Page 4023 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 23 November 1993

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Debate resumed from 20 October 1993, on motion by Mr Connolly:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR DE DOMENICO (10.21): Madam Speaker, the Liberal Party will be supporting the Bill, and also the amendments that are to be put forward by Mr Connolly. The Bill seeks to amend the Motor Traffic Act 1936 in four ways. Firstly, it will provide for priority for buses at traffic signals - a special white B traffic signal - and when leaving bus-stops and bus-bays, but this will be limited to roads with speed limits of 80 kilometres or less. Secondly, it will provide a licensing scheme for hire cars and taxis which do not fall within the current definition of a hire car or a taxi. Thirdly, it will increase the required amount of third-party property insurance for taxis and private hire cars from $2,000 to $5m, in line with other jurisdictions, and that is most welcome. Fourthly, it will remove the current requirement for commercial operators to obtain separate third-party property insurance even if the third-party property insurance usually granted in a comprehensive policy meets certain standard conditions.

Madam Speaker, as I said, the Liberal Party will be supporting the Bill. It also wants to commend Mr Connolly and the officers of his department once again for the outstanding briefings given to the Opposition. Might I also commend the Minister for accepting some of the recommendations made by the Opposition. We are in the process of organising a consultative group with industry and the Transport Workers Union to address the operational part of aspects of this Bill. The suggestion made by the Opposition - I am told that the Minister is inclined to support it - is to extend this consultative group into a quasi-appeals group, in the first instance, in order to prevent things going directly to the AAT, at perhaps great cost and a great waste of time and effort as well. It is legislation that seems to please and appease all the interested parties. For that reason we have no hesitation in supporting both the Bill and the amendments being put forward by the Minister.

MR CONNOLLY (Attorney-General, Minister for Housing and Community Services and Minister for Urban Services) (10.24), in reply: Madam Speaker, I will be brief, as the hour is late. I thank the Opposition and members for their support. This is the sort of Bill where it is not easy to necessarily get it right on the first strike. It is not a broad issue of public policy; it is a very detailed issue of regulation of industry. There were considerable concerns, legitimate concerns, held by people in this industry. They had extensive meetings with the Government members. For the Opposition and Independent members we provided departmental officers to liaise in some meetings, and as a result we have come up with some compromise changes.

I should just broadly explain the amendments. The amendment to new subsection 28A(1) puts in another factor in deciding whether to grant one of these special licences. That says that the registrar needs to consider whether there is an existing hire car that can do the job. That is an important protection for those small business operators who have invested quite heavily in their equipment and their licence, and that resolves a lot of industry concerns. It also became apparent on close examination of the amendments to section 29 that we probably should not have been saying "tourist". It was a little restrictive. We should have had "sightseers", to broaden it. We also had some references to the old Canberra Tourist Bureau which were inappropriate.

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