Great Ocean Road and Environs Protection Amendment Bill 2021

Second Reading

Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (17:19): I just want to say a few brief words on the Great Ocean Road legislation. Like everyone else, I will get up and talk about my electorate and the most beautiful things there rather than the actual Great Ocean Road. I am disappointed the member for Bass did not talk up enough the beauty of South Gippsland in particular and Bass Coast. Acting Speaker Edbrooke, you personally as an ex-Gippslander—I am really disappointed in your performance in saying that you would prefer to go across on the ferry to the Great Ocean Road than come down through South Gippsland to Wilsons Prom. Really, as I have indicated to you, your Gippsland privileges are hereby revoked until further notice. The Great Ocean Road is a beautiful spot, that is absolutely true, and it is one to be promoted and protected.

Others have spoken in detail on the bill and its various merits. The member for Evelyn in particular has outlined our position and flagged the reasoned amendment, which I think is appropriate—not only from our side. This is rather extraordinary. In the last hour or two—3.59, so yes—members have received an email from the Victorian National Parks Association. Now, it is not often—in fact it is very, very rare—that I would get up and say something good about the Victorian National Parks Association’s policy position, but this email is headlined, ‘Great Ocean Road bill should not be allowed to pass’. Now, you do wonder what the Labor government has done wrong to get the Victorian National Parks Association offside on a bill that it promotes as protecting the Great Ocean Road. I will just read a little excerpt from it. This is from Phil Ingamells, parks protection at the VNPA:

The Great Ocean Road and Environs Protection Amendment Bill 2021, scheduled for the Legislative Assembly this week and the Legislative Council next month, should not be allowed to pass.

The Bill unnecessarily, and dangerously, sets a new authority above Victoria’s national park management agency, Parks Victoria … It is a level of overreach unprecedented in land management in Victoria.

So I would suggest to the government—not that I would ever say that the VNPA is the font of all wisdom—that when you have got the VNPA opposing legislation like this and saying you need to go back to the drawing board for further consultation I think it is a pretty good sign that the opposition is not just out on a limb here and that perhaps the government might have got it wrong.

Now, I do just want to mention—and from my own perspective as the member for Gippsland South I am of course representing the most beautiful electorate in the state, and particularly one of our most beautiful and iconic destinations, Wilsons Prom—that while it is wonderful that the government is putting forward this new plan for the Great Ocean Road, it is not doing enough for other locations and destinations, in particular the beautiful destination of Wilsons Promontory.

I have raised this before, and I am pleased the Minister for Roads and Road Safety is at the table, because I have raised this before with him. If you are heading to the Great Ocean Road, you head out of Melbourne and you follow the freeway all the way to Geelong. Then you go around a freeway bypass down to Torquay and beyond, and then you are on the Great Ocean Road. The road to Wilsons Prom is frankly a disgrace. Whether you go Foster-Promontory Road through Foster or, like most people, go down the South Gippsland Highway through Meeniyan and turn off and go Meeniyan-Promontory Road to Yanakie, it is terrible. It is a single-lane road. There are no overtaking lanes and very few opportunities to overtake because it is a bit hilly and windy in some parts. It is variously very narrow, mostly with no sealed shoulders—particularly beyond the junction of those two roads, Foster-Promontory and Meeniyan-Promontory roads on the way to Yanakie—and often in very, very poor condition. Indeed I went down to the Prom with my family only a few weeks ago, and the road is still in goat track condition. I did raise this with the minister last year, and he told me all the wonderful things that were happening in terms of road funding in South Gippsland, but very, very little—and certainly no detail—on what is actually happening on that key road to Wilsons Prom.

Now, the government announced in the budget last year a $23 million program, I think it is, for upgrades of the Prom, including a new predator-proof boundary fence and a visitor centre at the Prom gate. That is all well and good. I am not sure yet whether that is the best approach for the Prom, and I am waiting on a briefing for the detail of that issue as we speak, but it is no good having a world-class destination like the Prom there if the road to it is a disgrace. And while we are here debating the Great Ocean Road and how it should be protected and promoted and valued, I would like to see this government doing likewise for the roads to Wilsons Promontory National Park—the first national park, as I recall, in Victoria and certainly one of the best—a world-class tourism attraction. It does need to be supported just as much as the Great Ocean Road and any other roads to our tourist destinations in Victoria.

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