You are here

New Major Transport Projects Bill one scary item

There is an Orwellian new Bill on the brink of being passed in Victoria's Parliament. (Debate 27 June) The Bill justifies reducing public rights to consultation and objection by narrowing the scope of consultation, by reducing the scope of information given to the public in respect of revocation of reserves of public land and compulsory acquisition of land, public and private. It allows enormous discretion on the part of the Minister with regard to what information and consultation he allows, even with local government bodies. The really Orwellian part of the Bill is the circular justification of these reductions in citizens' civil rights on so-called grounds of 'efficiency' and 'time saving'. In this case 'cutting red tape' means 'cutting out democracy'.

This new Major Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment (East West Link and Other Projects) Bill 2013 is to be debated on 27 June in the Legislative Assembly. The Bill, by its very name, shows that it has been drafted to push through a particular hated series of private toll-roads that will horribly scar our green landscape and drastically reduce habitat for native animals. We refer to the East-West Link, which Kelvin Thomson has described as "con job". This legislation is part of a frightening trend to remove public land, particularly green, natural land and parks from Melbourne and its surrounds.

Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc say that it is very important that the public attend Parliament for the second reading and debate on the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment (East West Link and Other Projects) Bill 2013 in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday 27 June 2013.

Government and Opposition need to see large numbers of the public in attendance in the public galleries. It is important to signify public vigilance and opposition to the East West Link and support for the Doncaster Rail Project, which the public actually want and which represents a true alternative.

Thursday 27 June 2013 is the last sitting day of Parliament before the winter recess. The Bill will go to the Upper House - the Legislative Council - to be considered on the first day of the new term of Parliamentary sitting i.e. 20 August 2013.

By next Tuesday afternoon there should be an estimated time for the Bill to be heard in the Legislative Assembly on the Thursday 27 June and therefore when to attend. The public can ring the Legislative Assembly Papers Office by ringing the Parliament House switch phone: 9651 8911 or try info@parliament.vic.gov.au.

Community Activist groups monitoring these proposed reductions in democratic rights to object to unwanted development are Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. (PPL VIC) and Yarra Campaign for Action on Transport (YCAT)

Below we have emboldened key comments in the parliamentary 'statement of compatibility with human rights' of the bill. Below that we have reproduced the second reading of the bill.

Title MAJOR TRANSPORT PROJECTS FACILITATION AMENDMENT (EAST WEST LINK AND OTHER PROJECTS) BILL 2013
House ASSEMBLY
Activity Statement of Compatibility
Members MULDER
Date 13 June 2013 Page 2162


13 June 2013 ASSEMBLY


Page 2162

MAJOR TRANSPORT PROJECTS FACILITATION AMENDMENT (EAST WEST
LINK AND OTHER PROJECTS) BILL 2013

Statement of compatibility

Mr MULDER (Minister for Public Transport) tabled following statement in
accordance with Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006:

In accordance with section 28 of the Charter of Human Rights and
Responsibilities Act 2006 (charter act), I make this statement of
compatibility with respect to the Major Transport Projects Facilitation
Amendment (East West Link and Other Projects) Bill 2013.

In my opinion, the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Amendment (East West
Link and Other Projects) Bill 2013, as introduced to the Legislative Assembly,
is compatible with the human rights protected by the charter act. I base my
opinion on the reasons outlined in this statement.

Overview of bill

The main purposes of the bill are to:

amend the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009 to reduce
procedural delays and red tape
in relation to major transport projects; and

amend the Transport Integration Act 2010 to improve the operation of that
act.

Human rights issues

Section 15 of the charter act protects a person's right to freedom of
expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart
information. The right to freedom of expression is not absolute; lawful
restrictions reasonably necessary to protect the rights of other persons, or
for the protection of public order and public health, are permissible under
the charter act.

Restricting a person's ability to receive information in the form of
Government Gazette notices could engage the right of freedom of expression.
Clauses 7(2), 11(1), 12(1), 15, 17(3), 22, 51, 52 and 65(1) in the bill remove
requirements to publish certain notices in the Government Gazette from the
Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009.

However, the bill does not limit the right of freedom of expression because it
requires or does not affect the requirement to publish notices on websites of
agencies and, therefore, the relevant information remains widely accessible to
the public and potentially in a way that is more accessible and user friendly.
In some cases (clauses 6 and 14(2)), the requirement to publish information on
the departmental website is new and therefore positively promotes the right to
receive information.

Clauses 16(c) and 23(c) of the bill change requirements relating to
documentation for assessment under the impact management plan and
comprehensive impact statement respectively. The changes remove some
information requirements for those documents which could engage the right of
freedom of information as it affects the ability of the public to receive
information.

[Ends justify the means? (Ed.)]

In so far as these amendments limit the right to the freedom of information,
in my opinion the limitation is justifiable and proportionate to the bill's
objective of reducing red tape and procedural delays.
In addition, the
restrictions are limited in nature as the information is still provided in
accordance with scoping directions (the publicly available requirements for
project assessment documentation) issued by the planning minister and sections
27(a), (f)-(h) and 39(a), (f)-(i).

Clause 21 of the bill also engages the right to freedom of expression by
amending the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009 to allow the
planning minister to confine the scope of any public hearing to specified
matters. Clause 21 may also engage the right to take part in public life by
limiting the degree of involvement during a public hearing, if the minister
exercises his or her discretion to confine the scope of a hearing.

Section 18 of the charter act provides that every person has the right, and is
to have the opportunity, without discrimination, to participate in the conduct
of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives, for
example by exerting influence through public dialogue and debate with elected
representatives.


Page 2163

However, members of the public are not restricted from making written
submissions to the assessment committee and verbal submissions to the
assessment committee where a confinement does not apply. Therefore, although
clause 21 of the bill limits these rights, in my opinion the limitation is
justifiable on the basis that the limitation reflects the purpose of the bill
to reduce procedural delay and cut red tape in relation to major transport
projects.
It is also a limited restriction as members of the public are still
able to convey their views and participate in the engagement process required
by the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009. Therefore the public
can still participate in influencing the final approval decision of the
minister.

Section 19(1) of the charter act provides that all persons with a particular
cultural, religious, racial or linguistic background must not be denied the
right, in community with other persons of that background, to enjoy his or her
culture.

Clause 59 of the bill allows for reservations of land under the Crown Land
(Reserves) Act 1978 to be revoked and therefore engages cultural rights
generally.
The Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 enables Crown land to be
permanently or temporarily reserved for a range of purposes, including
purposes which involve the creation, protection or preservation of places of
cultural significance.

However, revoking a reservation for the purpose of an approved project will
only occur following an assessment and approvals process under the Major
Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009 and a transparent and public process
under division 5 of part 3 of that act. Therefore, the bill maintains cultural
rights by providing groups whose cultural rights may be affected and the
public generally with an opportunity to participate in the decision-making
process where a reservation is revoked.

Clause 59 also engages the right to take part in public life as impacts on
public participation on the basis that reservations can be revoked. However,
again the limitation is proportionate and justifiable on the basis that the
revocation must occur in accordance with the proper processes under the Crown
Land (Reserves) Act 1978 and the public participation mechanisms in the Major
Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009.

Section 20 of the charter act provides that a person must not be deprived of
his or her property other than in accordance with law. Any law that deprives a
person of property must be accessible, sufficiently precise and should not
provide for an arbitrary interference with property. Clause 73 of the bill
inserts a new section 138A into the Transport Integration Act 2009 which
allows the Linking Melbourne Authority to compulsorily acquire land required
in connection with the performance of its powers or the exercise of its
functions.

Compulsory acquisition of an individual's land is a deprivation of property
for the purpose of the right to property. However, the acquisition of
interests in land under the bill requires ministerial approval.

[That's sure to be a big comfort! - Ed.]

The compensation requirements in the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 2009
also apply, with minor modifications.

A person deprived of their land under these clauses must be properly notified
and compensated, and may test the lawfulness of an acquisition through
judicial review. In addition, clause 55 does not limit planning compensation.
Accordingly, in my view, compulsory acquisition of land under the bill would
be in accordance with the law and these provisions do not limit the property
right.

Conclusion

For the reasons outlined above, I consider that the bill is compatible with
the charter act.

Terry Mulder, MP

Minister for Public Transport

MAJOR TRANSPORT PROJECTS FACILITATION AMENDMENT (EAST WEST
LINK AND OTHER PROJECTS) BILL 2013

Second reading
Title MAJOR TRANSPORT PROJECTS FACILITATION AMENDMENT (EAST WEST LINK AND OTHER PROJECTS) BILL 2013

House ASSEMBLY
Activity Second Reading
Members MULDER
Date 13 June 2013 Page 2163


13 June 2013 ASSEMBLY


Page 2163

MAJOR TRANSPORT PROJECTS FACILITATION AMENDMENT (EAST WEST
LINK AND OTHER PROJECTS) BILL 2013

Second reading

Mr MULDER (Minister for Public Transport)

-- I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Transport context

Victoria is growing and changing. The demand for travel and the need to
efficiently move people and goods is growing every day.

The coalition government is committed to delivering major transport
infrastructure projects. They are essential to our economic future and our
livability.

Congestion on roads and on public transport hurts our economy and affects all of
our day-to-day lives.

The government is taking decisive action to cut red tape to allow for the
assessment and delivery of major transport projects more quickly and
efficiently.

Legislation has a key part to play in cutting red tape to address the
infrastructure backlog. This is central to transforming our transport system.
Put simply, this bill will deliver much needed infrastructure sooner, and at a
lower cost.

The coalition did not oppose the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act when
it was introduced into this house in 2009.

There are, however, a range of improvements that need to be made to the scheme
to cut red tape and boost productivity for the assessment, and delivery of
declared projects.

The benefits to major transport projects

The east-west road link, the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel and the port of
Hastings are transformative projects. The quicker they are delivered, the
quicker Victorians and Victorian businesses will see the benefits.

The east-west road link is a city-shaping project for Victoria. The new
18-kilometre cross-city freeway-standard link will provide an alternative to the


Page 2164


M1 corridor, alleviate chronic congestion and improve travel time for motorists
and allow freight to be moved around more quickly. The government has committed
to fund stage 1 of this project, which has an estimated capital cost of between
$6 billion and $8 billion.

The Melbourne Metro rail tunnel will untangle the rail network and unlock the
capacity needed to expand the network and increase services to Melbourne's
growth areas in the north, west and south-east. Creating capacity, particularly
in the city loop, also means that more trains can run on all the lines, not just
those running through the new tunnel. In 2012, the government made the first
state contribution to the project, allocating $49.7 million.

Subject to the Premier's approval the legislation will also enable the port of
Hastings development to be delivered.

This project is essential for Victoria's future and the government has provided
$110 million in the budget to kick-start the development.

This act, with the substantial improvements before you, is the foundation on
which these crucial projects can be delivered.

It would also be a mistake to think that the bill is only for
multibillion-dollar projects. It is not just about capital expenditure, it is
about the value to the community that new and upgraded parts of the transport
network can bring. Cycling networks, for example, face the same barriers as
other linear projects in road and rail and the issues associated with getting
projects delivered.

This legislation provides an alternative to the environment effects statement
process and the multiple approvals required to deliver state-significant
projects.

Delivering major transport projects is a very costly exercise. This bill is
designed to cut down on bureaucracy and channel state funds to where it can
deliver the most benefit -- the transport infrastructure on which we all rely.

Policy context

The changes before the house are a cornerstone of the government's budget
commitment to deliver better value in infrastructure planning and delivery.

As the budget papers state:

The government is driving better value for money, streamlining project
approvals and cutting red tape to expedite major projects coming to market.
The government is continuing to implement rigorous processes to improve
infrastructure project delivery and ensure the cost pressures that affected
major projects in the past are not repeated.

This is precisely what this bill is designed to do.

In December last year the government released its economic statement, 'Securing
Victoria's Economy -- Planning, Building, Delivering'.

The strategy outlines the government's vision for public sector reform involving
controlling costs, reducing internal red tape and improving management within
the public sector.

This bill exemplifies this government's commitment to work harder and to work
smarter to cut red tape so the benefits of major transport projects can be
delivered sooner.

The bill

Part 1 of the bill deals with preliminary matters.

Part 2 of the bill makes changes to the Major Transport Projects Facilitation
Act 2009 to:

introduce a more risk-based assessment regime;

enable early works on projects, including the

east-west link;

shorten statutory time frames to improve productivity and speed up projects;

simplify administrative processes;

enable more efficient land assembly and project delivery; and

extend the scope of the act.

Part 3 of the bill addresses other related amendments.

Key changes to the regime

Moving progressively to a risk-based assessment enables a more proportionate
approach to different risks. This will improve assessment efficiencies and
deliver a more practical and focused assessment report for public exhibition and
consultation.

Early works on projects can provide an opportunity to structure projects to
maximise efficiency and create jobs sooner. This bill makes clear that
declaration of a project does not prevent the delivery of early works outside of
the act's provisions. The act expands, rather than replaces, the methods of
obtaining the necessary approvals for a major transport project. For projects


Page 2165


with early works, it is simply a matter of obtaining any required planning or
environment approvals in accordance with existing applicable laws.

This bill makes significant cuts to time frames for decisions in the assessment
and approval process. Time frames for decisions around pathways, scoping,
release of key documents and approvals have all been halved or more than halved.

The bill not only cuts time frames for decision making, but changes the scheme
to allocate resources more efficiently and shift the focus to the project,
rather than the process itself. An example of this is the simplification of the
administrative steps required to have a project declared.

What the bill does not do is reduce the time frame for public exhibition -- the
onus is on government and government agencies to work more efficiently. This
power does not prevent government from consulting with councils, where relevant.

The bill extends an existing provision to make clear that councils cannot
frustrate projects once that project has been approved by the Minister for
Planning.

The bill introduces a statutory duty on state agencies to act and make decisions
expeditiously to avoid delay.

The bill also enables more efficient project delivery by reducing red tape to
improve the arrangements for land assembly.

Conclusion

The changes cut red tape to boost productivity in the assessment and delivery of
projects under the act.

The burden of red tape in the system is shouldered by the community and by
business. Every week a project is tied up in administration is another week of
congestion on our transport system. Congestion increases business costs and
decreases the amount of time we all get to spend with our families.

This bill cuts red tape for projects. This bill cuts the time taken to assess,
approve and deliver major transport projects. This bill gives that time back to
the people of Victoria.

I commend the bill to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr SCOTT (Preston).

Debate adjourned until Thursday, 27 June.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Comments

The Doncaster Railway is the alternative to the awful Bill being pushed through for more tollways. It is a popular, sensible alternative. You can show your support:

A reminder there is only two weeks remaining to complete your feedback submission on the Phase One Draft Recommendations Report for the Doncaster Rail Study. The closing date to provide feedback is Friday 28 June 2013.

The Draft Report was released on 14 March 2013 and can be viewed on our study website www.doncasterrailstudy.com

Comments can be provided by completing the feedback form online by following this link:

www.surveymonkey.com/s/doncasterrailstudy_feedbackform

Alternatively, you can download a copy of the Feedback Form on our website www.doncasterrailstudy.com or send your feedback submission to us in an email to info@doncasterrailstudy.com

All comments will be considered for incorporation into the Doncaster Rail Study Phase One Final Recommendations Report.

Thank you to all those who participated in the Community Information Session and Online Facebook Forum we held last month to present our key findings on the Draft Recommendations Report. These sessions involved a constructive Q&A opportunity for the community to clarify queries on the recommendations.

Even though the Online Forum is now closed for new questions, you can still read the questions and answers posted. Log into your Facebook account then click on this link to view: https://www.facebook.com/DoncasterRailStudy/app_202980683107053

We look forward to receiving your feedback.

The Legislative Assembly Procedures Office of Parliament has advised that the Government Business Program for Thursday does NOT include this Bill. Hence you do not need to attend Parliament. As this - Thursday 27 June 2013 - is the last sitting day of Parliament before the winter recess, the Bill will not be introduced again until on or after 20 August 2013. (If there is any last minute change Protectors of Public Land will advise.)