20 June, 2016
It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the Road Management Amendment (Bus Stop Delivery Powers) Bill 2016. As our lead speaker, the member for Croydon, said the opposition does not oppose this bill. It is just another example of the government spending its time introducing a lot of minor, technical bills rather than actually improving bus services for locals, but it is an important issue. As the member for Narre Warren South pointed out, people take their bus services very seriously, and where bus stops are placed is certainly of some importance given how much many of our communities rely on them.
With this opportunity I want to highlight times when placing a bus stop without community consultation has caused some problems. It speaks to the bill in that it addresses the importance of actually consulting with communities. Under the Brumby government we had a situation where the public transport authority of the day decided in its wisdom that the bus bay indentations that buses used along Yarra Street in Warrandyte should be filled in and that buses should be able to stop in the road. The explanation was that that made it easier for buses to get moving again once people got on, because at times motorists did not allow buses to pull out from those bus bay indentations, preventing the service from running on time.
However, in Warrandyte the issue was that the road was so narrow that removing the indents created a situation where a significant queue of traffic was unable to move forward until the bus had taken passengers on and other passengers had alighted. This meant that traffic just banked up and up. That was a source of some annoyance to my community at the time because it meant that traffic could not keep moving. It certainly was a big problem that I received many complaints about. If the former Brumby Labor government had talked to the community about whether it was a suitable measure and if it had not insisted on adopting a one-size-fits-all approach for every community, we could have avoided that particular issue.
This issue was a particular annoyance at a bus stop on the corner of Whipstick Gully Road and Yarra Street where there were some public amenities and the bus would often stop. Previously it had been able to stop in the indent and the bus driver often got off and used the amenities at that location. Once the indent was removed, this meant that the bus sat in the middle of the street for an extended period of time and the line of traffic got longer and longer. Traffic was unable to go around because, as I said, it is a very narrow, single lane each way road. When we came to government, the first order of the day was to reinstate that particular indent at a significant cost. It was literally a couple of hundred thousand dollars to put that indent back in so that traffic flow could continue while bus drivers used those amenities.
Commissioned under the direction of the previous Labor government but starting to be delivered under the former coalition government was the removal of another indent, one that was just on the other side of a blind curve. This would have resulted in vehicles coming around the bend at the speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour and finding themselves running up the back of a bus that was stopped in the middle of the road. I commend the former Minister for Public Transport and Minister for Roads, Terry Mulder, for actually coming out and talking about that issue to the local police sergeant, who expressed his concerns about the safety aspects. He said that several members of the community had raised the issue with him and talked about how dangerous it could be. It was fortunate that the minister of the day, Terry Mulder, bowed to common sense and halted the works that had been put in place by the previous Labor government.
That is a small issue in the whole scheme of things but for my community it was very important that common sense prevailed and the indents that had been removed were reinstalled. Unfortunately in government we were unable to fix them all, which would have certainly satisfied the community. The enormous cost — I think it was something in the order of $900 000 that had been spent to remove the indents on Yarra Street — could have been avoided if members of the community had actually been spoken to. But Labor unfortunately does not tend to talk to my community all that much; they seem to be of little importance.
This is but one example of that. It certainly shows the lack of interest that Labor has in some of the outer eastern seats. That continues to be the case under the Andrews government, which just refuses not only to consult with my community but also to allocate any portion of the budget whatsoever to my community. But as I said, this bill goes to where bus stops should be located and how they should be delivered. I urge the Labor government to talk to communities about where bus stops should go.
I just want to raise one other issue which the member for Narre Warren South also raised about the retrospectivity of clause 12. We always have to be very careful about introducing retrospectivity for the provisions in bills that come into this house, and I support what the member said in terms of being careful when we introduce those clauses. This clause seems appropriate in the scheme of things, and I commend the bill to the house.