discretion of inspectors, not licences that are paid by users of a service or users of a particular public facility, as with the Better Boating Fund.

So there is a real danger with this particular brand of hypothecation, where the penalties go back into a fund controlled by the employer. In many ways it is simply direct taxation, so I do have some concerns about hypothecation in this case.

There is a real potential for some overzealous enforcement.

There are a range of other measures in this bill. As I mentioned, the two that do not slot into the workplace safety area are the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act—I do not profess to know a great deal about it, but on the surface it appears to be a useful change—and I certainly do want to acknowledge and support the changes to the Victims of Crime Assistance Act.

It is a bill that is not exactly perfect but one that probably does more good than harm, so I am not opposed.

Labor’s Peninsula Public Transport Hoax

Legislative Assembly 22 February 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (12:32): Once again the Andrews government has been caught misleading the peninsula community.

Yesterday a media release trumpeted ‘Improving connections on the Mornington Peninsula’. In fact it is not about improving connections on the Mornington Peninsula or the whole peninsula; it is actually about improving connections in the marginal Labor seat of Nepean and it is about punishing the Liberal seat of Mornington.

The government claims Mount Martha will now have better public transport coverage. No! The Nepean electorate will benefit because of a slight extension to a service that previously terminated in Mount Martha.

The release also claims that travel times will be reduced on the 887 route. If that is true, it is only because the route no longer serves the Mornington electorate at all. Up until yesterday the 887 stopped at Mount Martha, Mornington and Mount Eliza.

Now there is no service—not a reduced service, no service at all.

Now there are 27 stops on the 887 route in the Nepean electorate—previously there were three: at Rosebud, Dromana and Safety Beach—a ninefold increase in stops serving the Nepean electorate, while the Mornington electorate has been wiped out completely.

Local students seeking to access Monash at Frankston have been relegated to the ordinary, totally inadequate public transport system.

Quotes in the release acknowledge the population growth on the Mornington Peninsula, but the growth is peninsula wide and particularly in the seat of Mornington. It is about time the government stopped playing politics with public transport and delivered the services my community deserves.

What is Environmental Infrastructure?

Legislative Assembly 9 February 2022

MORRIS (Mornington) (10:07): I am very pleased to rise to make some brief comments on the report of the Environment and Planning Committee which was tabled by the member for Tarneit this morning.

That inquiry was into environmental infrastructure for growing populations. I think the term ‘growing populations’ in recent history has applied to growth areas, but of course we now have a situation where populations are growing right across the state.

One of the first issues that had to be dealt with by the committee was in fact determining what environmental infrastructure is because people have different views.

The committee determined that we would restrict it to public parks and open space; paths and roads where attached to parks and open space, or particularly that; road and rail reserves; sporting fields; public forests and bushland; botanic gardens; wildlife corridors; beaches and access point; and rivers and lakes.

We also were quite definite in terms of what we believed was not included. While it is detailed in the report, essentially that is private land, and that includes not only private backyards and things but green wedges as well, which are of course largely owned privately.

I also should comment briefly on the impacts of the pandemic on the inquiry. This was the committee’s first inquiry where the hearings were done entirely via video link.

While I think teleconferencing works exceptionally well in terms of the delivery of meetings and the normal administrative meetings of committees and even for discussions where people are known to one another, when you are dealing with strangers, when you are trying to extract evidence, it does not work in anywhere near the same way as face-to-face hearings.

In my view, while necessary for this report and I certainly do not criticise the use of it, we should be getting back to face-to-face hearings whenever possible and teleconferencing should not become the norm; it should not be a way of saving money or speeding up time.

We need to be doing face-to-face hearings. On at least one occasion the witnesses clearly had no idea why they were there. While you can manage that in a face-to-face hearing—you can work your way around that—that particular 40 minutes was just a waste of time for everyone concerned.

And of course there is the broader issue of the impact of the pandemic on staff as well, but that is something as members of Parliament we are only too familiar with. But I do want to acknowledge the work of the committee staff under difficult circumstances.

The report is essentially divided into two parts. The first relates to the benefits to be derived from environmental infrastructure and the impact of a lack of access to environmental infrastructure, and then geographically, so inner urban, middle-ring suburbs, outer suburbs, regional and peri-urban areas, and we tacked on the waterways on top of that. There are a host of findings and a total of 57 recommendations.

In terms of the benefits and the costs, there are recommendations around improved access to walking tracks, bike tracks and biophilic design which, just in case you do not know what ‘biophilic design’ is, means the practice of connecting people and nature within built environments and within communities where access is not necessarily available.

There was also quite a lot of work regarding vegetation cover. We know that there is enormous disparity in terms of vegetation cover, particularly between the west of the metropolitan area and the east. To some extent that is a by-product of natural conditions, but the contrast is stark and given that people are living in both places, it is something that the committee actually provides a serious amount of attention to.

There are a host of other issues. Interestingly, while the incidence and the impact of issues varied across the localities, there were in fact pretty much common factors right across. For example, the inner suburbs are very, very poorly served in terms of environmental infrastructure, so it is more about balance and the factors are pretty common right across.

I do want to acknowledge my colleagues on the committee, particularly the member for Tarneit as the chair of the committee, and of course the member for South Barwon before that, and certainly the members for Burwood, Yan Yean, Box Hill and Ovens Valley and the member for Eildon, who is at the table.

I think this is a genuine bipartisan report and I commend it.

Esplanade needs urgent attention but not a “Quick Fix”

Legislative Assembly 9 February 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:00): (6196) I raise a matter for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, and I am seeking urgent action to ensure the continued safe passage of cars, bikes and pedestrians and management of the interaction with pedestrians on the Esplanade between Lempriere Avenue and Bruce Road in Mount Martha.

The road is like a short section of the Great Ocean Road. It was literally cut out of the side of Mount Martha. It has spectacular views, and for most of its life it carried traffic more than adequately. But of course with an increased population, lots of subdivision on the hills above it and a particular increase of people on bikes and so on, there is far, far more traffic than it has ever carried before.

It has been a problem for a number of years, but it is just getting worse and worse.

The comparison that comes to mind—every morning I walk or run across the Anderson Street bridge to South Yarra. When I was 19 or 20 I actually used to drive across it in the mornings, with all the trucks and cars going across it. It had completely outlived its usefulness at that point back in the late 1970s and early 80s.

The Esplanade is in a similar situation. The traffic it is carrying is way beyond its capacity.

There has been an issue relating to The Pillars that I have raised here on numerous occasions, and that has basically resulted in finger-pointing between the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and the former minister for roads. It is sort of, ‘It’s their fault. It’s their fault’.

That is a contributing factor, but there are frequent failures and frequent landslips, sometimes closing the road for six months at a time. I think most recently 2020 was the last one.

The other issue is the issue of the management of the road. VicRoads have been trying to offload it to the shire council for many, many years. Probably for the best part of 10 years VicRoads have been saying, ‘No, you can have it; you can have it’. The council, quite rightly, is saying, ‘We don’t believe the ratepayer should take on this sort of liability, which will probably run into millions of dollars, to stop the Esplanade slipping into the sea’.

So it is not just one issue. It is not just a traffic issue. It is not just conflict with bikes. It is the whole issue of the road between Mount Martha village and effectively Safety Beach.

This is not a quick fix. It needs some urgent attention. It needs a working party perhaps established with the council and some serious action taken, because this road is rapidly becoming a serious issue.

So I would appreciate the minister’s support with urgent action and getting something happening with this.

Stop playing politics – Make road safety bipartisan

Legislative Assembly 5 April 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:48): I think the member for Sunbury is probably right: the level of road investment in this state is unmatched; it has never been as poor as it is right now.

I certainly do not need 3 minutes to talk about the road projects that are occurring in my electorate, because there are not any. There might be an occasional bit of resheeting, a little bit of maintenance, but there are no projects underway and there have not been in any year that Labor has been in power in this century and a little bit before.

The Road Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 is straightforward. It amends the Road Safety Act 1986 and the Transport Accident Act 1986, basically intending to achieve three outcomes.

It aims to enhance enforcement against distracted behaviour—people on their phones, texting or trying to find the next podcast, everything else you can do on a smartphone—and enhance enforcement against a failure to wear seatbelts. Absolutely crazy: why would you get into a motor vehicle and ignore the safety device that is closest to you, the seatbelt? It is just absolutely crazy. But we know it is happening, and we know that we do not have enough police on the road to enforce this in the way we have traditionally done in the past. As someone mentioned, there is an opportunity to use technology. So that is what this is about.

The second point is about strengthening the licence suspension powers where a serious road safety offence is alleged and there is a risk to public safety.

The final change is around the transport accident scheme. On the one hand this is tightening the eligibility requirements where particular offences may have been committed and compensation would be, to put it mildly, inappropriate and in many ways morally wrong. The second change deals with anomalies that potentially disadvantage people who may be involved in a second collision and therefore be penalised by having the support that they have been receiving reduced.

The background to this legislation is that while road safety has improved enormously in this state over an extended period, you have only got to look at the graph that was included in the government’s own road safety strategy. It makes it clear that road safety has, despite the enormous growth in vehicles on roads, improved enormously since the 1960s.

I was just looking back this afternoon, and I well remember as a kid the Sun’s ‘Declare war on 1034’ campaign. The headline was ‘Let’s end this grim harvest of tragedy’, and when you look at the way the numbers were increasing at that time, it really is very, very unpleasant reading. This article refers to the 1969 figure of 1034.

The high-water mark for deaths on the road was 1061 the following year. But the article was suggesting that mathematically it was likely—this was in, I think, November 1970—that the road toll for 1970 would finish up as 1118. Thankfully it did not, but had it done, it would have been 22 people every week.

Of course the reference there is very much to the decision of the government, on the recommendation of the Road Safety Committee, to require Victorians to wear seatbelts. The report, which I have in my hand, handed down in September 1969, made some pretty tough recommendations, including within two years the compulsory wearing of seatbelts.
The reason I raise this is because one of the factors on that graph that I referred to is that basically since this government was elected the numbers have plateaued and in fact they are starting to increase. All the way from 1970 the graph is in a downward trend until we get to the election of this government, then it flattens out and starts to ease up again. Unfortunately one of the first things the government did was in fact to abolish the Road Safety Committee, which had ensured that road safety was considered to be a bipartisan issue. Both sides had an investment in that.

There are a few smirks going on in the chamber, but when you look at the history of this, the 1969 report, the opposition and the government—then a Liberal government—were included in the make-up of this committee. The report talks about a survey conducted by the RACV. When you look at the numbers, fewer than half of the population supported compulsory seatbelts.

More than half of the population opposed compulsory seatbelts, yet the committee went ahead and made recommendations that seatbelts should be compulsory in a range of situations immediately and then within two years be compulsory across the state. They were able to do that because they had that bipartisan membership and the issue was able to be pushed hard by both sides.

Sadly, as a result of this government’s actions, we have lost that bipartisan approach. The government would rather play politics with this issue—not all members of the government, and I certainly do not include the current minister in this category—but too many people want to play politics with road safety, and road safety is about the loss of human life.

As the government’s strategy makes very clear, it is not good reading, and it is something that has really got to be turned around. Frankly, I do not take much joy from the strategy, although the issues that we are dealing with this afternoon I think are of value. There is not a lot in it.

One concern I very much do have is that towards the end of the strategy there is talk about safety performance indicators and output indicators. They are all generalities. We have not seen the specifics. There are some issues that are to be dealt with by 2030, but how are we going to know that the strategy is on track, how are we going to know that the strategy is actually having an impact, unless we see those numbers? And of course, apart from the raw numbers—the number of serious accidents, the number of people killed on the road; we know those headline numbers—we do not know how we are tracking in so many other areas. Mobile phones, texting—we are dealing with that this afternoon. We are not doing anything at this stage to deal with the epidemic of drug driving, we are doing very, very little in terms of drunk driving, in terms of .05 breaches—those numbers are just not getting any better. So I think there is a long way to go.

In terms of the changes that are being made this afternoon, as I mentioned there are some changes around technology, so allowing cameras, through the use of artificial intelligence, to detect—and then it being verified by humans. The information provided by the government after the briefing was that we currently have an offence rate of 2.4 per cent. One in 42 drivers is using their mobile phone. Frankly, I would not be surprised if it was much higher than that, but even if it is one in 42, it is an epidemic problem. Hopefully this change will go some way to dealing with this.

On the changes around licence suspension, serious offences, whether it is leaving the scene of an accident, whether it is a range of issues around protecting emergency services workers or whether it is around the final issue of dangerous or negligent driving—all of those issues—are dealt with, and dealt with reasonably.

On the final one, as I mentioned earlier, the transport accident changes, the only point I would make on that is that the measure that is intended to prevent further loss of earnings is not retrospective. I think it is reasonable to ask: why is that not retrospective? The response we had back from the government was, ‘It would be a significant administrative burden’. Perhaps it would be, but what about the impact on the individual? I am sure it is a much more significant impact on the individual than it would be an administrative burden.

So I think it is a step in the right direction. There is a lot more to be done. We desperately need more enforcement beyond cameras. We need cops on the road. We need people wondering when they are going to pop up. It is a step in the right direction, but if we could make this a truly bipartisan effort, we would have much more success.

Liquor and Gaming Laws – Minor Tweaks

Legislative Assembly 24 March 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (11:00): The Gambling and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022: I must say we have had some pieces of legislation that were less inspiring than others, but this one would have to be right up there on the list in terms of the sort of housekeeping that we can afford to wave through without a great deal of debate.

There are a couple of nuggets in it that I think are worthwhile, but largely it is about housekeeping measures, about removing redundant pieces of legislation or legislation that is dealt with elsewhere—others have mentioned the commonwealth. This is not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but as I say, there are probably one or two important points in it.

Essentially it is amending the Casino Control Act 1991 to permit casino operators to pay winners by EFT. It is probably about 25 years too late, but at least it is happening. It amends the Gambling Regulation Act 2003—there we go, obsolete provisions on interactive gaming and gaming machine jackpots removed.

As others have mentioned, there is an increase in the time for dealing with unclaimed prizes from six to 12 months—I think that is reasonable. And something I certainly strongly support: prohibiting online community and charitable gaming. There are some changes to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998—changes that probably should have been made last year when the initial changes to remote ordering were made, but now we are finally getting around to it.

I would suggest that the fact that the minister’s second-reading speech takes until the third paragraph on the second page to actually get into what the bill is about after a series f claims about what the government has done indicates that there is really not a lot of substance in this bill. Others have reflected on the quality of the legislation coming through, the quality of the legislative pipeline. I think I probably agree with those comments. One point in the minister’s second-reading speech that caught my eye was the claim that Victoria is the Australian jurisdiction with the lowest density of gaming machines, except of course for Western Australia, which does not permit them outside the casino—and I hope to have the opportunity to come back to that in a few minutes.

There are some changes, as I mentioned, to the provisions with regard to charitable institutions, and I think they are indeed sensible changes. The first is the banning of online gambling with regard to bingo and lucky envelope sales. I think that is a very sensible measure. I cannot remember who it was—it may have been the Deputy Speaker—who talked about the opportunity for online gambling to do harm. Effectively online gambling occurs in an unrestrained environment, so there are not the safeguards that you have at the casino or even at any pokie facility—those safeguards are not there—and people can get themselves into serious trouble very, very quickly. So I welcome that.

I also welcome the change in terms of the minor gaming permit system, upping the quantum there from $5000 to $20 000. It is hard enough for community organisations to raise funds either for their own purposes or to do good works in the community, as many do. The constraint that has been there of requiring a permit and the significant paperwork that goes with that and having a ceiling of $5000 has made it almost not worthwhile running a raffle or a similar event. Increasing it to $20 000 is a useful change.

The bill also makes some changes with regard to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998. And as I mentioned earlier there were some changes—last year, if I recall correctly—which were intended to counteract what was perceived as the impact of COVID and the increased demand for home deliveries and the risk particularly of the supplies falling into the hands of those who should not have them. This bill now extends that to other forms of remote ordering, as the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation said in the second-reading speech:

… telephone, mail order, facsimile and other forms of electronic communication.

It also recognises that those other forms of remote ordering were not captured in the initial amendments, and I have got to say I do find that rather surprising.

I know many, many, many years ago I worked for some time, probably a matter of months, in a family-owned liquor business that did home deliveries, and I have got to say I was always entertained but never surprised by the extent to which people not that many years younger than I was but certainly too young to be ordering alcohol would go to try to have us—I do not think we actually ever failed in our duty—deliver alcohol to under-age kids. That was back in the 1970s, so this is not exactly a new issue. Hopefully the changes that are proposed in this bill will do something about that particular problem.

The member for St Albans talked a few minutes ago about the issue with the losses from poker machines in Brimbank city, and that is something that has been on my radar for a while. But it is not just Brimbank, of course. It is a range of municipalities across the state. Brimbank, on the most recent figures, the 2021 figures, had a gross spend of over $92 million and $552 per adult. The City of Greater Dandenong had $532 per adult and—with a lower population—$73 million in round terms.

I am certainly not a wowser. I have no problem with electronic gaming machines, but I do have a problem where you have municipalities such as these where they are unfortunately still very high ranking in terms of socio-economic disadvantage. Brimbank is currently ranked third in the state. Greater Dandenong is ranked second in the state.

You go a little bit further down the list. Latrobe city has a lower expenditure per capita, down to $435, but is ranked fourth. And Mildura, ranked fifth in socio-economic disadvantage, has a figure of $399 per adult.

Now, with regard to both Mildura and Latrobe, one would expect that there is an element of tourism in there, people on holidays wanting to go out and enjoy themselves, so the numbers per adult may be inflated, but the fact is that we have numbers that high with areas of such significant disadvantage—and we still do, there is nothing new about this.

So in terms of the rankings it is Brimbank first, Greater Dandenong second, then you go to Warrnambool, Greater Shepparton and Maribyrnong. The difference with those is they are way down the list in terms of socio-economic disadvantage.

Obviously we are not going to solve these issues today, but we have licence renewals coming up in the not-too-distant future, and I think we have a problem here that we fail to address. We may have, as the minister said, the lowest density in the country, and that is a good thing to have, but we have pockets where we have significant problems and pockets where those who can probably least afford to entertain themselves in this way do.

As I mentioned at the start, there is lots of housekeeping in this bill. There is lots of stuff that needs to be done that the Parliament needs to do, but there are one or two good nuggets in it, and certainly I have no problem, as the member for Euroa indicated, with any of the changes.