HAVING last week raised the matter of driver licence testing for the third time in Parliament, The Nationals have received an undertaking from the Minister it would resume today.
But The Nationals Victoria leader Peter Walsh said now the “very overdue” decision to resume licence testing in regional Victoria has been made “it is not good enough to tell people they can make appointments once the backlog is cleared”.
Mr Walsh said instead of treating regionals as second-class citizens, the Andrews Government should commit more resources to fast-track the testing, not slow it down.
“A lot of our young people have been very patient about this; but now the switch has been turned back on there should be plans in place to make up for all the lost time instead of taking the slow road,” he said.
“Testing has been and on again, off again – and to an extent that is understandable – but our would-be drivers should not be further penalised by being linked to a Melbourne lockdown timeline instead of our own.
“Surely VicRoads has been planning to make the best of this for everyone involved – it’s not as if they didn’t know it was coming. If it had been my responsibility, knowing how important it is to all those young people, I would have been looking at the total numbers on hold and coming up with a staffing solution to fix it, and fix it fast.
“But city decision makers still don’t get the importance of licences for country people – there are no trams to jump on up here.”
Mr Walsh said Gippsland East Nationals MP Tim Bull had been leading the party’s charge and “it was pleasing that within a couple of hours of him making his latest contribution about the ridiculous situation that had seen testing banned in regional areas, the Minister told us testing would resume on Monday in country areas”.
“The point The Nationals made was that people in country areas can sit in front of a computer and work, but a person could not sit in front of a computer at VicRoads to complete their Learner Permit test.
“Similarly, three people could travel to work in one car, but three people could not be in a car to do a Probationary Licence test. It just made no sense and what we were asking for has been allowable under the restriction levels all the way through.
“The Government was also claiming for weeks there were exemptions for priority cases, but Tim had one young girl who needed to travel 31km to get to her work; but was knocked back on the exemption twice.
“There just seemed to be little recognition of the importance of obtaining a licence for our rural teenagers, who need to not only get to work, but also just to apply for a job,” Mr Walsh said.
“Obviously we don’t have the public transport options of our city cousins but citycentric decision makers seem incapable of recognising that.”