November 16, 2017  |  Second reading

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

MR HOWARD (Buninyong) (16:45:56) — I am pleased to add my comments to this debate on the Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety, Rail and Other Matters) Bill 2017. As we have heard from previous speakers, this government has in line with our Towards Zero strategy on trying to reduce the road toll undertaken a range of strategies, whether that be road infrastructure investment, whether it be the wire barriers on the side of the road or whether it be road improvements in a whole range of other areas, like addressing dangerous intersections. We know that through the Transport Accident Commission we have a very impressive advertising campaign and associated educational activities to try to remind people that they need to both watch their speed when they are on the road and keep within the speed limits and also to recognise the dangers of drinking and then driving and also of using drugs and following that up with driving. Despite the messages that have been out there, despite the threat of booze buses and drug testing, sadly we are still finding in our statistics that too many people are driving over the limit and are affected by drugs — that is being shown in the road fatality statistics. So although it is tough action that this government is taking, it seems to be important that we go that step further now.

In some ways I have to say I was somewhat taken aback when I heard that even the first time people go over the .05 limit, they will lose their licence straightaway, and when they get their licence back they will need to have an interlock device fitted to their car. It sounds tough. I know that after we implement this I will hear from a lot of constituents over a period of time who will want to suggest to me that this is being very tough on them, and I know it will be. In country areas it may even appear tougher than in city areas if you lose your licence, and of course in country areas you do need your car so much to get from point A to point B. This is going to be tough.

What we need to do is make sure we send that message out to people: that .05 is not just close enough and if you are a little bit over, then you are taking a risk. You might be picked up and you might have some demerit points and be fined. What we really need to say is, ‘Be very careful, perhaps you shouldn’t drink and drive at all’. I have to admit periodically I go to friends’ places for dinner and we will have one or two glasses of wine, and I know of circumstances in the past where the host might have topped up my wine and when I leave I am not quite sure whether I have gone over the two and a half or three glasses of wine that I am allowed to have.

So I am aware that this happens, but speaking for myself I will take this as a clear message to be even more careful. We need to make sure we let the community know to be even more vigilant, to perhaps not drink and drive at all. But if you are, make sure you are below .05 so that you can be very safe in your driving and not put yourself at risk of harming other people and also not put yourself at risk of being caught, losing your licence and then going through all of the issues of having an interlock device when you get your licence back.

We have heard from other members who have spoken about the effectiveness of interlock devices for people who have been apprehended more than once for drink-driving, and clearly that is important. This will be a message for people, and I trust that we will ensure that there is plenty of advertising about this to try and send that message even more strongly. I hope that we will not have so many people who offend and then come back and regret that, obviously by losing their licence when they cannot afford to lose their licence and bearing the other costs associated with having to get their licence back, getting an interlock device and so on. I hope they do not get put through that. I hope they learn the lesson ahead of time.

That is one of the issues that is central to the bill, but there are, as we have heard from others, a lot of other issues involved in this bill. The message about excessive speeding is one. We are adding to the penalties there by saying if you are 25 to 34 kilometres over the speed limit, you will not just lose your licence for one month, you will lose it for three. If you are on a 110-kilometre-an-hour road, as I am fortunate to travel on regularly between Ballarat and Melbourne, and you are 20 kilometres over, then that same penalty will apply. This is an issue where it is clearly very important that we get that message out there. We do want to bring down the road toll substantially. While great headway has been made over the years, we want to ensure that that continues to drop. This is the key message of this bill.

We also know that the bill addresses a number of other issues across the state. The issue of people driving unlicensed will have further deterrences attached. We also know that there are other issues to improve rail safety as well as road safety included in the bill, where we are testing rail safety workers who are working on rail tracks for drugs. Also within this bill, as we have heard from some who have a greater interest in rail, we are streamlining the issues of freight using our Victorian rail infrastructure.

These are the key issues of the bill. As the chair of the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee, these issues around wanting to ensure that we continue to push for greater safety on our roads have been brought to my attention. Therefore I think it is important that we continue as a government to undertake actions like those put forward in the bill. As I have said, I know some people will think they are rather harsh, but it is a matter of ensuring that the message is out there.

We have as a committee been looking at the issue of drug driving, and that has been covered by other members in the house already when talking about this bill. While we still have drug testing in place, there are issues that we need to follow up in terms of strengthening that message to people out there — that if you have been taking illicit drugs, be very careful on the road as you might be picked up by a drug bus. Again we want to get that message out there. What is the primary reason you should not be drinking or taking drugs before you drive? It is because you could kill yourself, you could kill others, you could cause road crashes — and we do not want that to happen.

This government has acted as strongly as any of our previous governments. We know that in this state we have a strong record, and others have talked about it, of enforcing a range of ways to try and bring down our road toll from over 1000 deaths a number of years ago, in the 1980s. We have of course been successful in bringing down the road toll substantially, and at the same time we have seen the number of cars on our roads increase. In country areas that is particularly important. We need to get that message out there in a range of ways. We need to continue to share that message wherever we go, whether it is through our Transport Accident Commission advertising campaigns, whether it be through a range of messaging that we offer or through general opportunities to share messaging about the need to respect that when you are behind the wheel of a car you need to drive safely, you need to consider others on the road. At the same time we need to ensure that in our schools students and early drivers get that message too.

I certainly commend this bill to the house. I think it is a sound way to go to keep emphasising that message about drink-driving, about not speeding on our roads, about trying to keep safe, about saving lives. Of course we have already had another bill this week that I spoke passionately about in regard to the supervised injecting facility that we want to establish. This government is about saving lives wherever we can.