WEST GATE TUNNEL (TRUCK BANS AND TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT) BILL 2019
Mr PALLAS (Treasurer) (10:08:25) — I move: That this bill be now read a second time. I ask that my second-reading speech be incorporated into Hansard. Incorporated speech as follows: The Project In December 2017, the Government contracted Transurban to deliver the West Gate Tunnel Project. The project provides Melbourne with the long awaited second west to east crossing of the river and an alternative to the aging West Gate Bridge. It involves building four more lanes on the West Gate Freeway, twin tunnels under Yarraville and a new bridge over the Maribyrnong River that links to an elevated road above Footscray Road. It is expected to cut travel times by up to 20 minutes on these roads and create an efficient route for freight in and out of the Port of Melbourne. Over 200,000 vehicles rely on the West Gate Bridge each day. One incident can stop traffic and bring Melbourne to a standstill. This project will improve the resilience and security the Melbourne network urgently needs. The project will create 6,000 direct jobs over its life, including 500 jobs for apprentices, trainees and graduates and up to 150 for former autoworkers. The first of two tunnel boring machines has already arrived in Melbourne, with work on the longest of the tunnels set to commence midway through this year. This project forms part of the Government’s unprecedented transport pipeline, including the Level Crossing Removals, Metro Tunnel and North East Link, all of which will transform the way people travel around Melbourne. Local Benefits This is more than just a road project. It will make Melbourne’s North and West an even better place to live and work. It will take thousands of trucks off roads in the inner west. It will prevent rat runs through local streets. We are creating nearly four Melbourne Cricket Grounds of new parks and wetlands and planting more than 17,000 trees. Local residents will access more than 14 kilometres of new and upgraded walking and cycling paths, and 9 new and upgraded cycling and walking bridges. We are working with local councils to mitigate the impacts of the project and to enhance local amenities. The Government and the City of Melbourne are conducting a study to identify capital projects that will improve traffic flow and open space in the north and west of Melbourne. We are contributing $50 million to fund these projects, with funding matched by the City of Melbourne. This is the largest streetscape upgrade package in Melbourne’s history. We have also provided funding of up to $5 million to the Hobsons Bay Council to update sporting and recreational facilities and $6 million to the Maribyrnong Council to upgrade the Footscray Wharf and Promenade. Contents of the Bill. The Bill establishes the framework for operation of the West Gate Tunnel, with the road to open to the public in 2022. West Gate Tunnel Project Agreement Firstly, the Bill provides for amending, modifying and tabling of the West Gate Tunnel Agreement in Parliament. The Project Agreement was signed with Transurban in December 2017 and provides for the design, partial financing, construction and operation of the asset. Parliament will continue to have oversight of this agreement with amendments made after the Act having to be tabled in both Houses and subject to revocation by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. Toll Collection and Enforcement Secondly, the Bill provides for imposing, collecting and enforcing tolls and toll administration fees on the West Gate Tunnel. This allows for the operator, in this case Transurban, to fix, charge and collect tolls and request the enforcement agency to commence criminal enforcement for a tolling offence if tolls remain unpaid. The Bill makes it an offence to use a vehicle on the West Gate Tunnel without being registered for that purpose. If a vehicle is used without being registered and the toll remains unpaid, the operator may request the enforcement agency to issue an infringement notice or commence criminal enforcement proceedings. Toll Enforcement Reform Thirdly, we have introduced measures to reduce the reliance on infringement notices and prosecutions for tolling offences. These new measures aim to improve the effectiveness and fairness of toll recovery activity and reduce the number of tolling offences that end up in the infringements system or courts. We are aware of the impact that the use of infringement notices and prosecutions for tolling offences can have on some sections of the community, particularly people experiencing financial or other hardship, such as family violence and mental illness. In the course of developing the Bill, the Government received representations from community and legal groups about these impacts. There are four key measures introduced by the Bill that will apply across the CityLink, EastLink and West Gate Tunnel projects. Currently a person who makes multiple trips on CityLink in a day without paying the tolls can be charged with a tolling offence for one of those trips, although they are still liable to pay the tolls for the remaining trips on that day. The Bill reduces the number of tolling offences for which a person can be prosecuted to one in seven days, significantly reducing the number of infringements for all users of the existing tollways and the new West Gate Tunnel. We are providing a greater range of vehicle and driver data to operators and allowing operators to use that for a wider range of debt recovery procedures than previously permitted. We are also providing more time for operators to pursue debt recovery before the time limit for issuing an infringement or court proceedings expires. The Government needs to be assured that debt recovery activities will be carried out in a responsible and fair manner. The Bill makes the operator’s expanded rights to access and use of driver licensing and vehicle registration information conditional on the operator continuing to comply with minimum debt recovery requirements specified by the responsible Minister. Should matters proceed to criminal enforcement, courts will be given discretion to waive administration fees for people convicted of multiple tolling offences, further protecting those experiencing acute financial hardship. Truck Bans Fourthly, the Bill contains a new mechanism for the introduction of truck bans in the inner west to protect community amenity. The Bill provides for the declaration of no-truck zones and creates a new offence of driving a heavy vehicle in a no-truck zone. The new offence has a significantly higher maximum penalty than is currently provided in the Road Rules for disobeying a ‘no truck’ sign, and the Bill contains measures to make operators and contractors liable for the offence and to facilitate electronic enforcement. The Government has established a Better Freight Outcomes Fund under the Bill to receive the proceeds of fines and infringement penalties arising from the ‘no truck’ offence. The funds raised will be invested back into transport programs to benefit the local community. Other changes Finally, the Bill introduces a number of minor changes to other Acts, including conferring on the operator, currently Transurban, various functions and powers of a road authority under the Road Management Act 2004. The Bill will also enable the operator of a trailer to become liable to pay a toll where the operator of the vehicle towing the trailer is unable to be identified. These measures will also apply to the CityLink and EastLink projects. Parts of the Bill Part 1 deals with preliminary matters, including the purposes, objects and commencement of the Bill and the powers of the Secretary to the Department of Transport, the West Gate Tunnel Corporation and the West Gate Tunnel operator. Part 2 makes provision with respect to the West Gate Tunnel Project Agreement. Part 3 sets out the tolling provisions. Part 4 deals with administration, legal proceedings and enforcement. Part 5 deals with the Better Freight Outcomes Fund, including payments into and out of the Fund. Part 6 provides for the making of regulations and repeal of transitional regulation making powers. Part 7 sets out amendments to other Acts. The Bill provides the framework for operation of the West Gate Tunnel, a project which will deliver immense and enduring benefits to the State of Victoria. I commend the Bill to the House.