A report in today's Weekly Times contains a number of inaccuracies and misleading statements.
The Victorian Coalition Government is not making any changes to the cost of recreational boating licences, nor are we altering the testing procedures for obtaining a licence.
The report is based upon allegations first made in early September and they are just as false today as they were three months ago.
In August, the Department of Transport released an options paper canvassing a range of different scenarios that may be considered for future boat licence testing procedures including retaining the current system. The newspaper report has selectively focused on one particular proposal despite a previous statement clearly stating "there is no secret plan to change licencing requirements or fees..." (Statement from the Minister for Ports, 5 September 2011)
At the same time the department released a new set of draft Marine Safety regulations which were a requirement under the previous government's revised Marine Safety Act (2010).
The article has inaccurately stated there are 174 new regulations and 81 new offences. This is not true; the majority of regulations continue current laws. While there are a small number of new rules within the draft, there is also a small number of existing rules that will not continue – in fact, the overall number of offences is set to fall from 70 to 50.
Despite the best efforts of successive governments to educate boaters on the importance of wearing lifejackets, a percentage of boaters still flout these laws. Since wearing lifejackets became mandatory by law in 2005, drowning deaths have halved. The Coalition Government would like to see this trend continue, and to do so, persistent levels of non-compliance needs to be addressed.
Lifejackets save lives and we make no apology for increasing the penalties for failing to comply with this regulation and other important safety requirements.
These regulations are part of the Coalition Government's wide-ranging strategy to further improve marine safety. In recent weeks we have awarded 65 separate grants to upgrade boating facilities across the state and provide important training and equipment for marine rescue organisations. I also launched Transport Safety Victoria's summer boating safety campaign on Monday and the Coalition Government will continue to promote, encourage and support safe recreational boating.
It is deeply disappointing the Weekly Times has recycled these inaccuracies.