I rise to speak on the Road Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2022. Amongst the many areas that this bill addresses there is one area of particular interest for me: this bill will trigger immediate licence suspension for hit-and-run and other serious charges. I am very pleased to see this legislation before Parliament, having moved a similar amendment last year during debate on the Transport Legislation Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2021.
I pay special tribute today to Jeynelle Dean-Hayes, who has played a significant role in the drafting and development of this legislation. In 2017 Jeynelle’s son Tyler Dean was killed in a hit-and-run incident, and this devastating event was the catalyst for a campaign to change the law so that someone charged with a hit-and-run event will immediately have their licence suspended. Monique Patterson’s book Tears for Tyler details the night that Jeynelle and her husband Josh were driving to an event and the man responsible for the death of their boy drove up next to them and smiled. Jeynelle was gobsmacked that someone would not have their licence automatically suspended after a serious incident that resulted in her son losing his life. Campaigning for this law change, Jeynelle said:
‘It makes you feel so powerless that you’ve lost so much and it is just another day for (the accused) …’
The government first brought this important change to the law to Parliament as part of the Road Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. This was a genuine attempt to deliver on the advocacy of both Jeynelle Dean-Hayes and the victim-survivor of another accident, Chloe Dickman. After discovering some flaws in that legislation, I have worked with Minister Neville and Minister Carroll on these issues, which progressed to my bringing amendments to a road safety bill last year and the final resolution we have in this bill being debated today. I would also like to give a special mention to Simon Monk for his patience, consultation and dedication. His conversations with me were to ensure this legislation was amended and to ensure the appropriate outcome for hit-and-run crimes. This kind of collaboration shows what we can achieve together to make improvements to our laws, and I thank both Minister Neville and Minister Carroll and their staff for listening, considering and ultimately acting to bring changes to these laws that affect its original intention.
It certainly took some time, perhaps longer than we hoped, but the most important thing is that we got there, which I know Jeynelle Dean-Hayes and Chloe Dickman will appreciate, as will their families and as will future victims—and we hope that those numbers will certainly be very few.
Moving on to other aspects of the bill, changes to TAC compensation provisions include the sensible increase of the age of a dependent child from 16 to 18, ensuring children who lose two parents in a single accident receive a benefit for each, and expanding definitions so that grandchildren are included in the definition of ‘immediate family member’. The bill will also prevent someone convicted of murder, manslaughter or culpable driving causing death from making a TAC claim if their partner or child is injured or killed in the process. I was very pleased to know from my inquiries to the government on this particular aspect of the bill that there have been no such claims made in the past, as this would certainly be adding salt to the wounds of families who have lost a family member to an act of violence where a motor vehicle was used as a weapon.
One of the keynotes of this bill is the implementation of road safety camera technology to detect drivers who are using portable devices while driving or who are not wearing a seatbelt. It astounds me to this day that we are still seeing so many accidents where the drivers or passengers were not wearing seatbelts. It follows a successful trial and could prevent 95 casualty crashes each year. I think it is around 50 years since it became compulsory to wear a seatbelt, and it is surprising, as I said, and disappointing that the trial detected 667 drivers not wearing a seatbelt. If the rate of detection during the trial is any indicator, around one in 42 people are using a portable device while driving. That is a lot of people who are driving while distracted. I hope that this technology and enforcement will certainly deliver a lot of revenue and will have the desired impact of reducing our road toll and other serious injuries.
In closing, I would like to make a quick couple of points about road safety more generally. In our submission to the inquiry into the increase in Victoria’s road toll, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party made five main recommendations, and some of those have been or are being delivered. This includes expanding the rate of drug testing of drivers, and I have had productive discussions with the Minister for Police about this. I hope that this important safety measure will soon be available for all police to help combat drug driving, which has now surpassed alcohol as a risk factor on our roads. We also recommended continued investment in improving our regional roads. I have worked closely with road ministers and the Department of Transport on a number of local road issues, which achieved improvements to the Black Spur road and the long-awaited safety provisions at the Hume Freeway intersection at Avenel.
We need to resolve the challenge faced by regional councils in funding road maintenance. For example, Buloke shire has 5300 kilometres of roads which, if put end to end, would extend from Victoria to Singapore. That is more than 800 metres of road to maintain for every shire resident. These roads are important to not only residents for their everyday use, they are important to regional tourism, to our farmers, to our freight industry and for the safety of our emergency services. It is only fair that our roads are maintained at an acceptable safety standard whether they are in country areas or major metropolitan zones. While these matters are outside of the scope of this bill, they should be a priority for government and are something I will continue to advocate for. On that note I will end my contribution, and I commend this bill to the house.