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Road Traffic Bills
Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Thursday, 22 March 2012]
Hon Simon O'Brien; Hon Ken Travers; Deputy President; Hon Philip Gardiner; Hon Lynn MacLaren
ROAD TRAFFIC (VEHICLES) BILL 2011 ROAD TRAFFIC LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2011
Cognate Debate — Motion
On motion by Hon Simon O’Brien (Minister for Finance), resolved —
That leave be granted for the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Bill 2011 and the Road Traffic Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 to be dealt with cognately.
Second Reading — Cognate Debate
Resumed from 6 March.
HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [2.39 pm]: I rise on behalf of the Greens to express our support for the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Bill 2011 and Road Traffic Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. I think the issues have been very well canvassed by Hon Ken Travers and Hon Philip Gardiner.
There are just a couple of things I would like to accentuate in these very brief comments. Hon Philip Gardiner mentioned that quite a bit of time was taken in the development of this legislation. That is a very good point, which I wanted to make as well. Legislation has improved because time has been taken. He also mentioned the trial period of the harvest mass management system and the fact that some of this proposed system has been tried out. Through that trial they have learned that it can be done to allow that tolerance of an extra 10 per cent mass over a controlled and monitored period so that a farmer or whoever is transporting a load can learn what the weight of the product is over two or three opportunities to weigh the load and then get it down to what is an acceptable weight for the roads that we have. I think that was good. It has improved the legislation before the house and, hopefully, improved our trucking system throughout the state, to make it economic and efficient and to prevent it from wrecking our roads.
The amendments made to this legislation between the time it was introduced in 2008 and now are very interesting to me; I like the fact that we have taken model national legislation and given it a Western Australian flavour. That is something that is within our mandate to do, and I think we should do it more often. The model national legislation, as Hon Ken Travers pointed out, allows for a certain permissible width for these loads, and the Western Australian Minister for Transport is proposing that we allow a little extra tolerance for those widths. I suppose I was, like Hon Ken Travers, concerned about that: how can things be that different in Parramatta than here? However, I trust that the minister has investigated this for the circumstances in Western Australia, and at least has a rationale to back it up.
In essence, I do not think it is a problem for us to amend model national legislation to make it more practical and relevant to Western Australian conditions. However, I think it is worthy of this house for the minister to go into some detail about why that decision was made, so we can have some justification on the record for straying from the model national legislation. I note that we have recently considered two other bills for which I would have loved for us to stray from the model national legislation; one was the code for the keeping of pigs, for which we made a very good argument to prohibit the keeping of sows in stalls. The other one was the registration of psychologists. In Western Australia, we have a psychologist who is a specialist in a certain field, which the model national legislation that was proposed to us did not accommodate. In this case we have, at last, recognised that there is some rationale for change, and that the house should actually debate that and decide if we are going to accept that modification of the national model legislation as proposed.
As we are talking about road transportation, it would be remiss of me to not point out the benefits of transporting more freight by rail rather than road. In this case, we are dealing only with road vehicles and loading those vehicles up to the point where we are maximising the efficiency of using fuel to transport loads to their destination. But we should always be mindful, when we are looking at any transport-related legislation, that road transport comes at great cost to the environment. Per container, road transport consumes four times as much fuel as rail on the short hauls; on the long hauls, it consumes six times as much—for example, on a long haul across Australia. We need to be mindful that any expenditure on road transport needs to be examined in a cost-benefit framework. If we are getting a better benefit from rail, we should definitely be investing more in rail. In Western Australia we have tier 3 lines that have either been closed or are about to be closed. This is going to cause more road vehicle transportation and result in heavier loads going down our roads, and as Hon Philip Gardiner pointed out, many of our roads are not designed for the new, modern, heavy vehicles that we are seeing more and more often on our roads.
I thank the minister for providing me with a good briefing on the model compliance and enforcement provisions and the amendments that the government is putting forward. It was very hastily organised, and I wish I had had it a bit earlier than I got it, but I managed to squeeze it in during a very busy week; it was to-the-point and answered all the questions I had, so I thank the minister for that.
I also note that the changes proposed to the model national legislation in the bills we have before us—which, for example, provide for copies of the documents and evidence seized if there is a breach—are very sensible, and I commend the government for doing that. Those provisions might actually be in the model national legislation, but I think that that was a good amendment from the 2008 bill that was considered at some point, and made a good change to the new bill that we are looking at now. It is simple things like that that can make a real difference to the lives of Western Australians, who really just want to get on and do their business and not have to deal with layers and layers of time-consuming bureaucracy.
I appreciated Hon Philip Gardiner’s contribution in respect of the impact that trucking has on the environment, and the fact that not all loads are required to be covered. In the US there is only one law requiring loads to be covered, and I think it is something to do with not having chicken feathers on the road. Hon Philip Gardiner pointed out that, in a very real sense, the fact is that we have managed without a lot of laws prohibiting loads being carried throughout the country. With the advent of chemical resistant crops and weeds in our environment that are being created through our biotechnology efforts, we have to consider more carefully the impacts of spreading those products far and wide through our transport system. It is great that grain is now required to be covered; I think there are more things that should be covered, and it is something that has been highlighted in my work as transport spokesperson—to look at what else we can cover. There are other acts that deal with the transportation of dangerous goods and hazardous materials, which may have some impacts in that regard. However, in my own mind, when we start talking about grain falling from trucks, it is of most concern to me if we are spreading genetically modified organisms in areas that we really want to keep free from GMOs.
I hope that through the use of amendments to the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Bill 2011 and the Road Traffic Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, which have given powers to inspectors and greater protections to people who are impacted by the breaches, we will tighten up the potential contamination issues that we now find ourselves at risk of through the introduction of GMOs in Western Australia.
The final point I want to make is that this legislation will extend the accountability for overloading loads to not only the truck driver, but also everybody in that transport chain. This is a very important law that the Greens (WA) support. It has immediate relevance to me in my work in trying to improve the welfare of livestock and its long distance transportation. Extending that liability just makes more and more people aware that they have a role to play in ensuring that loads are not overloaded, that the loads are distributed evenly along the axles, that whatever they are carrying in a truck must be transported safely and, in the case of animals, that they are transported in a way that does not cause them undue suffering, or any suffering really.
I will finalise those comments by saying that the eight minor amendments and the changes that we are making to the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Bill and Road Traffic Legislation Amendment Bill are supported by the Greens. I look forward to the minister’s response to the various questions that have been raised by previous speakers.