Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (19:48): The matter I raise tonight is for the Minister for Roads, Minister Pulford. The absence of VH series numberplates from VicRoads’ menu is a familiar song, and I think I sing it well. So tonight I will sing it again. In March I asked the minister why VicRoads had stopped releasing VH plates to hire car operators in Victoria. At that time hire car operators bringing on new vehicles were unable to get new VH plates. Minister, you assured me then that they would be reinstated; however, they are still not available. I have repeatedly received complaints that VicRoads will not release new VH plates and that operators upgrading their current vehicle and attempting to put the original VHA plate onto a new vehicle have been told their existing VH plates must be returned to VicRoads.
VH plates are a brand in the marketplace. They signify a professional level of service, and in an incredibly crowded commercial passenger vehicle marketplace they have become even more important. Traditionally they have been used to identify professional operators for exclusive access to the forecourts of our major hotels and access to VIP areas and many of Melbourne’s major events. They provide passengers with a premium level of service and are a source of pride among professional drivers. VH plates mean something and they have a value. So I ask the minister again: can you reinstate the VH plates?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Roads, Minister for Road Safety and the TAC, Minister for Fishing and Boating) (20:04): … Finally, Mr Barton raised a matter for my attention, a matter that I know Mr Barton has worked hard on in his time as a member of this house. This is around the VH plates. As Mr Barton indicated in his adjournment comments this evening, he first brought this to my attention in March. I undertook to go and see what could be done. This is something that has occurred as a consequence of some of the reforms around commercial passenger vehicles.
What I can indicate to the house and to Mr Barton today is that the VH plates will be made available again by October of this year to any registered commercial passenger vehicle at a cost of $350 a plate. That cost is just a straight cost recovery exercise, so that is minimising the impact for people who want to buy those plates but also recognising that there are not enormous numbers. Mr Barton made some observations when he spoke about the brand identity that is VH plates, and I know this is something very important to him. VHD to VHZ will be made available.
Just for completeness in responding to Mr Barton, I indicate to the house that the government will be removing access to the special purpose lanes for VH-plated cars, so that everyone is nice and clear about the rules and how that all works. I take the opportunity to congratulate Mr Barton on his very effective and determined advocacy on this particular question.