Second Reading-RAIL SAFETY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (NATIONAL SERVICES DELIVERY AND RELATED REFORMS) BILL 2019
Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (15:33:14): I rise with delight to speak on the Rail Safety Legislation Amendment (National Services Delivery and Related Reforms) Bill 2019. It is a great title, isn’t it? It is good—a bit of a cracker. I would like to thank previous members for their contributions, and I will try not to throw any rocks from this not-so-cheap seat. We all use and rely upon our railways every day to transport us, our goods, our people and our friends and family around this great state of Victoria, but also further on. Trains get us to work and they get us home, and they connect us to our family and our friends. So we want to know that our family and our friends, our train and rail workers and tram workers are safe. That pretty much goes without saying. I would like to congratulate the Minister for Public Transport and the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, who spoke very well before, on the significant work that has been done on our rail network, from our level crossing removals to our fantastic and visionary Suburban Rail Loop—and I will get back to that; I am a bit of a fan boy. So for the nuts and bolts of this bill, the objectives of this bill are to reduce administrative complexity and eliminate fragmentation of regulatory responsibility between Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) and the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator; to eliminate duplication of administrative systems and enable cost savings to be progressively realised—so we are cutting red tape, which should get some general consent, I would have thought, as it sounds like a good idea; and to enable the final stage of regulatory harmonisation benefits to be delivered to industry stakeholders, following the establishment of the national rail safety regulator in 2012. So we are all in for harmonisation around here. Whilst this bill moves the safety regulation of our network to the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, I know that our government will continue to also prioritise the safety of our network, as can be seen on projects like our very, very popular level crossing removal program, which again I will come back to because that is a cracker. The member for Ringwood is waiting with bated breath there, and I appreciate his patience on this exciting diatribe that I am giving you all! The bill will conclude those processes, as I said. The intergovernmental agreement signed by COAG in 2011 established this national scheme of rail safety regulation, and in 2014 the Victorian government made the move to enter our heavy rail operations into the national scheme. Now, in 2019, we are making the full transition of all our Victorian railways. Joining this national scheme of rail safety regulation will bring our state’s safety regulation practices into line with those of the nation, and this will be handled out of South Australia, as others have mentioned. Removing any convolution, this amendment means that the national rail safety regulator will take over full responsibility from TSV. This will see the end to our duplicated administrative systems, as I said, cut red tape and generally be a good idea. For the plethora of exciting rail projects we have started and planned it is important that here in Victoria we have the best regulators of rail safety guiding us and our practices. I notice that the staff that currently work for TSV will continue their great work and use those skills that we have obviously benefited from by now working for the office of the national regulator. So the rail projects that we are talking about include the Metro Tunnel—what a fantastic idea that is, and we are going to take a whole heap out of the city loop, which is just going to be better for everyone and move more people more often—the regional rail revival and the Melbourne Airport rail. And a bit of a shout-out to my daughter’s piano teacher about this. When I spoke to her in October last year she said, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s right, there’s an election coming up, because I’ve heard people talking about airport rail’. Dot, if you are listening, I can happily tell you that that thought process will have to stop fairly soon because we will have built it, and then we will not be able to talk about it anymore because it will be done. And it will be the Andrews Labor government that gets that done. I reckon Dot would be pretty happy with that news. There is Sunbury rail upgrade; the member for Sunbury has left the room, but I am sure he is pretty happy about that one. There is fast rail to Geelong; we have got some Geelong members—Bellarine, South Barwon, Lara—and they are going to be excited. And last but certainly not least there is the Suburban Rail Loop, of which I said I am a little bit of a fan boy, and unashamedly so. We had the Premier at Monash University last week announcing the preferred interchange stations, and lo and behold, Glen Waverley is one of them. They had this map on an easel. It was so exciting. I almost felt like grabbing an armchair, sitting down with a bag of popcorn and just staring at it for 90 minutes. That is how encouraging it is. Ms Spence interjected. Mr FREGON: A copy! Well, I could take it home. I could do that. That is a great idea. I will have to get one of those. So a Suburban Rail Loop will drastically change Melbourne as we know it, especially for those of us in the east. We will be connecting all of our hospitals, all of our unis. Just the idea that the hospitality and business sectors in Glen Waverley, which will grow and grow and grow as a result of this, will be connected to Monash Uni, Deakin University, La Trobe University, the hospitals at Heidelberg and Monash, which is going to have a brand-new emergency department—as we said, we are working on that—is very exciting stuff. We, the Andrews Labor government, understand and respect the need to have the best possible safety regulator body in control as we push ahead with our forward-thinking and visionary plans for Victoria’s railway system, from fast rail to all of the other things that I have talked about—lots of things. But do not forget jobs, because in all of these projects there are jobs. As a parent, you want to know that your kids are going to have jobs when they grow up, because you want them to be hopefully more prosperous than you are. And the way we do that is through jobs. We had some regional members talking about some of their thoughts, but we have a regional unemployment rate of 3.7 per cent. The economy is doing well and jobs are being created, and that is a fantastic thing that we should be very happy about and proud of. When this national law was initially introduced the host, South Australia, at the time did not have a privacy act, and so there were some mechanisms in the original bill that meant it relied on our Victorian privacy law. I think in April 2018 nationally we adopted the national privacy law, so part of the minutiae of this bill is to remove the reference to the Victorian Privacy Act 1988, as it is no longer relevant. One thing I have not mentioned—and I have got a little under 2 minutes, so let us throw this in there—is level crossing removals. You cannot tell me—and nobody would try to, I imagine—that by removing level crossings we are not affecting the safety of our rail network, because we are. If you take out the possibility of a person or a car coming anywhere near a train, obviously it is safer. What this government did when it came in four years ago is it said it was going to get rid of—I think 20 was the original thought, wasn’t it? Well, we smashed that; we did 28. We have done 29 now, and we are going to do 75 level crossings by 2025. In 2016 on the Glen Waverley line we saw the Burke Road level crossing removed and Gardiner station put under there. And I know, for myself, that when I used it at the time it was much better, much quicker, driving around Burke Road. It was so much easier. Mr Halse interjected. Mr FREGON: We should. We’ll go and get coffee or something. Let us not forget though that the biggest excitement on the Glen Waverley line as far as the level crossings go is about the removal of the Toorak Road level crossing, and I know the member for Hawthorn is very excited about it. I am too, because that intersection has been the bane of a lot of people’s lives for many a time, and we are going to get rid of it. This is all to do with the safety of our rail network and connecting our state to a national plan. There is no doubt in my mind about the benefits of improving the safety of our rail network. The Andrews Labor government is getting stuff done safely and on time, and I commend the bill to the house.