Dr MEHREEN FARUQI ( 12:47 ): On behalf of The Greens, I speak briefly on the Road Transport and Related Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. The Greens do not oppose this bill but I raise a couple of concerns and would appreciate a response from the Parliamentary Secretary. The stated purpose of the bill is to provide several road safety measures and administrative amendments. As such, the bill seeks to amend several Acts and regulations, some of which aim to bring New South Wales in line with other States and Territories. Schedule 1 amends the Road Transport Act 2013 to increase the maximum penalties for offences against the statutory rules to allow for the use of traffic enforcement devices that detect vehicle dimension and establish the New South Wales written-off heavy vehicles register.
The proposed registration of written-off heavy vehicles will be similar to the one already in use for light vehicles. The amendment allows for provisions in the register both for recording details of completely written‑off heavy vehicles as well as recording details of repairable written-off heavy vehicles. This register is a welcome improvement and brings New South Wales in line with other States and Territories that already maintain these records of written-off heavy vehicles. The move to establish this record should help ensure that crashed heavy vehicles that are structurally unsafe as a result are not re-registered and driven on public roads.
As such, the bill specifies a framework to establish the first such register for New South Wales. The bill also provides for the use of new traffic enforcement devices that will allow for detection of heavy vehicles in contravention of dimension requirements.
While the Roads and Maritime Services currently uses cameras for a range of offences, this bill allows for a supplementary device that measures the dimensions of a vehicle and for it to be used in conjunction with the cameras for enforcement purposes. I understand that this is targeted at instances such as the truck that crashed into the M5 East tunnel in 2010 because it was too high for the tunnel, causing about $1 million in damage. The bill also creates a separate class of offence for dimension offences under the list of detectable traffic offences in the Road Transport Act 2013.
New South Wales will be the first State in Australia to use devices for dimension requirements. I certainly hope this will lead to improved safety outcomes and compliance for heavy vehicles. We must take seriously the concerns raised by truck drivers relating to shift schedule expectations, overwork and fatigue. It is not a matter to be taken lightly or one that should be further delayed. This bill also makes several amendments to the Driving Instructors Act 1992, including expanding the definition of “driving instructors”. The expanded definition includes instructors in testing and assessment roles, who will also have to have Working With Children Checks. That is a welcome amendment.
Schedule 3 to the bill amends the Point to Point Transport (Taxis and Hire Vehicles) Act 2016. I am concerned about section 10 in this schedule, which expands powers granted to the Point to Point Transport Commissioner by including powers to compel people to provide information or to appear before the commissioner to give evidence. The Point to Point Transport Regulation came into effect just a couple of weeks ago, on 1 November 2017, along with the powers of the new industry regulator, the Point to Point Transport Commissioner. Although the commissioner has been in the role since October 2016, the regulatory powers have just come into effect.
The powers, such as being able to compel people to appear to give evidence, are far-reaching and could potentially be misused. The concern is amplified by the fact that the commissioner is currently not required to report to Parliament. In the crossbench briefing on this bill, I asked for a justification for the expansion of the commissioner’s powers but did not get a satisfactory response. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary in his speech in reply to respond to these concerns, address the justification for these expanded powers, and clarify exactly what safeguards are in place to keep these powers in check.