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Traffic Amendment (Electronic Billboards) Bill 2022

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Tags: Roads, Community Safety, Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, this bill we are supposed to believe represents this Government's bold legislative agenda. The media release that was put out yesterday was an example of gaslighting. Nothing more, nothing less. Propaganda.

Today we have had the Electricity Safety Bill come before the House. Now we have the Traffic Amendment (Electronic Billboards) Bill. These bits of legislation were tabled last year. They have sat on the books for months. Yet we have the resources of the Government media office spitting out into the community that this Government has some kind of bold legislative agenda. Spare us. It is a lie to say that. It is not unparliamentary to use the word, Mr Deputy Speaker; it is unparliamentary to call someone that.

This bill amends Part 8 of the Traffic Act 1925 to allow approval to be given to multiple billboards, allow approvals to be given for any period, allow for approvals to be renewed, transferred, or modified, and to allow for contractors rather than officers under the act to remove billboards.

Part 8 of the Traffic Act 1925 was introduced by Jim Cox in 2007, before I was elected to this place, to limit the use of electronic billboards on public streets to road management and safety purposes. We have all seen them. We recognise what a distraction and potentially a danger they are on the roads. The amendment was triggered, as we understand it, following a raft of complaints to the then Department of Infrastructure, Energy, and Resources. The complaints were in relation to a billboard for the late member of the Legislative Council for Pembroke and Attorney General, Vanessa Goodwin. Her electronic billboard was located on the western approach to the Tasman Bridge. This billboard was evidently in a location often used for traffic management billboards and it caused a significant slowing of traffic as drivers responded to what they thought was a traffic management sign.

At the time, the department had no authority to have billboards removed, leading to the introduction of the Traffic Amendment Bill 2007.

The amendments before us today appear to be reasonable, commonsense amendments. It is a pity they have sat around for so many months and not been part of the Government's bold legislative agenda to date. If anything, it is a surprise that it has taken 15 years to introduce some of these amendments.

While the Greens intend to support this bill, we have a couple of questions which hopefully can be addressed by the minister in his second reading response. We certainly have no intention of taking this bill into the Committee stage.

I note the fact sheet for this bill indicates the contemporary practice for billboard removals be done by field-based contractors. This is why the amendments in clauses 5 and 6 allowing for officers to authorise other persons are in this bill. We asked the minister, does this mean that field-based contractors have historically and are currently being asked to remove billboards without lawful authority?

Our second question is in relation to the removal of paragraph (a) from subsection (5) of section 79 of the principal act as well as the introduction of a new subsection (2) paragraph (c). This amendment allows for approvals to be amended, renewed, transferred or otherwise modified. While this all seems sensible, it is clear from the existence of the current section 79(5)(c) that the original intent was explicitly for this not to be allowed.

Minister, do you know why it was originally intended that an approval could not be amended, renewed or transferred? This matter was unfortunately not clarified in the debate in the 2007 amendments as far as we can ascertain. It is not in the Hansard record or in supporting material. We would like to understand why the Government has determined to reverse the position taken in 2007.

With those few comments, I will wind up. I find it so offensive, not that it matters, that yesterday, Tasmanians and the rest of us in here who had enough respect to come into this place masked this morning, are being told that legislation like this represents a bold legislative agenda when we are dealing with amendments that could have been dealt with years ago. We are dealing with a bill that could have been dealt with last year or early this year.

I recall clearly when Mr Rockliff became Premier him telling Tasmanians he wanted to lead a transparent and accountable government, a government of compassion. Every day in question time, since Mr Rockliff became Premier, has been the same day as every day in question time when Mr Gutwein was the Premier and every day in question time when Mr Hodgman, who is being brought back early from Singapore by the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, because he was a political appointment. They are all the same days.

The two questions the Greens asked in here this morning, I went back and had a look at the uncorrected proofs, we did not get an answer, again. It is déjà vu all over again, Groundhog Day in here. Same rubbish, different bin. Same ministers, could not lie straight in bed. To read that nauseating press release yesterday talking about a bold legislative agenda, I had to read it three times to try to find some hint of a bold legislative agenda. There is not one.

Today in here, we are dealing with the scraps, legislative scraps, because there has been no decent legislation tabled by this Government in recent weeks. We had a couple of bills this morning and we have legislation like this to deal with as part of a bold legislative agenda.

What I have come to realise is that it does not matter who the Liberal premier is - Hodgman, Gutwein, Rockliff, the default is to not be honest. And that is the truth. We see it every day in here. We saw it in that rubbish press release yesterday. We will see it again tomorrow. All spin, no substance. All talk, no heart. You lot, you had your masks off in more ways than one this morning.