MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (11:19:41): I thank all the members who have contributed to this debate today and given accounts of what has been occurring in their electorates. In particular Mr Meddick, who shares my electorate, outlined some of the things that our constituents have faced in recent times. I note that the opposition have said that they will not be opposing the bill today, and I am glad that we are able to have a bipartisan approach to this very important community safety issue. I do thank those who have moved amendments for their engagement with this bill leading up to today and of course in the committee stage in a moment. But unfortunately the amendments from Mr Rich-Phillips and Mr Quilty are not able to be supported by the government as they pose, we believe, a significant risk to the correct operation of the changes for different reasons. I will come back to that in a moment. As members know, the government recognises that there is a need to deter non-compliance with the Dangerous Goods Act 1985 and in particular conduct that places lives at risk. The bill amends the act to create an indictable conduct offence for those who mishandle dangerous goods in a manner that places or may place a person in danger of death. Individuals that recklessly manufacture, store, transport, transfer, sell or use dangerous goods in a way that places or may place a person in danger of death face a fine of up to $627 800 and 10 years in prison, and body corporates will face a fine of up to $6.6 million. Those who endanger the safety or health of another person, property or the environment now face five years in prison, and in the case of a body corporate, a fine of $3.3 million. The penalty for the contravention of provisions relating to inspections and enforcement will be a fine of $82 000 instead of $16 500. Penalties in relation to accidents and security will be more than doubled. Individuals and body corporates that disregard their obligation to take precautions to prevent fires, explosions and other such damage to property and the public face fines of up to $297 000 as well as two years in prison, while body corporate fines are up to $1.48 million. I go to the amendment that has been circulated by Mr Rich-Phillips. The stated intention of Mr Rich-Phillips’s amendments is to increase transparency, and that of course is an admirable goal, albeit an interesting one from a party who certainly were cloaked in secrecy when they were in power. I can assure members that when dangerous goods are discovered members of the community in the vicinity are warned and there is a strong security presence. What is being proposed to be published—that is, the exact addresses of where there are dangerous goods stored—is akin to giving the treasure map to those criminals in the community who would seek to damage these residential areas through arson or some other illegal activity. We publicly disclose the suburb location, but to put the exact addresses, the government believes, will be too dangerous. So on that basis we oppose Mr Rich-Phillips’s amendment. I also indicate that the annual report for the 2018–19 financial year summarises the nature of clean-up operations, the amount of waste removed, the number of dangerous goods locations in Victoria, the number of notices issued relating to dangerous goods and the number of contraventions remedied. Moving to Mr Quilty’s proposed amendments, they would require WorkSafe inspectors to obtain a warrant prior to entering a residential property or vehicle where dangerous goods are suspected to be have been illegally stored or mishandled. The government opposes the amendment and it understands the process that WorkSafe inspectors are required to follow. The amendment fundamentally misunderstands that the powers of inspectors are not unqualified or unbounded. It is a solution, we say, in search of a problem. The amendment seeks to alter sections 13 and 13A of the act. These sections allow WorkSafe inspectors to enter a workplace or inspect a vehicle based on a reasonable belief in the presence of dangerous goods or equipment that is being used for manufacture, supply, transport, storage and sale of dangerous goods or explosives. The legislation as it stands has the following requirements with respect to warrants in the Dangerous Goods Act. Under section 14 an inspector must make all reasonable steps to notify the occupier or apparent occupier of the place of entry and to produce his or her identity card for inspection by that person. Section 16 provides that in relation to the entering of residential properties, inspectors cannot do so without the consent of the occupier unless they have a warrant. In these circumstances it is unclear what problem it is that the amendment seeks to cure. Section 13 enables inspectors to inspect vehicles that are used to transport dangerous goods if it is required to deal with emergency situations, to prevent an emergency situation developing or to investigate dangerous goods incidents. We have seen stockpiling occur very close to residential properties, and this bill seeks to deter that conduct and hold offenders liable for conduct that endangers lives and the environment. With respect to the proposal to make changes to licensing requirements, this is a significant change that is not required and will have a substantial impact on the ability of kerbside waste disposals to occur. These are the reasons that the government will not be supporting the amendments that are being proposed by Mr Quilty and Mr Rich-Phillips. Again, I thank members for their contributions to date and I look forward to the committee stage. Motion agreed to. Read second time.
Tags: Second Reading