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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 2299

Mr HUNT (Flinders) (13:35): It gives me great pleasure to address the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011 and the Road Safety Remuneration (Consequential Amendments and Related Provisions) Bill 2011 and to do so in response to the member for McEwen after his customarily eloquent, well-crafted and no doubt lucid contribution to the House.

The heart of this bill is a great contradiction to everything the government is doing on the carbon tax. We have just heard an informed presentation about the trucking industry, and what we have been told is that if costs rise for the industry and if drivers are not paid more there will be terrible accidents. Yet we know that the carbon tax would apply not just to 500 companies but to 60,000 off-road diesel users and to another 40,000 on-road diesel users as of 1 July 2014. So it is not 200, 300, 400 or 500 users, but 100,000 users. The very people who are on the front-line, who have the most to lose and the most to pay, are the small-business operators at the heart of the trucking sector. The very measure that this bill is purportedly designed to address is fundamentally compromised by the carbon tax. There is no doubt, no debate and no denial, because the carbon tax is intended to increase costs for the trucking industry. That is how it is designed and that is how it will work. It will increase the cost of activities that involve the use of electricity, gas or fuel.

We have just heard an extended discussion about income and safety, yet there is denial of the fact that the carbon tax, at $9 billion a year, will directly, without question, affect the income, the standard of revenue and the viability of businesses in the trucking industry. But do not take our word for it. The union was absolutely clear that it risks putting greater pressure on drivers. The Australian Trucking Association was absolutely clear that it would not just risk the viability of businesses but place greater pressure on drivers. They were fine words from the member for McEwen, but at their heart they were hollow, because there is a wilful blindness to the impact of the carbon tax on the revenue streams of the trucking industry. By his own argument, by his own account, that will lead to an impact on safety in the sector.

Again, these are not our warnings, they are the warnings of the small-business operators, of the union and of the association. Let there be no doubt that if this bill is about safety there is a hole in its heart, the hole caused by the change of 6½ cents a litre to the diesel fuel rebate, which will continue to climb upwards. That change commences for the off-road sector on 1 July this year and for the on-road sector on 1 July 2014. There will be a total sweep up of 100,000 small businesses. Those are the facts. That is the reality of the impact that the carbon tax, through its impact on the diesel fuel rebate, will have on the trucking sector, as is intended. It is designed to make it less affordable to drive. That is the purpose, that is the intention, that is the theory, that is the structure, that is the practice. That is what it will do because that is how it is intended to operate. So when those opposite say that this bill is about safety in the trucking sector, let us address the single greatest financial impact that this parliament is involved with in relation to the trucking sector. To do otherwise is simply to be in denial.

That brings me to the second point I wish to raise on practical action as an alternative to the measures contained in this bill. In my own electorate there are four major road reforms which would improve safety. We have seen many over the last half decade and beyond, and I am delighted to have played a small role in helping to bring some of these to pass. For the future there is a bypass for Lang Lang, through which an estimated 600 B-double trucks go roaring every day. The trucks pass literally within centimetres of Lang Lang Primary School. I have walked that road—I did it in August last year—and can say that it is literally within a metre, a matter of centimetres, of the primary school because there is no shoulder to the road at that point.

Mr Mitchell interjecting

Mr HUNT: For those who care about safety this would not be the moment to object. The trucks also travel right through the town's high street. Every resident of Lang Lang and every visitor to Lang Lang sees it and knows it. This is an area of gravel pits. It is an area where sand is extracted and where large trucks, B-doubles in particular, travel. We need a bypass for the town. There was previously funding for one in the coalition's policy. If the government wants practical action I implore it to consider a bypass for Lang Lang.

I am delighted that the state government has agreed to support the Koo Wee Rup bypass. In this case, there are currently 1,500 trucks travelling through the centre of Koo Wee Rup every day. There are real risks for elderly residents and children. The community centre and the bowls club are on the route currently used by so many trucks daily. A bypass is a real priority. It would have a real impact. It would make a profound difference to the safety and security of the residents of Koo Wee Rup. We were facing the risk of numerous B-double trucks travelling through the towns of Crib Point and Hastings if plans for a bitumen plant were put in place. We have defeated that so far; we have offered alternatives. I am pleased to report on behalf of the community that, to this point, it appears to be a victory. Similarly, we want to see the completion and full duplication of the Western Port Highway. It would be good for the residents of Hastings and for the safety of people throughout the Mornington Peninsula, particularly on the Westernport side of the Mornington Peninsula.

Let me conclude with our concerns about this bill. They are simple: the bill does not achieve the outcome it wants. The evidence from the Australian Industry Group and others is clear. In particular, it undermines years of activity and years of constructive work which comes to fruition on 1 January 2013 with the implementation of a National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. That is real and significant. It was an agreed outcome that was not a political fix. It is an approach about standards and safety and it is specifically focused on producing safety outcomes. Every single person in this House wants to improve safety outcomes. The question of course is whether people are being wilfully blind because we do not wish to face the consequences of our own actions. The right way forward is to have a National Heavy Vehicle Regulator that allows for an express, clear and absolutely specific focus on safety. The wrong way forward is a carbon tax which will increase the cost of transport and place greater pressure on the small businesses and operators. For that reason, we oppose the carbon tax and we cannot support this bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The member for Flinders will have leave to continue his remarks should he so desire.