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Roads and Jetties Amendment Bill 2022

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 29 September 2022

Tags: Roads, Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, we have no real problems with the Roads and Jetties Amendment Bill 2022. I look forward to having a look at Labor's amendments.

The principal act for this bill was passed by parliament in the same year as the Homes Act 1935 and that was in a time before there was broad community and government understanding of the impacts of global heating, extreme weather events, storm surge and the like.

For members who want to understand how furious Mother Nature or the climate is right now, have a look at the pictures from Florida where Hurricane Ian has delivered a storm surge on the west coast of Florida that is between three and four metres high in some areas. That scale of catastrophe in a low-lying state like Florida will be profound. That kind of extreme weather event will be very difficult for the people, certainly along that coastline, to recover from so we need to have contemporary legislation that allows road authorities, governments, to make repairs to roads, strengthen roads and ruggedise them if necessary.

The interesting thing about a trend that has happened in legislation under this Government is that there has been a move towards the minister becoming the authority or delegating authority under amendment bills. In the Roads and Jetties Act, if you have a look, for example, at the original section 39 which we are replacing in clause 6 of the bill, it is very different from the one that we have here. I say this by way of observation almost more than anything else. What we are replacing with the new section 39 is this: any road authority may enter upon any land adjoining any road of which it has the care, control or management, for the purpose of maintaining or constructing such road. That gives a head of power to the road authority to enter onto private land. Subclause (2) reads:

Any land entered upon under this section shall be fenced in or otherwise so secured by the road authority as to afford to the owner or occupier of such land an equal protection against trespass as was possessed by such owner or occupier previously to the entering upon such land.

As I read it, that places an obligation on the road authority under the principal act to make sure that if they enter a property they resecure any fencing that might have come down as a result of their works, so the power in the principal act is vested in the Department of State Growth or the Department of Main Roads, as it used to be known.

I am interested to understand where this trend has come from under this Government where extra powers are being given to ministers. It is fanciful that a minister for roads and infrastructure would occupy themselves with the minutiae of the administration of this act as it relates to road repairs or maintenance. I am curious to understand why the minister in this amendment bill has inserted himself - or herself for a future minister - as the authority for the purposes of this act because we have replaced that section 39 with this one. It mentions the minister no less than three times:

Entry upon certain adjoining lands for specified purposes

The minister, or a person authorised by the minister under subsection(2)(a), may enter upon any land adjoining any road for which the minister is the road authority.

The minister has become, I think, the road authority as a result of these amendments, or perhaps the minister always was the road authority but I do not know that that is the case in the 1935 act.

It is very similar for the other clause that we replace as it relates to the closure of state highways or subsidiary roads where again it refers to the road authority. Works on highways, which is section 16, previous to section 16(a), requires consent in writing of the minister before structures shall be erected or placed and other work shall be done in a state highway or subsidiary road. This particular provision seems to be an extension of what is in there already, but also includes the power of the minister.

I would like to understand why these amendments are felt to be necessary. I do not know that that was discussed in much detail in the second reading speech, but clearly this authority has already existed. Presumably the minister authorised the road closure on the Tasman Highway when there was the rockfall at Orford. Maybe the minister could answer this question when he gets to his feet to respond. How will it work any differently, minister, from the way it works now?

We take on board the feedback Ms White has received from the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association and certainly are very comfortable supporting that amendment. Perhaps if the Government is not comfortable with a full 28 days it might meet the House halfway, but seven days is very short notice to give a landowner ahead of time that there will a state road authority entering their private property to undertake works. We argue that it is too short a notice. We will therefore be supporting the bill but we will also be supporting Labor's amendment.