Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill - 1 December 2015

Friday 05 February, 2016

Mr TARZIA ( Hartley ) ( 16:47 :36 ): I will do my best to follow up on that—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I won't stop anyone speaking over the top of you.

Mr TARZIA: —enlightened contribution by the member for Kaurna. I also rise to support the minister, despite his interjections—

Ms Digance interjecting:

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I was joking.

Mr TARZIA: I rise to support the Minister for Transport in the Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill 2015. A trial can sometimes be a good thing, because sometimes the Department of Transport gets it wrong—maybe not through any fault of its own, but they do get it wrong. A trial will enable these corrections to occur so that we as a society are better off for going through these trials and hopefully end up in a better spot than when we began.

I will give you an example. During the week, DPTI staff installed some speeding detectors in my electorate of Hartley. However, I am led to believe these were not fitted properly and in the right area, and they led to my constituents being kept awake through the night. A complaint was made to DPTI, and to their credit, they corrected this issue. Now, the residents in my electorate who were affected by these devices can sleep at night.

I am very grateful for DPTI in the trial, error and the correction that they have made. This is a microcosm to the trials, perhaps, that we are looking at supporting here. The government want to say that they are innovative and that this has not happened in other parts of the world, but it has happened in other parts of the world. They are trials. There will be errors made. There will be things that they get wrong, but overall, I think if they can learn from the experiences undertaken in these trials we will be in a better spot.

I rise to make some brief comments on the bill specifically. I will always welcome any initiative that progresses the interests of South Australia. We need to be doing much better in the R&D space, and much better in the innovation space. The key to increasing the wealth of our state is through investing in areas where we do value-add, there are no two ways about it. In this case, we have a bill that seeks to promote technological advancement in an area untried by other jurisdictions in Australia. It is an instance where South Australia, at least at the moment, compared to some of our peers, does seem to take the lead.

Although the legalisation of driverless cars through trial is a good news story and it has made popular news headlines, what is truly important is, as I said, the tangible benefit that this technology will bring and will have on South Australia's economy. We are still at the trial stage. There will be errors made. We need to get these right. As my colleagues have alluded to, there are many problems that do exist with the technology at the moment, so we still have a long way to go. South Australia's advancement within a niche industry and South Australia's job creation opportunities depend on areas of increased research and development and innovation.

The initiative has definitely been heralded by the government as a job creation policy. As I said earlier, I would certainly welcome any initiative which progresses South Australia's interests and creates jobs. However, we are yet to see where these jobs will be created, so I remain cautious on that front. What jobs will they create? What jobs will they destroy? These are valid questions that need to be asked because if you did get this technology to a stage where drivers are not required, what jobs will the technology then replace? What drivers will then be replaced? These are credible questions that need to be asked.

The majority of job creation and technological advancement in this area actually occurred, I would have said, three to four years ago when the initial research and development was being executed overseas by companies such as Google and Uber. Now the government seeks to implement the bill that is before the house in an attempt to encourage car manufacturers to test their driverless car technologies in South Australia. As I have said, while I welcome any investment or stimulus in South Australia, I would hate to think that the real and significant opportunity for job creation, when the technology was in its infancy, and technological advancement that the initiative offers passed some years ago when the technology was being developed and implemented overseas.

What scares me about this technology, and there have been comments made about the outside nature of the business, is about how a lot of the IP will not stay in South Australia. This is a real risk. Have a look at companies (say, in America) like Boeing, for example. When someone sets up shop here and their IP is in a state and their back of house is in a state, that company, on more occasions than not, will stay in that country and the jobs will stay in that country.

I cannot guarantee that that is going to be the case here because, as mentioned by my colleague (the member for Mitchell) earlier, what I think the most likely scenario that may occur, following trials, is that companies may then leave and profits may go from South Australia. They will take their IP, they will take their expenditure, their revenues, they will take their profits and they will take their jobs back overseas. If the initiative is to be a real job creator for South Australia then what we have to do is we have to entice these companies to move their operations to South Australia, to move their IP to South Australia, to move their data to South Australia and to move their back of house to South Australia. Short of this I cannot really see how this technology is going to be the silver bullet that South Australia needs. It might add value—I am sure it will add value—but it is not going to be the silver bullet that South Australia needs.

I urge the Minister for Transport to ensure that we do things to ensure that these companies invest in South Australia for the longer term, not the short term, that we create jobs and that the profits stay in the hands of South Australians and South Australian jobs. I would appreciate any indication from the state government about where it expects these additional jobs, how they will be generated, how many jobs will be created from this initiative and the sustainability of this potentially new South Australian industry as a jobs generator.

Judge us on our record, they say. Well, that is not the most credible record at the moment. We have all heard of the recent promises made by the government of 100,000 jobs, 5,000 jobs in mining, and the list goes on. I am not shying away from the fact that these are incredibly challenging economic times but what we want to see from this government is a tangible well-constructed framework with some answers, not some pie in the sky target. We are beyond that in South Australia. South Australians cannot afford that any longer. I would appreciate some answers in regard to these issues.

Another issue I want to highlight is the caution with which we should approach this technology from a safety standpoint, and I have an article here entitled '4 driverless cars get into accidents in California'. I will read an excerpt as follows:

LOS ANGELES Four of the nearly 50 self-driving cars now rolling around California have gotten into accidents since September, when the state began issuing permits for companies to test them on public roads.

Four out of 50 is 8 per cent. We cannot afford 8 per cent of these cars to be having accidents on our roads. I know that the kangaroo was an inflatable kangaroo, but I speak on behalf of all the other kangaroos in our electorate. I get the odd one, especially in the eastern part of my electorate, as well as koalas. In all seriousness, I do not want to see humans being victims but also animals and these are serious issues.

Mr Whetstone interjecting:

Mr TARZIA: The member for Chaffey has travelled north of Gepps Cross several times, unlike some people in the government.

Members interjecting:


Mr TARZIA: Let's face it. Some of these roads are in decay for whatever reason. They are decayed, they are in poor condition. The technology is not where it needs to be at this point in time. I want to believe, I want to be a true believer, but until these issues are rectified, I cannot have full confidence in this technology. Obviously we are still developing this technology; therefore, we must closely monitor the rollout of the technology.

As I mentioned earlier, although South Australia may be the first state in Australia to legalise the trialling of driverless cars on our roads, it is not new internationally and, therefore, just like the staff at DPTI learnt their lessons when my residents could not sleep during the night because of their trial, we also need to learn from the mistakes of our peers overseas who have gone through this and have engaged with billions and billions of dollars of investment and made mistakes to get this right.

Obviously we know what we are talking about when we talk about autonomous and driverless vehicles. Comments have been made about other jurisdictions—the United Kingdom, the US, for example—as well as consultation with relevant stakeholders. Many South Australian Road Transport Association comments were referred to, as well as those of Cohda Wireless, Flinders University and the Centre for Automotive Safety Research.

I am willing to give this technology a go. As I said at the outset to the minister, I support this technology, I want to believe, but we need to make sure that we get these issues right before this kind of technology is to be employed in a much greater manner on our roads for the safety of the people of South Australia. I commend the bill to the house.