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Authorised by Matt Fregon MP, 1/40 Montclair Avenue GLEN WAVERLEY VIC 3150

Media Centre

Second Reading – Renewable Energy (Investment and Jobs) Amendment Bill 2019

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (18:08): I stand to speak on the Renewable Energy (Investment and Jobs) Amendment Bill 2019, and I do so with the pride of understanding how important this legislation is, as we as a government are delivering on our promise to increase Victoria’s renewable energy target (VRET) to 50 per cent by 2030. In the last episode here from Mount Waverley I referenced the great Aussie film The Castle. Talking about electricity, it made me think about powerlines. Mr Kerrigan, if I can quote him, reckons ‘Powerlines are a reminder of man’s ability to generate electricity’. I could tell Mr Kerrigan, if he existed, that not only do we generate electricity but we are thinking about how we can generate that electricity better for our environment and to work against climate change. That is what we are here today to do. I think if he knew that, he would respond with something akin to ‘Ah, the serenity’, or something like that. It is important that we are a part of the movement towards a major global energy transition and seize on Australia’s natural assets with solar and wind power. We have already seen great return from the investments made in this area. Investing in renewable energy has had significant benefits not only for our economy but also for the environment and society as a whole. As we look forward to the future for the next generation of Victorians, we do so knowing that we are working for a better world for them. Victoria is a lucky state which boasts an abundance of renewable energy sources. The utilisation of those sources will result in growth in investment and employment across the state. Mr McGhie: Jobs. Mr FREGON: Put simply, jobs—and it makes sense. The last Victorian renewable energy target set by us as a government in 2017 was a progressive yet modest 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025. We set the agenda through recognition of the issue and action via targets. This amendment bill follows on from our previous targets and chooses to be a little bolder than before. I think this is important because our youngest Victorians are looking up to us, and hoping for bold action. It is a part of our role in politics to spearhead change. I am very proud to stand alongside the Andrews government as we legislate a VRET target of 50 per cent by 2030. As Whitney Houston said in that song: I believe the children are our future Teach them well and let them lead the way. This is part of what we are doing, not only with our Education State, but we are bringing them forward and they will lead us to a much cleaner energy. We are going to get them halfway there by 2030 with this very bill. It is a big step forward for Victoria as we are providing the energy industry with continued policy certainty to be investing into important renewable energy projects, creating jobs and a more sustainable future for all—so jobs, jobs and more jobs. We know that for a lot of Victorians one of their biggest concerns is jobs—for their family, for their friends, for everyone. We are addressing this at multiple levels, including through our work in the renewable energy sector. Members on the other side were talking about their concerns about unemployment in regional areas, so I have got something here that we mentioned in May, around budget time. It says: Victoria’s regional unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest mark on record and at just 4.2 per cent, remains the lowest of all the states. That was in May. I am happy to report that at the moment it is even better than that. Currently it is 3.7 per cent, which is an all-state, all-time low. In May regional unemployment had fallen by 0.2 points in three months, so now we are looking at a 44 per cent drop in the regional unemployment rate from 2014—who was in then?—to now. Mr McGhie interjected. Mr FREGON: Pretty good government, this. That is an astounding figure. Jobs will be created in local industry, in supply chain development and in the production of materials. These jobs will be created where they are needed most, too, such as Vestas Renewable Energy Hub, breathing fresh air into Geelong with $3.5 million worth of investment. This is based out of the old Ford factory. The project will mean hundreds of locals in Geelong get hands-on training in wind turbine maintenance. It will also be groundbreaking, as Australia has not had its own wind turbine component assembly in over 10 years. So that is great for Geelong, and I reckon we have got a few members who will be very impressed about that. Members interjecting. Mr FREGON: The member for Lara is thinking this is a very good thing. How about our $25 million battery storage initiative commitment, which has involved the deployment of two largescale batteries in western Victoria with a combined capacity of 55 megawatts? That is great. What else have we got? We have got the first battery system connected to a vital grid intersection at a substation in Warrenheip, near Ballarat. Mr McGhie: There you go. Mr FREGON: There you go; that is up your way. So it is all around the state and it is all-round good news. These batteries were strategically planned at the most constrained sections of our electricity network. They have proved themselves already, being operational and providing muchneeded backup power and grid stabilisation. The investment has just shown the forward-thinking nature of the Andrews Labor government. Our new VRET target is expected to increase employment in Victoria by 4067 full-time jobs a year. Included in this is stability for the jobs already created through our previous target, such that employees in the Victorian business Keppel Prince thrive, with the company producing a record number of wind towers. The feds have left great uncertainty in the renewable energy sector for investors and workers in these industries after reviewing the federal renewable energy target in 2014 and 2015. We all remember the on-again, off-again nature of the National Energy Guarantee conversation of late last year—and didn’t that fall apart. It was very disappointing, but there you go. In picking up the slack for the feds the Victorian government introduced the VRET in 2016. We have created important initiatives and made the necessary investments to ensure that our targets are not empty promises. Security for the sector means security for the jobs of Victorians. Because of our investment in and legislation for the renewable energy sector since 2014 we have seen unprecedented growth and investment. It is clear that with strong leadership and a strong vision the government has given certainty to this sector. We have got the statistics to prove it. The share of Victoria’s electricity generated from renewable sources has increased from 11 per cent in 2014, when we came into government, to 20 per cent in 2018, and that will only increase with this bill. One of the great initiatives this year has been our Solar Homes initiative. Its popularity speaks for itself, and I do not know if we have had a more popular initiative in our office in Mount Waverley. We have brought the people of Victoria with us in our vision to see more solar panels on the roofs of Victorian homes, more solar hot water systems and more battery storage units. This groundbreaking investment will bring the number of households with residential solar systems to 1 million in 10 years. I am going to give a shout-out to one of my constituents, Ben. Ben is just one of the many very happy Solar Homes success stories. After looking at his power bills Ben was telling me that now that he is getting paid for his grid feed-in he is saving about $60 a month. But that is in winter; he is expecting that to get dramatically better. He is expecting $800 or $900 a year worth of savings, so it is going to pay for itself over the first number of years. Of course after it has paid for itself, then he will be getting his energy for nothing, pretty well. That is an amazing saving and is why this whole initiative is so popular. Whenever you talk to the kids in the schools, not only in my electorate but in all of them, they ask about climate change, renewable energy and what we are doing. Recently I went to Avila College and sat with about eight of the young ladies there. That was the most popular topic they were asking me about: what are we doing in this area? What are we doing with renewables? What are we doing with recycling? This is on their minds, and they will be very glad to know that our increased renewable target of 50 per cent by 2030 will ensure the momentum we have created in the renewable energy sector does not halt. I believe this is a time of opportunity for us all. The time to act is now and this government is doing it. I am proud to be standing on the right side of history and I commend this bill to the house.

Second Reading – Renewable Energy (Investment and Jobs) Amendment Bill 2019

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (18:08): I stand to speak on the Renewable Energy (Investment and Jobs) Amendment Bill 2019, and I do so with the pride of understanding how important this legislation is, as we as a government are delivering on our promise to increase Victoria’s renewable energy target (VRET) to 50 per cent by 2030. In the last episode here from Mount Waverley I referenced the great Aussie film The Castle. Talking about electricity, it made me think about powerlines. Mr Kerrigan, if I can quote him, reckons ‘Powerlines are a reminder of man’s ability to generate electricity’. I could tell Mr Kerrigan, if he existed, that not only do we generate electricity but we are thinking about how we can generate that electricity better for our environment and to work against climate change. That is what we are here today to do. I think if he knew that, he would respond with something akin to ‘Ah, the serenity’, or something like that. It is important that we are a part of the movement towards a major global energy transition and seize on Australia’s natural assets with solar and wind power. We have already seen great return from the investments made in this area. Investing in renewable energy has had significant benefits not only for our economy but also for the environment and society as a whole. As we look forward to the future for the next generation of Victorians, we do so knowing that we are working for a better world for them. Victoria is a lucky state which boasts an abundance of renewable energy sources. The utilisation of those sources will result in growth in investment and employment across the state. Mr McGhie: Jobs. Mr FREGON: Put simply, jobs—and it makes sense. The last Victorian renewable energy target set by us as a government in 2017 was a progressive yet modest 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025. We set the agenda through recognition of the issue and action via targets. This amendment bill follows on from our previous targets and chooses to be a little bolder than before. I think this is important because our youngest Victorians are looking up to us, and hoping for bold action. It is a part of our role in politics to spearhead change. I am very proud to stand alongside the Andrews government as we legislate a VRET target of 50 per cent by 2030. As Whitney Houston said in that song: I believe the children are our future Teach them well and let them lead the way. This is part of what we are doing, not only with our Education State, but we are bringing them forward and they will lead us to a much cleaner energy. We are going to get them halfway there by 2030 with this very bill. It is a big step forward for Victoria as we are providing the energy industry with continued policy certainty to be investing into important renewable energy projects, creating jobs and a more sustainable future for all—so jobs, jobs and more jobs. We know that for a lot of Victorians one of their biggest concerns is jobs—for their family, for their friends, for everyone. We are addressing this at multiple levels, including through our work in the renewable energy sector. Members on the other side were talking about their concerns about unemployment in regional areas, so I have got something here that we mentioned in May, around budget time. It says: Victoria’s regional unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest mark on record and at just 4.2 per cent, remains the lowest of all the states. That was in May. I am happy to report that at the moment it is even better than that. Currently it is 3.7 per cent, which is an all-state, all-time low. In May regional unemployment had fallen by 0.2 points in three months, so now we are looking at a 44 per cent drop in the regional unemployment rate from 2014—who was in then?—to now. Mr McGhie interjected. Mr FREGON: Pretty good government, this. That is an astounding figure. Jobs will be created in local industry, in supply chain development and in the production of materials. These jobs will be created where they are needed most, too, such as Vestas Renewable Energy Hub, breathing fresh air into Geelong with $3.5 million worth of investment. This is based out of the old Ford factory. The project will mean hundreds of locals in Geelong get hands-on training in wind turbine maintenance. It will also be groundbreaking, as Australia has not had its own wind turbine component assembly in over 10 years. So that is great for Geelong, and I reckon we have got a few members who will be very impressed about that. Members interjecting. Mr FREGON: The member for Lara is thinking this is a very good thing. How about our $25 million battery storage initiative commitment, which has involved the deployment of two largescale batteries in western Victoria with a combined capacity of 55 megawatts? That is great. What else have we got? We have got the first battery system connected to a vital grid intersection at a substation in Warrenheip, near Ballarat. Mr McGhie: There you go. Mr FREGON: There you go; that is up your way. So it is all around the state and it is all-round good news. These batteries were strategically planned at the most constrained sections of our electricity network. They have proved themselves already, being operational and providing muchneeded backup power and grid stabilisation. The investment has just shown the forward-thinking nature of the Andrews Labor government. Our new VRET target is expected to increase employment in Victoria by 4067 full-time jobs a year. Included in this is stability for the jobs already created through our previous target, such that employees in the Victorian business Keppel Prince thrive, with the company producing a record number of wind towers. The feds have left great uncertainty in the renewable energy sector for investors and workers in these industries after reviewing the federal renewable energy target in 2014 and 2015. We all remember the on-again, off-again nature of the National Energy Guarantee conversation of late last year—and didn’t that fall apart. It was very disappointing, but there you go. In picking up the slack for the feds the Victorian government introduced the VRET in 2016. We have created important initiatives and made the necessary investments to ensure that our targets are not empty promises. Security for the sector means security for the jobs of Victorians. Because of our investment in and legislation for the renewable energy sector since 2014 we have seen unprecedented growth and investment. It is clear that with strong leadership and a strong vision the government has given certainty to this sector. We have got the statistics to prove it. The share of Victoria’s electricity generated from renewable sources has increased from 11 per cent in 2014, when we came into government, to 20 per cent in 2018, and that will only increase with this bill. One of the great initiatives this year has been our Solar Homes initiative. Its popularity speaks for itself, and I do not know if we have had a more popular initiative in our office in Mount Waverley. We have brought the people of Victoria with us in our vision to see more solar panels on the roofs of Victorian homes, more solar hot water systems and more battery storage units. This groundbreaking investment will bring the number of households with residential solar systems to 1 million in 10 years. I am going to give a shout-out to one of my constituents, Ben. Ben is just one of the many very happy Solar Homes success stories. After looking at his power bills Ben was telling me that now that he is getting paid for his grid feed-in he is saving about $60 a month. But that is in winter; he is expecting that to get dramatically better. He is expecting $800 or $900 a year worth of savings, so it is going to pay for itself over the first number of years. Of course after it has paid for itself, then he will be getting his energy for nothing, pretty well. That is an amazing saving and is why this whole initiative is so popular. Whenever you talk to the kids in the schools, not only in my electorate but in all of them, they ask about climate change, renewable energy and what we are doing. Recently I went to Avila College and sat with about eight of the young ladies there. That was the most popular topic they were asking me about: what are we doing in this area? What are we doing with renewables? What are we doing with recycling? This is on their minds, and they will be very glad to know that our increased renewable target of 50 per cent by 2030 will ensure the momentum we have created in the renewable energy sector does not halt. I believe this is a time of opportunity for us all. The time to act is now and this government is doing it. I am proud to be standing on the right side of history and I commend this bill to the house.

CONSTITUENCY QUESTION – Youth Justice

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (12:49): (1041) My constituency question is to the Minister for Youth Justice, and I ask: what is the Andrews Labor government doing to support our youth justice workers? Recently I was approached by a constituent whose son works in a youth justice centre, and he highlighted to me the importance of supporting our workers in this tough but essential role. Shift after shift, our youth justice workers dedicate their time to this very complex role in our society. Their work has many aspects, from being a custodian, to mentor, to educator, to youth worker and more. Their work is not without hazard, is sometimes stressful but can also be rewarding. These dedicated people are worthy of our respect, and I thank them for the work they do.   MINISTER’S ANSWER: Our youth justice staff work with complex young people in a very challenging environment. They are dedicated, capable and committed to turning around the lives of the most complex young people in our society. Violent behaviour and assaults by young people in custody is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We are committed to supporting our staff and providing them with a safe working environment that maximises opportunities for rehabilitation for the young people in our care. To date, our Government has invested over $1.2 billion to overhaul the Youth Justice system, delivering more and better trained and equipped staff, as well as addressing the recommendations of the Armytage Ogloff Youth Justice Review. As recommended in the Youth Justice Review, the department has commenced work on a workforce plan, which will include strategies addressing recruitment, retention, occupational health and safety (OHS), and learning and development. The recent 2019-2020 Budget provides $20.1 million to maintain safety and security in our custodial centres including Safety and Emergency Response Team (SERT) staff, Security and Emergency Services Group (SESG) staff, senior operational staff and staff on the units. New laws were introduced under the Children and Justice Legislation Amendment (Youth Justice Reform) Bill 2017 that impose tougher consequences for young people who assault staff or commit other crimes while in custody. The statutory minimum sentences that apply in respect of serious assaults on prison officers and emergency workers have been extended to serious assaults on youth justice custodial workers. As a result, minimum sentences apply to people aged 18 and over who are sentenced for serious assaults on youth justice custodial workers while they are on duty in a youth justice facility. For assaults committed by children under 18, sentences of detention imposed for those assaults are served cumulatively on any other sentence of detention, as the statutory minimums do not apply to children. New youth justice custodial staff undertake approximately seven weeks of pre-service training that includes sessions on OHS, communication methods with young people, tactical response training, mindfulness, and wellbeing. The program includes increased use of scenario based learning and on-the-job placements. Once staff have completed their pre-service induction, they participate in ongoing mandatary training to ensure their skills are up to date. To support staff wellbeing, Youth Justice has a dedicated health and wellbeing team and program. The program includes wellbeing and psychological health, managing stress, mental health support, individual counselling and crisis support, conflict management and restorative justice conferences. New staff members have access to a mentor to assist in their transition to the workplace, and all custodial staff have access to a peer support program as a primary intervention for psychological support. In addition, an onsite psychologist is available for staff who seek individual psychological support. Significant work is still underway to strengthen the workforce and improve safety for staff and young people. A Custodial Facilities Working Group has been established since April 2019 and comprises senior government and non-government youth justice experts and stakeholders. The focus of the Working Group is the safety, security and stability of youth justice custodial facilities as well as the effective rehabilitation of young people in custody. Ensuring the safety and support to our staff is of utmost importance to this Government, and we will continue our commitment to build a strong and stable youth justice system.   The Hon Ben Carroll MP Minister for Crime Prevention Minister for Corrections Minister for Youth Justice Minister for Victim Support 3 October 2019

CONSTITUENCY QUESTION – Youth Justice

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (12:49): (1041) My constituency question is to the Minister for Youth Justice, and I ask: what is the Andrews Labor government doing to support our youth justice workers? Recently I was approached by a constituent whose son works in a youth justice centre, and he highlighted to me the importance of supporting our workers in this tough but essential role. Shift after shift, our youth justice workers dedicate their time to this very complex role in our society. Their work has many aspects, from being a custodian, to mentor, to educator, to youth worker and more. Their work is not without hazard, is sometimes stressful but can also be rewarding. These dedicated people are worthy of our respect, and I thank them for the work they do.   MINISTER’S ANSWER: Our youth justice staff work with complex young people in a very challenging environment. They are dedicated, capable and committed to turning around the lives of the most complex young people in our society. Violent behaviour and assaults by young people in custody is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We are committed to supporting our staff and providing them with a safe working environment that maximises opportunities for rehabilitation for the young people in our care. To date, our Government has invested over $1.2 billion to overhaul the Youth Justice system, delivering more and better trained and equipped staff, as well as addressing the recommendations of the Armytage Ogloff Youth Justice Review. As recommended in the Youth Justice Review, the department has commenced work on a workforce plan, which will include strategies addressing recruitment, retention, occupational health and safety (OHS), and learning and development. The recent 2019-2020 Budget provides $20.1 million to maintain safety and security in our custodial centres including Safety and Emergency Response Team (SERT) staff, Security and Emergency Services Group (SESG) staff, senior operational staff and staff on the units. New laws were introduced under the Children and Justice Legislation Amendment (Youth Justice Reform) Bill 2017 that impose tougher consequences for young people who assault staff or commit other crimes while in custody. The statutory minimum sentences that apply in respect of serious assaults on prison officers and emergency workers have been extended to serious assaults on youth justice custodial workers. As a result, minimum sentences apply to people aged 18 and over who are sentenced for serious assaults on youth justice custodial workers while they are on duty in a youth justice facility. For assaults committed by children under 18, sentences of detention imposed for those assaults are served cumulatively on any other sentence of detention, as the statutory minimums do not apply to children. New youth justice custodial staff undertake approximately seven weeks of pre-service training that includes sessions on OHS, communication methods with young people, tactical response training, mindfulness, and wellbeing. The program includes increased use of scenario based learning and on-the-job placements. Once staff have completed their pre-service induction, they participate in ongoing mandatary training to ensure their skills are up to date. To support staff wellbeing, Youth Justice has a dedicated health and wellbeing team and program. The program includes wellbeing and psychological health, managing stress, mental health support, individual counselling and crisis support, conflict management and restorative justice conferences. New staff members have access to a mentor to assist in their transition to the workplace, and all custodial staff have access to a peer support program as a primary intervention for psychological support. In addition, an onsite psychologist is available for staff who seek individual psychological support. Significant work is still underway to strengthen the workforce and improve safety for staff and young people. A Custodial Facilities Working Group has been established since April 2019 and comprises senior government and non-government youth justice experts and stakeholders. The focus of the Working Group is the safety, security and stability of youth justice custodial facilities as well as the effective rehabilitation of young people in custody. Ensuring the safety and support to our staff is of utmost importance to this Government, and we will continue our commitment to build a strong and stable youth justice system.   The Hon Ben Carroll MP Minister for Crime Prevention Minister for Corrections Minister for Youth Justice Minister for Victim Support 3 October 2019

Second Reading – Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2019

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (16:40): I rise to also speak on the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2019. The main purpose of this bill before us, as everyone has stated, is to introduce a ban on lightweight single-use plastic shopping bags. It is good to see that we have support from both sides of the house. Common sense is sometimes common. Most of us could not imagine a world where we do not utilise the benefits of plastic. It is light, it is inexpensive, it protects and preserves, and it is now fundamental to our modern lives. It is used in everything from bubble wrap to prosthetic limbs, in toys to heavy industry. Even trains on our own Glen Waverley line are now travelling over plastic recycled sleepers made here in Victoria when they go through Richmond station. That said, with the abundant availability of plastic, we find ourselves all too quick to overuse and throw away this resource. Our world is filled with single-use plastic items, and we use them momentarily, but they can take hundreds of years to break down. So the more we throw away, the more problems we as a society are making for ourselves. Reducing the amount of these bags, as this bill does, therefore reduces this problem. We have already seen the effects we can expect from this bill having seen the Coles and Woolworths changes last year. Over 12 months ago these bags that will now be banned were removed from two of our major supermarkets, and whilst I am still trying to remind myself to remove bags from under the sink and put them in the car—which I am working on—it is good to see some of my colleagues here are ahead of me. We need to bring these re-usable bags with us, and I need to put them in my car to go to my local supermarket down at Pinewood or Hamilton Place. In fact I can also thank the minister and this bill for reminding me to do that. The bill we are debating today brings us to an important milestone in the ongoing process of tackling problematic plastics in our environment. It is one step of many along a path but an important step for our natural environment. The ban builds on the overwhelming support from our community, shown by the uptake of the use of re-usable plastic bags, and assists us in moving forward towards more sustainable alternatives. Since last July as I go to buy milk, bread or whatever I find myself considering the environment just a little bit more because of the fact that we are using these bags. I also see this effect on the parents and children at schools that I visit in Mount Waverley. Recently I spoke to children at Holy Family Primary School and was pleased to see their strong interest in environmental matters and issues. Also our own Parliament has been running a role-play on banning plastic bags with primary school children in this very chamber. These kids are growing up with environmental issues and concerns front and centre of their thinking. On a recent trip to Palm Cove my own daughter argued that we had to go snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef because she was concerned that it may not be the same the next time we had the chance to go. So our kids are growing up with these environmental issues very much in their minds. Our government has worked closely with Victorian communities and businesses during the development of this plastic bag ban. The buy-in that we see from the public is a testament to that consultation and buy-in from the public. We as a state are not alone in this ban. Learning from the experience of other jurisdictions both in Australia and overseas has brought us here today with a ban that will produce the right outcomes for Victoria. Some retailers in Victoria, as I have mentioned before, have already stopped providing lightweight single-use plastic bags, and I think it is fair to give them a shout-out for doing what they have done. The ban will not only reduce plastic pollution but assist with the health of our environment. This ban, not unlike the changes from retailers last year, builds awareness and shows the Victorian public that their government is moving to a more sustainable Victoria. We must encourage avoidance and re-use at all times, and in this way this bill is another step towards a circular economy. The focus on a circular economy and its principles is being shown by our work in developing a circular economic policy and action plan for Victoria to be released later this year. We all want to see minimisation of waste and to know that we are making the most of our resources. Moving to a more circular economy will grow the economy, increase jobs and reduce impacts on the environment. In Mount Waverley we have a local men’s shed that is working on a re-use and recycle plan. This is something I am keen to see in practice. Not only does this project assist with the recycling of useful goods but also, as does all the work they do at the shed, it assists greatly with the mental health and social inclusion of our senior men in our community. So a big shout-out to Greg and all the blokes down at the shed. The ban, once in place, will remove these single-use bags from our recycling bins, and by doing this will assist in the ease of recycling companies to sort and reprocess during recycling. We are joining the list of other states that have also banned these plastic bags and have aligned our approach with that taken in these other jurisdictions. This will ensure consistency for retailers and suppliers and therefore make the adoption of this change easier for those who operate in a national market. It is no surprise that this ban causes a change for some retailers. This has been considered, and so to ensure our retailers and small businesses are ready for the ban, the government has engaged the National Retail Association, which will deliver an education and engagement program over the next year. Drawing on their years of experience in the sector, the National Retail Association will provide face-to-face engagement with stakeholders in a program which will encourage long-term sustainable packaging solutions. This implementation program, like others that they have run in Queensland and Western Australia, will also assist in promoting the ban to consumers. Sustainability Victoria states that the government received over 8000 submissions in three months of public consultation on plastic pollution in 2017–18. From this we can clearly state that the Victorian community takes the issue of plastic pollution seriously. From this process we have received an enormous show of support for a ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags, with more than 96 per cent of submissions received supporting a ban. That is a fairly staggering number of people who agree on one thing. We also heard that the Victorian community wants more action on plastic pollution. It is clear from public responses that the public wants to see more work in this space, and that is exactly what this government is delivering. Not only are we committed to decreasing plastic pollution entering our environment, as this bill does, but we do so knowing the Victorian public are with us. I have no doubt that we are tackling this problem head-on, and I thank the minister for not only this bill but the quantity of work we are seeing in this area moving us to a circular economy. I note that the inquiry into recycling and waste management will be reporting its findings towards the end of this year, and I look forward to reading through that report and seeing where we go. We need to move away from a throwaway mentality. I know when my kids’ school asked parents to use less wrapping for school lunches, this was not necessarily simple for some, like me. For my part, I am not totally there yet—I still find this awkward—but it is the right way to go, and those of us who are a little recalcitrant in this area and find it a bit difficult have to change with the times for the good of our environment. It is another example of how much we are relying on plastics, but it reminds me that we need to think about where it goes once we have used it. Plastic is not the bad guy in this debate, but we need to be aware of the problems that its usage and our reliance on it causes. Our government is aware that we must utilise these benefits without compromising the Victorian environment. We need to align our systems around a common vision. So where we can eliminate plastic we do not need and instead use sustainable alternatives, we should do that. We should support innovation in plastic production where the full life of the plastic is considered and is part of the manufacturing decision-making. This way we can continue on the path that we are on so that what we make continues to be used and never becomes waste or pollution. Our government is committed to developing and implementing policies that will reduce plastic waste and transition us to a state with a circular economy. We are facing challenges in our recycling industry. Our government is tackling these challenges head on: reducing plastic pollution with a $34.9 million package of recycling reforms in the 2019–20 budget and assisting our councils with $11.3 million to provide immediate financial relief and allow them to invest in infrastructure to improve the quality of our recycling system. This bill delivers to Victoria what we have been hearing loudly and clearly from 96 per cent of Victorians or more: people want this ban. They want these plastic bags out of the shops and out from under the sink, and now they will be gone. I commend the bill to the house.

Second Reading – Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2019

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (16:40): I rise to also speak on the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2019. The main purpose of this bill before us, as everyone has stated, is to introduce a ban on lightweight single-use plastic shopping bags. It is good to see that we have support from both sides of the house. Common sense is sometimes common. Most of us could not imagine a world where we do not utilise the benefits of plastic. It is light, it is inexpensive, it protects and preserves, and it is now fundamental to our modern lives. It is used in everything from bubble wrap to prosthetic limbs, in toys to heavy industry. Even trains on our own Glen Waverley line are now travelling over plastic recycled sleepers made here in Victoria when they go through Richmond station. That said, with the abundant availability of plastic, we find ourselves all too quick to overuse and throw away this resource. Our world is filled with single-use plastic items, and we use them momentarily, but they can take hundreds of years to break down. So the more we throw away, the more problems we as a society are making for ourselves. Reducing the amount of these bags, as this bill does, therefore reduces this problem. We have already seen the effects we can expect from this bill having seen the Coles and Woolworths changes last year. Over 12 months ago these bags that will now be banned were removed from two of our major supermarkets, and whilst I am still trying to remind myself to remove bags from under the sink and put them in the car—which I am working on—it is good to see some of my colleagues here are ahead of me. We need to bring these re-usable bags with us, and I need to put them in my car to go to my local supermarket down at Pinewood or Hamilton Place. In fact I can also thank the minister and this bill for reminding me to do that. The bill we are debating today brings us to an important milestone in the ongoing process of tackling problematic plastics in our environment. It is one step of many along a path but an important step for our natural environment. The ban builds on the overwhelming support from our community, shown by the uptake of the use of re-usable plastic bags, and assists us in moving forward towards more sustainable alternatives. Since last July as I go to buy milk, bread or whatever I find myself considering the environment just a little bit more because of the fact that we are using these bags. I also see this effect on the parents and children at schools that I visit in Mount Waverley. Recently I spoke to children at Holy Family Primary School and was pleased to see their strong interest in environmental matters and issues. Also our own Parliament has been running a role-play on banning plastic bags with primary school children in this very chamber. These kids are growing up with environmental issues and concerns front and centre of their thinking. On a recent trip to Palm Cove my own daughter argued that we had to go snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef because she was concerned that it may not be the same the next time we had the chance to go. So our kids are growing up with these environmental issues very much in their minds. Our government has worked closely with Victorian communities and businesses during the development of this plastic bag ban. The buy-in that we see from the public is a testament to that consultation and buy-in from the public. We as a state are not alone in this ban. Learning from the experience of other jurisdictions both in Australia and overseas has brought us here today with a ban that will produce the right outcomes for Victoria. Some retailers in Victoria, as I have mentioned before, have already stopped providing lightweight single-use plastic bags, and I think it is fair to give them a shout-out for doing what they have done. The ban will not only reduce plastic pollution but assist with the health of our environment. This ban, not unlike the changes from retailers last year, builds awareness and shows the Victorian public that their government is moving to a more sustainable Victoria. We must encourage avoidance and re-use at all times, and in this way this bill is another step towards a circular economy. The focus on a circular economy and its principles is being shown by our work in developing a circular economic policy and action plan for Victoria to be released later this year. We all want to see minimisation of waste and to know that we are making the most of our resources. Moving to a more circular economy will grow the economy, increase jobs and reduce impacts on the environment. In Mount Waverley we have a local men’s shed that is working on a re-use and recycle plan. This is something I am keen to see in practice. Not only does this project assist with the recycling of useful goods but also, as does all the work they do at the shed, it assists greatly with the mental health and social inclusion of our senior men in our community. So a big shout-out to Greg and all the blokes down at the shed. The ban, once in place, will remove these single-use bags from our recycling bins, and by doing this will assist in the ease of recycling companies to sort and reprocess during recycling. We are joining the list of other states that have also banned these plastic bags and have aligned our approach with that taken in these other jurisdictions. This will ensure consistency for retailers and suppliers and therefore make the adoption of this change easier for those who operate in a national market. It is no surprise that this ban causes a change for some retailers. This has been considered, and so to ensure our retailers and small businesses are ready for the ban, the government has engaged the National Retail Association, which will deliver an education and engagement program over the next year. Drawing on their years of experience in the sector, the National Retail Association will provide face-to-face engagement with stakeholders in a program which will encourage long-term sustainable packaging solutions. This implementation program, like others that they have run in Queensland and Western Australia, will also assist in promoting the ban to consumers. Sustainability Victoria states that the government received over 8000 submissions in three months of public consultation on plastic pollution in 2017–18. From this we can clearly state that the Victorian community takes the issue of plastic pollution seriously. From this process we have received an enormous show of support for a ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags, with more than 96 per cent of submissions received supporting a ban. That is a fairly staggering number of people who agree on one thing. We also heard that the Victorian community wants more action on plastic pollution. It is clear from public responses that the public wants to see more work in this space, and that is exactly what this government is delivering. Not only are we committed to decreasing plastic pollution entering our environment, as this bill does, but we do so knowing the Victorian public are with us. I have no doubt that we are tackling this problem head-on, and I thank the minister for not only this bill but the quantity of work we are seeing in this area moving us to a circular economy. I note that the inquiry into recycling and waste management will be reporting its findings towards the end of this year, and I look forward to reading through that report and seeing where we go. We need to move away from a throwaway mentality. I know when my kids’ school asked parents to use less wrapping for school lunches, this was not necessarily simple for some, like me. For my part, I am not totally there yet—I still find this awkward—but it is the right way to go, and those of us who are a little recalcitrant in this area and find it a bit difficult have to change with the times for the good of our environment. It is another example of how much we are relying on plastics, but it reminds me that we need to think about where it goes once we have used it. Plastic is not the bad guy in this debate, but we need to be aware of the problems that its usage and our reliance on it causes. Our government is aware that we must utilise these benefits without compromising the Victorian environment. We need to align our systems around a common vision. So where we can eliminate plastic we do not need and instead use sustainable alternatives, we should do that. We should support innovation in plastic production where the full life of the plastic is considered and is part of the manufacturing decision-making. This way we can continue on the path that we are on so that what we make continues to be used and never becomes waste or pollution. Our government is committed to developing and implementing policies that will reduce plastic waste and transition us to a state with a circular economy. We are facing challenges in our recycling industry. Our government is tackling these challenges head on: reducing plastic pollution with a $34.9 million package of recycling reforms in the 2019–20 budget and assisting our councils with $11.3 million to provide immediate financial relief and allow them to invest in infrastructure to improve the quality of our recycling system. This bill delivers to Victoria what we have been hearing loudly and clearly from 96 per cent of Victorians or more: people want this ban. They want these plastic bags out of the shops and out from under the sink, and now they will be gone. I commend the bill to the house.

Members Statement – MOUNT WAVERLEY ELECTORATE ANNIVERSARIES

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (13:28): It would seem that it is anniversary season in Mount Waverley district. Firstly, I would like to start off with my congratulations to Janice and Norman Parsons, who are celebrating 60 years of marriage on 15 August. Norm and Jan have been involved in the local community, especially the Waverley Garden Club, and we see Norm every month as he comes to collect their printing. They both have attended the club meetings together for longer than their newsletter editor can recall. They settled in Glen Waverley not long after marriage. They have raised their three children there, who will all be coming together to celebrate this special occasion. Secondly, I would like to congratulate Colleen and Max Thiele on their 60th wedding anniversary. Colleen and Max are two dedicated volunteers in our local community, who have given their time to the local Good Shepherd parish, including volunteering for the piety stall. The parish had nothing but warm words to say about Colleen and Max. Last but certainly not least, I would like to congratulate Philip and Laraine Smith, who are celebrating 50 years of marriage on 16 August. These two people really are an amazing couple who have beaten the odds. Two years into their marriage, with Laraine eight months pregnant, Philip broke his neck in an accident and became a quadriplegic. Soon after, they were blessed with the birth of their daughter Kelly. When I spoke to Kelly she had nothing but pride and admiration for her parents love for each other. The life that they have led together and the family they have built is a testament to the love that they share. A happy anniversary to all.

Members Statement – MOUNT WAVERLEY ELECTORATE ANNIVERSARIES

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (13:28): It would seem that it is anniversary season in Mount Waverley district. Firstly, I would like to start off with my congratulations to Janice and Norman Parsons, who are celebrating 60 years of marriage on 15 August. Norm and Jan have been involved in the local community, especially the Waverley Garden Club, and we see Norm every month as he comes to collect their printing. They both have attended the club meetings together for longer than their newsletter editor can recall. They settled in Glen Waverley not long after marriage. They have raised their three children there, who will all be coming together to celebrate this special occasion. Secondly, I would like to congratulate Colleen and Max Thiele on their 60th wedding anniversary. Colleen and Max are two dedicated volunteers in our local community, who have given their time to the local Good Shepherd parish, including volunteering for the piety stall. The parish had nothing but warm words to say about Colleen and Max. Last but certainly not least, I would like to congratulate Philip and Laraine Smith, who are celebrating 50 years of marriage on 16 August. These two people really are an amazing couple who have beaten the odds. Two years into their marriage, with Laraine eight months pregnant, Philip broke his neck in an accident and became a quadriplegic. Soon after, they were blessed with the birth of their daughter Kelly. When I spoke to Kelly she had nothing but pride and admiration for her parents love for each other. The life that they have led together and the family they have built is a testament to the love that they share. A happy anniversary to all.

 

Members Statements – GLENALLEN SCHOOL

It was great to have the Premier out to the Mount Waverley district in April to visit the Glenallen School. Glenallen, under the guidance of principal Michael Cole, caters to students with a wide range of intellectual and physical abilities. Michael toured the Premier and me around the school showing off their great facilities, including the newly upgraded Tim Disken pool. The pool has been named after the Rio 2016 Paralympian gold medallist and alumni of Glenallen. Glenallen received $2 million in the 2016–17 budget and this funding has been used to modernise the pool facilities, change rooms and bathrooms to improve the accessibility for the students. Whilst there we met with the students of the S4 class and we discovered that they were coming to visit us in Parliament to learn about what we do here. So on 23 April the S4 students Ava Donovan, Ayva Crennan, Hamish White, Jack Gibson, Heidi Jones-Staebe and Shilpi Shah, alongside their teacher Deborah, visited Parliament, and we all enjoyed the tour. Glenallen has just turned 40 years old, and to celebrate they held an art exhibition, where I was lucky enough to pick up a beautiful piece created over the past two years by multiple classes with the help of multiple teachers. I want to acknowledge the whole school community, made up of teachers, staff, volunteers, parents and students, who make Glenallen the great school that it is. We are very lucky to have them in our area. I wish them all the best for the next 40 years.

Members Statements – GLENALLEN SCHOOL

It was great to have the Premier out to the Mount Waverley district in April to visit the Glenallen School. Glenallen, under the guidance of principal Michael Cole, caters to students with a wide range of intellectual and physical abilities. Michael toured the Premier and me around the school showing off their great facilities, including the newly upgraded Tim Disken pool. The pool has been named after the Rio 2016 Paralympian gold medallist and alumni of Glenallen. Glenallen received $2 million in the 2016–17 budget and this funding has been used to modernise the pool facilities, change rooms and bathrooms to improve the accessibility for the students. Whilst there we met with the students of the S4 class and we discovered that they were coming to visit us in Parliament to learn about what we do here. So on 23 April the S4 students Ava Donovan, Ayva Crennan, Hamish White, Jack Gibson, Heidi Jones-Staebe and Shilpi Shah, alongside their teacher Deborah, visited Parliament, and we all enjoyed the tour. Glenallen has just turned 40 years old, and to celebrate they held an art exhibition, where I was lucky enough to pick up a beautiful piece created over the past two years by multiple classes with the help of multiple teachers. I want to acknowledge the whole school community, made up of teachers, staff, volunteers, parents and students, who make Glenallen the great school that it is. We are very lucky to have them in our area. I wish them all the best for the next 40 years.

Adjournment – FORSTER ROAD, MOUNT WAVERLEY, SHARED-USE PATH

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Roads and Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, and the action I seek is for the minister to visit my electorate of Mount Waverley to see the condition of our roads and view the progress of the Forster Road shared-use path. I was delighted to announce in April that works have started on the Andrews Labor government’s $2.6 million Forster Road project. We are delivering a brand-new shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists along Forster Road as well as new pedestrian lights near Wilga Street to help boost road safety. My community, particularly those who are keen cyclists, will soon have a safer and easier way to travel through Mount Waverley. This is a key section of the Clayton to Syndal strategic cycling corridor, and I am proud to see our government deliver this project as part of our $100 million Safer Cyclists and Pedestrians Fund. There is always more to do in road safety, and I know my community would appreciate a visit from the Minister for Roads, so I ask the minister to visit Mount Waverley and the Forster Road project to discuss options to improve other important roads and intersections in my electorate, and I thank the minister for her support.

Adjournment – FORSTER ROAD, MOUNT WAVERLEY, SHARED-USE PATH

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Roads and Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, and the action I seek is for the minister to visit my electorate of Mount Waverley to see the condition of our roads and view the progress of the Forster Road shared-use path. I was delighted to announce in April that works have started on the Andrews Labor government’s $2.6 million Forster Road project. We are delivering a brand-new shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists along Forster Road as well as new pedestrian lights near Wilga Street to help boost road safety. My community, particularly those who are keen cyclists, will soon have a safer and easier way to travel through Mount Waverley. This is a key section of the Clayton to Syndal strategic cycling corridor, and I am proud to see our government deliver this project as part of our $100 million Safer Cyclists and Pedestrians Fund. There is always more to do in road safety, and I know my community would appreciate a visit from the Minister for Roads, so I ask the minister to visit Mount Waverley and the Forster Road project to discuss options to improve other important roads and intersections in my electorate, and I thank the minister for her support.

Second Reading – OWNER DRIVERS AND FORESTRY CONTRACTORS AMENDMENT BILL 2019

I am delighted to speak on the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Amendment Bill 2019. As some of you in this place may know, in my previous career I was a small business owner, also a member of the Labor party—go figure—and also an IT consultant. One of our clients which I assisted in serving for well over a decade was the Transport Workers Union. I was fortunate enough to see how hard the leaders and organisers of the TWU fight for their members and for safety on our roads. When I first started working for the TWU the secretary was a man by the name of Bill Noonan, and I note that last August the previous member for Williamstown—his son, Wade Noonan—spoke passionately on this bill. I would have been assisting the TWU in my previous capacity when the original legislation came in in 2005 before the Parliament, and I am proud to add my voice to their cause today on this much-needed amendment. This bill at its core seeks to ensure that our Victorian roads are safer by ensuring thousands of owner-drivers, forestry contractors and on-demand workers are paid a living wage. This bill will ensure these workers will no longer be vulnerable to exploitation or forced into unsafe practices by economic pressures down supply chains. The bill also expands the act to cover third-party contracting platforms such as Uber Freight and Uber Eats, which are to be included in the definition of 'freight broker’. So whether you are driving a B-double hauling timber or riding a bike running dumplings with soy sauce, this bill provides comfort for small business owner-drivers. The big ticket items here are the prevention of undercutting joint agreements and penalties for non-compliance; payments being made to owner-drivers within 30 days of invoice receipt; a new low-cost binding dispute resolution process at the Small Business Commission; and providing information for small business owner-drivers and forestry contractors to understand the revenue and costs of the business they are starting, with a framework for the regulation of contracts between owner-drivers, forestry contractors and their hirers. The purpose of this bill, as I said, is to make miscellaneous amendments to the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005, which was introduced by the Bracks Labor government, another delivering Labor government—we have had a few of those. Before this act was introduced workers were facing more and more increased demand on their work while simultaneously seeing less and less come home in their back pockets. This provided basic protections for owner-drivers by recognising the power imbalance between owner-drivers operating one to three vehicles versus big companies and big hirers, and aimed to improve the protections of small business drivers. The amendments in this bill seek to address changes that have occurred in this industry since 2005. If owner-drivers and forestry contractors can cover their operational costs and maintain their vehicles, we will have greater safety for drivers and for our road users. It sounds fairly simple, but for anyone who has run their own small business, day to day is rarely simple. We do not want drivers being forced into situations where they need to work additional hours to cover operating costs. This bill seeks to remedy this problem which is occurring now. As the previous member for Williamstown mentioned 12 months ago, and it is still relevant today, long-haul driving means an exposure to multiple risks: long working hours, sedentary roles, poor access to nutritious food, social isolation, shift work, time pressures, low levels of job control and of course the biggest risk of all being fatigue. But if you are a small business owner-driver you can add running the books, negotiating contracts, chasing payments, managing cash flow and the list goes on. Just because you get home does not mean you stop working. Now, being paid fairly can be the difference between being able to put food on the table for your kids that week or not. And if you are not being paid fairly, it may force some to push that maintenance for their truck one week further out, and this is obviously something we cannot advocate for as a society. Improving the protections available to small businesses—namely, owner-drivers in the transport industry and haulage contractors in the forestry industry—means a lot for our drivers. Drivers do a dangerous job when they keep Australia moving, and it is important that the right protections and workers rights are in place for them. Especially important here is the amending of contracting requirements in the act to require the payment of invoices within 30 days. I know that members from both sides have mentioned this being a very good thing. Having worked as a small business owner, I understand that what you really want to do is actually do the work. When starting a small business you are most likely living month to month, and that gets even harder when you do not know if the money is coming in 60 days, 90 days or even longer. Our owner-drivers want to drive and earn a living. Chasing a hirer for a payment 120 days overdue means you are not earning. Arguing over a contract means you are not driving and you are not earning. These are the problems that this bill seeks to remedy. Starting up businesses is hard, and this amendment bill will ensure that new drivers and forestry contractors have a better understanding of the costs of the new job they will be undertaking. Our owner-drivers need this bill and their families need this bill. This bill is not only about establishing a framework for compliance and enforcement but also ensuring this framework is used by introducing penalties for non-compliance with the mandatory requirements of the act. These amendments ensure owner-drivers and forestry contractors better understand cost structures, the importance of negotiating fair contracts and running successful small businesses. This amendment bill will clarify the definition of 'freight broker’, ensuring contractors employed through third-party contracting platforms like Uber Freight are covered. The act will now require a hirer or a freight broker to provide the rates and costs schedule annually rather than each time the contractor is engaged. It also amends the act to clarify that contractors have the option of being covered by the same terms and conditions of an existing contract that has been jointly negotiated while at the same time retaining the ability to negotiate their own contractual arrangements. This is important to ensure consistency and in order for start-up drivers to be able to forecast their finances. This bill will also amend the functions of the Transport Industry Council and the Forestry Industry Council to specify that they can provide advice and make recommendations to the minister on promoting industry best practice, education and training. These councils are made up of members from industry, employee associations and government, and they are responsible for making recommendations to the minister on industrial relations and on commercial practices affecting owner-drivers and forestry contractors. As a previous small business owner, I understand the trials and tribulations of trying to settle a dispute over accounts. The last thing you need to do is end up in court or VCAT. It is costly, it is stressful, you do not want to be there. The process is not just costly; it also takes so much time and you are not earning. For owner-drivers who have disputes with hirers, this new amendment creates a dispute resolution procedure which specifies that the small business commission can arrange arbitration where the parties to the dispute agree. This means drivers can now have a faster low-cost, confidential, binding dispute resolution process for parties in dispute. This bill strengthens the initial act from 2005 to ensure that issues that inevitably affect the wellbeing of drivers are considered and addressed. It understands the owner-driver’s role is essentially that of a small business owner and seeks to implement basic rights to even out the playing field between owner-driver and hirers. I do not know if there is one person in this room who would be impressed to have to wait a random 30, 60 or 90 days to see their pay roll in. Enshrining basic protections around payment due dates is incredibly important. The owner-drivers and contract drivers industry needs education, enforcement and compliance, and this bill will deliver it. The people making recommendations to the minister need to be people who speak on behalf of these workers and who understand their roles. Amending the bill to specify that the Transport Industry Council and the Forestry Industry Council can provide advice and make recommendations to the minister on promoting industry best practice, education and training is also incredibly important, as I said. These reforms will hopefully see improvements for owner-drivers—I think they will. Drivers should be getting paid on time, drivers should be safe at work and drivers should be getting paid fairly. The Transport Workers Union have worked hard and advocated at every opportunity to drive safer outcomes for their members and the industry. I would like to congratulate John Berger, his staff, organisers, delegates and members of the Victoria-Tasmania branch for their tireless efforts in making their members safer. But let us also note that every one of us that share the roads with our owner-driver mates are also safer because of this bill. Ensuring that contractors can cover their business costs and maintain vehicles will result in greater safety for all our road users as drivers will not need to work additional hours, potentially breaching fatigue laws or road laws to cover the cost of running their business. I commend this bill to the house.

Second Reading – OWNER DRIVERS AND FORESTRY CONTRACTORS AMENDMENT BILL 2019

I am delighted to speak on the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Amendment Bill 2019. As some of you in this place may know, in my previous career I was a small business owner, also a member of the Labor party—go figure—and also an IT consultant. One of our clients which I assisted in serving for well over a decade was the Transport Workers Union. I was fortunate enough to see how hard the leaders and organisers of the TWU fight for their members and for safety on our roads. When I first started working for the TWU the secretary was a man by the name of Bill Noonan, and I note that last August the previous member for Williamstown—his son, Wade Noonan—spoke passionately on this bill. I would have been assisting the TWU in my previous capacity when the original legislation came in in 2005 before the Parliament, and I am proud to add my voice to their cause today on this much-needed amendment. This bill at its core seeks to ensure that our Victorian roads are safer by ensuring thousands of owner-drivers, forestry contractors and on-demand workers are paid a living wage. This bill will ensure these workers will no longer be vulnerable to exploitation or forced into unsafe practices by economic pressures down supply chains. The bill also expands the act to cover third-party contracting platforms such as Uber Freight and Uber Eats, which are to be included in the definition of 'freight broker’. So whether you are driving a B-double hauling timber or riding a bike running dumplings with soy sauce, this bill provides comfort for small business owner-drivers. The big ticket items here are the prevention of undercutting joint agreements and penalties for non-compliance; payments being made to owner-drivers within 30 days of invoice receipt; a new low-cost binding dispute resolution process at the Small Business Commission; and providing information for small business owner-drivers and forestry contractors to understand the revenue and costs of the business they are starting, with a framework for the regulation of contracts between owner-drivers, forestry contractors and their hirers. The purpose of this bill, as I said, is to make miscellaneous amendments to the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005, which was introduced by the Bracks Labor government, another delivering Labor government—we have had a few of those. Before this act was introduced workers were facing more and more increased demand on their work while simultaneously seeing less and less come home in their back pockets. This provided basic protections for owner-drivers by recognising the power imbalance between owner-drivers operating one to three vehicles versus big companies and big hirers, and aimed to improve the protections of small business drivers. The amendments in this bill seek to address changes that have occurred in this industry since 2005. If owner-drivers and forestry contractors can cover their operational costs and maintain their vehicles, we will have greater safety for drivers and for our road users. It sounds fairly simple, but for anyone who has run their own small business, day to day is rarely simple. We do not want drivers being forced into situations where they need to work additional hours to cover operating costs. This bill seeks to remedy this problem which is occurring now. As the previous member for Williamstown mentioned 12 months ago, and it is still relevant today, long-haul driving means an exposure to multiple risks: long working hours, sedentary roles, poor access to nutritious food, social isolation, shift work, time pressures, low levels of job control and of course the biggest risk of all being fatigue. But if you are a small business owner-driver you can add running the books, negotiating contracts, chasing payments, managing cash flow and the list goes on. Just because you get home does not mean you stop working. Now, being paid fairly can be the difference between being able to put food on the table for your kids that week or not. And if you are not being paid fairly, it may force some to push that maintenance for their truck one week further out, and this is obviously something we cannot advocate for as a society. Improving the protections available to small businesses—namely, owner-drivers in the transport industry and haulage contractors in the forestry industry—means a lot for our drivers. Drivers do a dangerous job when they keep Australia moving, and it is important that the right protections and workers rights are in place for them. Especially important here is the amending of contracting requirements in the act to require the payment of invoices within 30 days. I know that members from both sides have mentioned this being a very good thing. Having worked as a small business owner, I understand that what you really want to do is actually do the work. When starting a small business you are most likely living month to month, and that gets even harder when you do not know if the money is coming in 60 days, 90 days or even longer. Our owner-drivers want to drive and earn a living. Chasing a hirer for a payment 120 days overdue means you are not earning. Arguing over a contract means you are not driving and you are not earning. These are the problems that this bill seeks to remedy. Starting up businesses is hard, and this amendment bill will ensure that new drivers and forestry contractors have a better understanding of the costs of the new job they will be undertaking. Our owner-drivers need this bill and their families need this bill. This bill is not only about establishing a framework for compliance and enforcement but also ensuring this framework is used by introducing penalties for non-compliance with the mandatory requirements of the act. These amendments ensure owner-drivers and forestry contractors better understand cost structures, the importance of negotiating fair contracts and running successful small businesses. This amendment bill will clarify the definition of 'freight broker’, ensuring contractors employed through third-party contracting platforms like Uber Freight are covered. The act will now require a hirer or a freight broker to provide the rates and costs schedule annually rather than each time the contractor is engaged. It also amends the act to clarify that contractors have the option of being covered by the same terms and conditions of an existing contract that has been jointly negotiated while at the same time retaining the ability to negotiate their own contractual arrangements. This is important to ensure consistency and in order for start-up drivers to be able to forecast their finances. This bill will also amend the functions of the Transport Industry Council and the Forestry Industry Council to specify that they can provide advice and make recommendations to the minister on promoting industry best practice, education and training. These councils are made up of members from industry, employee associations and government, and they are responsible for making recommendations to the minister on industrial relations and on commercial practices affecting owner-drivers and forestry contractors. As a previous small business owner, I understand the trials and tribulations of trying to settle a dispute over accounts. The last thing you need to do is end up in court or VCAT. It is costly, it is stressful, you do not want to be there. The process is not just costly; it also takes so much time and you are not earning. For owner-drivers who have disputes with hirers, this new amendment creates a dispute resolution procedure which specifies that the small business commission can arrange arbitration where the parties to the dispute agree. This means drivers can now have a faster low-cost, confidential, binding dispute resolution process for parties in dispute. This bill strengthens the initial act from 2005 to ensure that issues that inevitably affect the wellbeing of drivers are considered and addressed. It understands the owner-driver’s role is essentially that of a small business owner and seeks to implement basic rights to even out the playing field between owner-driver and hirers. I do not know if there is one person in this room who would be impressed to have to wait a random 30, 60 or 90 days to see their pay roll in. Enshrining basic protections around payment due dates is incredibly important. The owner-drivers and contract drivers industry needs education, enforcement and compliance, and this bill will deliver it. The people making recommendations to the minister need to be people who speak on behalf of these workers and who understand their roles. Amending the bill to specify that the Transport Industry Council and the Forestry Industry Council can provide advice and make recommendations to the minister on promoting industry best practice, education and training is also incredibly important, as I said. These reforms will hopefully see improvements for owner-drivers—I think they will. Drivers should be getting paid on time, drivers should be safe at work and drivers should be getting paid fairly. The Transport Workers Union have worked hard and advocated at every opportunity to drive safer outcomes for their members and the industry. I would like to congratulate John Berger, his staff, organisers, delegates and members of the Victoria-Tasmania branch for their tireless efforts in making their members safer. But let us also note that every one of us that share the roads with our owner-driver mates are also safer because of this bill. Ensuring that contractors can cover their business costs and maintain vehicles will result in greater safety for all our road users as drivers will not need to work additional hours, potentially breaching fatigue laws or road laws to cover the cost of running their business. I commend this bill to the house.

Constituency questions – Mount Waverley Electorate

My constituency question is to the Minister for Mental Health, and I ask: how is the Andrews government supporting people in my electorate who live with acute mental illness? I have been contacted by a family in Mount Waverley who are very familiar with our local mental health system. A young woman from this family requires ongoing support and care from our acute mental health system, and this includes ongoing visits to Box Hill Hospital and Upton House. Over several months I have spoken to the grandmother and mother, and I know they will be very interested in the work this government is doing to support those in our community who require these services. I would also like to remind people that submissions to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System are still open. I encourage all of my constituents and everyone here that has come into contact with our mental health system to please allow their stories to be heard.

Constituency questions – Mount Waverley Electorate

My constituency question is to the Minister for Mental Health, and I ask: how is the Andrews government supporting people in my electorate who live with acute mental illness? I have been contacted by a family in Mount Waverley who are very familiar with our local mental health system. A young woman from this family requires ongoing support and care from our acute mental health system, and this includes ongoing visits to Box Hill Hospital and Upton House. Over several months I have spoken to the grandmother and mother, and I know they will be very interested in the work this government is doing to support those in our community who require these services. I would also like to remind people that submissions to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System are still open. I encourage all of my constituents and everyone here that has come into contact with our mental health system to please allow their stories to be heard.