I advise Mr Ondarchie that any piece of legislation that deters unsafe driving in any way is a step in the right direction and is welcomed by the opposition. This particular piece of legislation is an extension of the previous Labor government’s hoon driving framework, which was part of a very comprehensive strategy to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads — a record of which the previous Labor government is extremely proud.
It is, however, very disappointing to see that the current government brings before the house what I consider to be an inadequate substitute for a comprehensive road strategy. As we have heard from other speakers, the Baillieu government has failed to deliver the next Arrive Alive action plan, which was due in December last year. It has walked away from plans for a road safety experience centre, amidst much criticism from the public.
Whilst members of the opposition do not oppose this bill, we are quite disconcerted that the Baillieu government has offered only this legislation, which essentially extends and increases punishment for hoon and unsafe driving, and has not offered any initiatives on education, particularly for Victoria’s young people.
The road safety experience centre would have been a fantastic addition to the many initiatives brought about by the previous government to educate Victorians about the dangers and consequences of unsafe driving. In October last year the previous government committed a $50 million package for the centre to provide a number of initiatives. Those initiatives would have included presentations on the reality of a crash as seen by emergency services experts; simulators demonstrating the influence of alcohol, drugs, distractions and speed on driver performance; diversionary programs for driving offenders; physical displays demonstrating crash dynamics and the role of safe roads and vehicles; a road trauma remembrance memorial; and experiences of living with the aftermath of road trauma presented by rehabilitation workers and road accident victims. Special access provisions were also planned to ensure that young Victorians in regional Victoria would also have had access to the centre. Online access to the centre’s programs was also going to be provided.
Unfortunately this government has decided to shelve plans for this centre as well as reduce funding for road safety initiatives.
Whilst we welcome increased punishments for unsafe driving we must also seek to educate all Victorians on the dangers of hoon driving so that at best we do not have to enforce these punishments in the first instance and at worst we do not lose one or a number of people in an accident caused by hoon driving. These sentiments are echoed by all Victorians, especially those victims and their families who want to see the government do more on road safety education.
These sentiments have been expressed by Norm Robinson, the father of Luke Robinson, who was killed when his car hit a tree while travelling at 160 kilometres per hour.
Norm Robinson has essentially said that any move to have tougher penalties is a good move, but he is also very concerned about the need for planning to make sure that young drivers are prevented from becoming hoons in the first place. I think all of us here in this chamber, as well as in the wider community, would concur with those sentiments.
The previous government, as I have said, had a proud record on road safety initiatives — from the Arrive Alive strategy and education programs to black spot funding programs and its action on car safety and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Other initiatives included the requirement for all new vehicles to have electronic stability control and side curtain airbags. All these initiatives contributed to the previous government’s record on road safety.
The previous government’s support for car manufacturers such as Ford in Geelong and Broadmeadows added to the innovation of new safety facilities in vehicles such as those. I read with interest the contributions made on this topic in the lower house by the member for Lara, John Eren, who said he is constantly asked by a number of stakeholders from this state, interstate and overseas what we are doing in Victoria to drive the road toll down. As we know, John Eren and the member for Geelong, Ian Tresize, have been longstanding members of the Road Safety Committee and have made a significant contribution to the promotion of road safety in Geelong and the surrounding area.
I sincerely hope the current government has every intention of continuing Victoria’s record on road safety. Seven months into the term of this coalition government I do not think there is much evidence of that.
To make such a commitment there must be a clear and comprehensive strategy outlined to all Victorians as to how the government will continue this state’s commitment to reduce the road toll and the injuries sustained from unsafe driving practices. Shelving plans for the road safety experience centre, failing to deliver the Arrive Alive action plan and reducing funding for road safety initiatives is simply not good enough and is certainly not a good start.
As I stated, I fully support this piece of legislation and any legislation that has the purpose of making our roads safer and lowering the road toll, but I hope in the very near future we will see initiatives from this government that mirror the absolute commitment of the previous Labor government on road safety issues.