Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:53): I rise to make just a fairly short contribution to this bill, which is a very broad and wideranging bill. I did just want to touch on some of the points that were made by Mr Gepp and also Mr Grimley at the beginning. The road toll in Victoria, as Mr Gepp quite rightly said, is one of the leading causes of death. The road toll in 2019 was 242. But I just think it is worth us remembering that the toll from overdoses far exceeds that. The toll from accidental drug overdoses in Victoria now sits at nearly 400. Now, this is something that we often forget. We talk about Towards Zero on the road toll, and I think that is an absolutely admirable goal, but what we do not talk about are the people who die from accidental overdoses and the stigma that surrounds this.
Just as a little aside, when Mr Grimley was speaking about drug testing on the roads, one of the passions I have had here is around how I can advocate for medicinal cannabis patients. Now, there is a connection here, because we know that many of those medicinal cannabis patients are taking this to avoid using some of those incredibly strong opioids that do lead to accidental overdoses. So the more that we try and exclude and try and put up barriers to people using medicinal cannabis, the more likely we are to not help in reducing the drug overdose toll in Victoria, which sadly continues to rise. And sadly in regional areas, where do see death tolls, we also see much higher accidental drug overdose figures—considerably higher in those areas.
I just make the point again that with changes to the way that we treat medicinal cannabis patients, particularly around their ability to drive and particularly for regional medicinal cannabis patients, it is still very important that we recognise that not only should they have the same rights as any other patient if they are not impaired to drive but also it can have the added benefit of reducing the number of people and patients in Victoria who are taking strong opioids that are causing more people in Victoria to die from those drugs and from overdoses than who die on our roads.
The bill, as I mentioned, is wideranging, but I did just want to talk briefly about clause 32, which is around micromobility. This is around electric scooters and electric bikes. I raised this right back in my address-in-reply speech, mentioning that these were some of the initiatives that we should be pursuing and that we should be enabling here. I do not know if members recall, but I also had an electric scooter here that many of us rode—strictly on the carpet to keep us safe. But technically an electric scooter requires you to wear a motorcycle helmet currently. These amendments in clause 32 actually go towards enabling the department to treat new and emerging micromobility models and vehicles—like electric scooters, like electric skateboards and like electric bikes—differently to other vehicles, and they enable them to get these regulated and to get people on the road using them. Because we know that they do not fit comfortably in motor vehicles. We find this often with legislation. This bill really probably started in 1986. I think as we move our technology changes, and we see these types of changes. So people generally used to power bikes and scooters, but now we actually have electric motors that do that. As I said, currently they do not sit comfortably within the definition of a motor vehicle, and this bill finds a very neat way to fix that.
It also means that people on these vehicles may well be subject to drink and drug driving rules. I do not think that is a problem. I think that it certainly addresses some of the concerns that I know the police have had with the emergence of share vehicles like these—the share scooters and the share electric bikes—the types of vehicles that will really help us in that last mile and that will really help us in getting people from the tram, from that train station, from the bus station or from the bus stop to their homes. We are seeing it all around the world. These types of vehicles are proving to be extremely popular. They have the added benefit of taking cars off the road—cars that are used for those short drives. These types of electric vehicles, these types of new vehicles, are really addressing that. I was watching a documentary on Chicago the other day, and going over one of the bridges there were just scores of people on electric scooters making their way to work or making their way between appointments and things like that. I think this is a little bit overdue. It is certainly something that I know the department has been trying to find a solution for. I look forward to this bringing in further technology fixes for congestion, obviously in a very environmentally safe way and environmentally efficient way. But also with these types of technologies, if we move into that type of share economy, they will bring a number of new jobs to Victoria as well, which I know we would all welcome.
I was very pleased to see that in the bill. I know for some people it is a small thing, but anything that we can do to reduce that congestion and increase people’s accessibility to public transport and increase people’s ability to get out and about without using a car is surely a very good thing. On that note I commend the bill.