Last week the O’Farrell Stoner Government announced its tough new regime for coal seam gas in NSW, demonstrating that it had listened and taken on board many of the community concerns raised with it over this difficult issue. Under the package announced by the Premier and Deputy Premier, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will be the lead regulator of environmental and health impacts of CSG activities in NSW with responsibility for compliance and enforcement. A key requirement for all exploration, assessment and production titles and activities will be the holding of an Environment Protection Licence. The chief scientist and engineer will conduct an independent review of all CSG activities in NSW, including their impact on water catchments. Most importantly, a two kilometre exclusion zone will be imposed around residential areas to prevent new CSG surface and underground exploration, assessment and production activities. Exclusion zones will apply to the viticulture and equine industry, identified as critical industry clusters. I am pleased that many of the concerns raised by the local community have been addressed in this package. It should be reassuring to local residents that the EPA, a trusted and independent watchdog that will come down hard on licence breaches, is the agency responsible for ensuring the compliance of environmental and health-related regulations for CSG activities. The two kilometre buffer will apply to existing residential zones and is great news those residents in the Dubbo electorate living in towns and suburbs. This package makes these areas ‘no go zones’ for CSG activities. Unlike our Labor predecessors for whom the issue was just too hard to tackle and preferred no controls whatsoever, we have introduced the toughest CSG regime in the country.
I am confident that the reform measures announced last week by the Minister for Finance and Services to Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurance will go a long way towards addressing the inefficiency of the existing scheme where less than half of every dollar generated from insurance premiums is paid in compensation. These long overdue reforms were necessary to address the shortcomings of the current scheme where expensive legal fees often swallow the lion’s share of successful claims for compensation. The predictable reaction of compensation lawyers to the reforms outlined by the minister should be put into perspective. The possible introduction of a no-fault CTP scheme, like the one that operates in Victoria, is a direct threat to their livelihoods. Research undertaken by the Motor Accidents Authority confirms that legal disputes involving car accidents can take up to five years to settle. In these circumstances it is not unusual to see lawyers making more money than those they represent. A key reform element brings to an end the prospect of a long and protracted legal dispute people may be faced with if they elect to prove fault in any accident. Lengthy court battles often result in those entitled to compensation getting less than they deserve after paying huge legal fees.
The Liberals’ and Nationals’ commitment to reducing heavy vehicle speeding in the electorate is beginning to pay dividends and the government’s strategy to combat this issue can clearly be seen to be working with the release of figures compiled by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and NSW Police which reveal a 79 per cent reduction over the previous 12 months in the detection of heavy vehicles speeding in excess of 105km/h. The issue of heavy vehicle speeding has particular relevance for an electorate like Dubbo which contains some of the busiest sections of the Golden, Mitchell and Newell highways. One of the biggest challenges facing road users in this region is learning to share the highways with heavy vehicles.
It is a fact of life that we must continue to co-exist and therefore be aware of the mutual responsibility which that brings for all road users. It is clear that the decision to adopt a coordinated deployment of joint enforcement by NSW Police and RMS has paid dividends. Improved use of technology coupled with an education campaign aimed at the heavy vehicle industry has had a significant impact upon industry practice. The technology allows RMS to detect the same heavy vehicle at more than one site, enabling clear speed trends to emerge throughout the year, providing intelligence on where the most urgent action is needed. Last year, the NSW Police and RMS Joint Heavy Vehicle Taskforce conducted thorough inspections of more than 2,600 heavy vehicles, resulting in 93 trucks being grounded for having non-compliant speed limiters. More than 800 defects and infringement notices were issued for a range of other offences, while nearly 6000 random drug tests were carried out on truck drivers, with 70 returning positive results. Despite the reduction in the number of heavy vehicles caught speeding during 2012, NSW Police and RMS will continue to conduct large scale trucking operations this year in order to maintain this improved safety record. Police will continue to work closely with trucking industry leaders, themselves passionate advocates for road safety to help weed out a small, rogue element who continue to put lives at risk by speeding and recklessly tampering with their vehicles.
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