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Rail Safety National Law (Tasmania) Amendment Bill 2020

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 17 September 2020

Tags: Legislation, Transport

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, the Greens will also be supporting the Rail Safety National Law (Tasmania) Amendment Bill. We recognise that it is simple in its intent and effect but the details are a little more complicated.

In a nutshell, national laws now make it an offence for a rail safety worker to obstruct or hinder drug or alcohol testing. As such, a similar Tasmanian offence is being expunged. This bill amends the Rail Safety National Law (Tasmania) Act 2012 by preventing section 10 from applying to section 1(b) of the Road Safety Alcohol and Drugs Act 1970.

Section 10 of the Rail Safety National Law (Tasmania) Act adapts drug and alcohol provisions in the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970 in their applications to railways. This amendment bill excludes section 10(1)(b) of the Road Safety (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1970 from being included in this adaptation. Section 10(1)(b) currently provides that any person who is liable to submit to a breath test, oral fluid test, breath analysis, oral fluid analysis or medical examination or to provide a blood sample under this act and, who having been taken into custody, obstructs or hinders his or her conveyance to a place where the test, analysis or examination is to take place, is guilty of an offence.

Although the supporting material for the bill refers to this being replaced by a national offence, it appears that a number of relevant offences are replacing this one, including the new sections 127A, 128A and 128B of the Rail Safety National Law, and I think it is worth reading this in seeing as these will be the new provisions and offences in Tasmanian law. It says:

127A - Facilitation of Testing

(1) The person with control or management of railway premises must do all that is reasonably necessary to facilitate an authorised person to exercise powers under this division in relation to requiring a rail safety worker to undertake a test for the presence of a drug or alcohol, including, for example:

(a) allowing the authorised person entry to the railway premises;

(b) making the rail safety worker available for such testing; and

(c) making any other person at the premises available for the purpose of giving the authorised person reasonable help to exercise the authorised person's power under this Division.

(2) A person required to facilitate or give reasonable help under this section must not without reasonable excuse fail to comply with the requirement. Maximum penalty $10 000.

(3) Subsection (2) places an evidential burden on the accused to show a reasonable excuse.

(4) An authorised person may be accompanied by a rail safety officer to assist the authorised person under this Division if the authorised person considers the assistance necessary.

Clause 128A - Offence to Hinder or obstruct an authorised person.

A person must not intentionally hinder or obstruct an authorised person in exercising powers under this division, or induce or attempt to induce any other person to do so. Maximum penalty $10 000.

Clause 128B - Offence to assault, threaten or intimidate an authorised person

A person must not directly or indirectly assault, threaten or intimidate or attempt to assault, threaten or intimidate an authorised person or a person assisting an authorised person. Maximum penalty $50 000 or imprisonment for two years or both.

I am sure this amendment bill will pass the Tasmanian Parliament and will be the law in Tasmania.

As I am on my feet, I want to say a few words about rail transport in Tasmania and how as a state we really need to ramp this up and make sure that we do not talk about getting freight off the roads but that in fact it is the primary driver for the movement of freight around this island and to ports to the greatest extent possible. It is surely cheaper and lower in emissions and it also make our roads safer. If you can get large freight trucks off the road you are making those roads safer for people who drive in Tasmania.

We need more freight to go on rail but we also need to be looking at a future where passenger rail becomes much more the norm than it is now. We should be planning to have rail services out to Sorell one day. People from all over the world are going to increasingly look to a place like Tasmania and want to live here. As the climate starts heating up you will see mass migration of people to places like Tasmania so we are not going to have population decline going forward and it compels us to start thinking ahead about the kinds of transport systems we want to have in place and particularly how we move large numbers of people around efficiently.

I share some of the concerns local communities have where rail lines are being pulled up, because we should be able to have existing rail lines, which are excellent infrastructure, as well as allow for activities like bike tourism.

I received, and I am sure there are other members of parliament who received, correspondence from this person. I have not asked this constituent if I can say their name into Hansard so I will just read out the question from a Beaconsfield resident. They say:

Dear Ms O'Connor

I just read that funding for the removal of the existing rail line from Lilydale to Scottsdale was reinstated. I think this proposal is short-sighted and should not be the decision for local council but rather a state decision, as it affects all Tasmanians.

The destruction of this asset would be a terrible waste of money and a loss for the people of Tasmania. The railroad line is part of our historic heritage and can become a viable resource in our future vision or our state. I ask you please to consider the following.

A bike trail will not be used. Just look at the existing Scottsdale rail trail. It is really used by cyclists. I ride mountain bikes and have done bike camping and trekking, two totally different experiences - only fit people would be able to use the bike trail.

Heritage rail is a viable alternative to a bike trail. Most tourists are older and train travel can accommodate with different physical abilities. A tourist train would create jobs in the hospitality industry, restaurants and hotels, provide jobs for the maintenance of the line and jobs for the restoration of existing infrastructure.

Puffing Billy, the Ghan and Strahan railroads, as well as the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Californian Napa wine train, are all examples of successful heritage railroads.

The Scottsdale to Lilydale rail line is intact. This line is an asset. It costs nothing to leave it in place. The only people to make money are the removalists and salvagers. We will be left with nothing but an overgrown pathway to nowhere.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Perhaps the minister in his response could address that concern and talk a little about what the Government's plan is for preserving the rail infrastructure that is in place to the greatest extent possible as part of future planning.

What future planning is in place to make sure that we are moving towards a future where we are not so heavily dependent on cars and trucks, and that we have efficient rail networks, and light rail to the northern suburbs? In recent times the minister has expressed that he is agnostic about what the mode of transport is. It could be trackless trams, could be light rail, but whatever it is - and I am still more persuaded by light rail than I am trackless trams - that is a vital transit corridor and it needs to be utilised.

We have had perpetual conversations in the community and in this place about the northern suburbs rail corridor. It is well past time that we saw some meaningful action and investment in activating that corridor, not only for passenger transit, but also for development along that rail corridor so you have that transit oriented development and will enable people to have real choices about how they get to and from town and to other places.

We would love to see more of a focus on modern rail systems for Tasmania and I hope the minister turns his mind to some of those issues in his response.