Local Government (Mobile Food Vendors) Amendment Bill 2016

Legislative Council 
Thursday 1st of December 2016

second reading speech.

Local Government (Mobile Food Vendors) Amendment Bill 2016

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 17:22 :08 ): I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak to the Local Government (Mobile Food Vendors) Amendment Bill 2016. I do so noting that the opposition opposed this bill in the other place, but that it is here before us, so it is what we call in politics in this place a live issue, where crossbenchers have to pay close attention. I note that in the position paper 'Food trucks in South Australia', in answer to the question 'What is the issue?', one respondent states:

If you had to explain the difference between a food truck and a restaurant to an 85-year-old grandmother, you' d probably start out with the most obvious difference: a food truck has wheels. Then why impose restrictions on where a food truck can travel within metropolitan Adelaide?

Indeed, the notion of the option of some provision of catering on wheels gives rise to the proposed laws before us. Food trucks of course are a little flavour of the month. Like small bars, they appeal to hipsters and housewives alike in this state. While I do not think we will see a food truck and small bar led economic revolution, they certainly do allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to get their foot in the door.

They are not anything new. Recently, I went to see a Bertolt Brecht play put on by AC Arts—Mother Courage and Her Children. Mother Courage pushes her little food cart, a food truck without an engine, around the war-torn community, for some (it almost seemed like) decades. It just shows that this is not a new concept. Taking food to where people are, rather than expecting people to come to where the food is, is not a new concept and it is not a concept that should cause such consternation.

Unfortunately, I think, in some ways, the way this has been handled rather than the issue itself has caused the consternation. I know there is some opposition, particularly from reading the media before having a discussion with the minister and seeing what are now the draft regulations. I shared some of the concerns that perhaps this was a blunt instrument where a more nuanced approach was necessary.

Certainly, the idea that each and every single council in this state would be expected to map where food trucks could be as a result of this bill is not something the Greens could countenance. However, that issue has been addressed, and I understand that councils need not do that mapping exercise, particularly where they do not have a food truck culture or any small entrepreneurs wishing to operate a food truck within their jurisdiction, as they can move a simple motion. That is a common-sense solution to one of the huge barriers originally identified as part of the problem with this bill.

I understand that there are still some concerns within local councils and within the LGA itself regarding issues such as the potential opening hours of food trucks and the type of food that can be sold as well as the number of permits issued and those sorts of provisions. I am going to put on the record that the Greens do not believe that anybody should be in the business of telling a food truck whether or not you can have soy lattes if the restaurant around the corner has soy lattes.

If a council chooses to issue a directive through either a mapping exercise or a motion that a food truck cannot operate within a certain distance of their bricks and mortar operations—their restaurants and cafes—then that is the business of the council and that will be supported. However, we will not be dictating whether or not you can have an alfalfa sprout sandwich, a wrap, or whatever type of smashed avocado that potentially stops you getting a mortgage, sold either over the counter from a food truck or a cafe.

We will not be in the business of dictating to those small businesses what sort of produce and what sort of product they sell to their consumers. If the consumers do not want it, they will not buy it. If the consumers want it, we should be providing more of it and just getting out of their way. That certainly seems to be a common-sense solution.

I think we have ended up with this being somewhat intractable between the opposition and the government in some ways because of that lack of consultation. I sat down with the LGA a few weeks ago, and I would particularly like to thank Andrea Malone for her time. I had a conversation with her about some of the fine details. It increasingly emerged that there is not the great resistance from the LGA that has been reported in some news outlets. As I say, the Greens certainly will not be entertaining any sort of restrictions on the type of food sold.

I have asked that the issues with operating hours be the subject of consideration by the LGA and that they come back to the Greens with a firm position on what their concerns around the opening hours might be. With that, the LGA said, 'We would love to do that. We need about six weeks to consult with our members.' I would like to put on the record that the Greens, in that meeting with the LGA, said, 'We think that is fair.'

The summer break is upon us. When we come back in February and debate this issue, the LGA will have had time to come up with a position that has been consulted on within their membership, and sit down with the minister with these regulations we now have, which were not present in the early stages of this debate. We have quite extensive draft regulations which, in my time in this place, has been a rare occurrence.

Having the regulations already here to inform our debate will I hope ease the concerns of both members of this place and the LGA. I would hope that members of the opposition might take another look at this legislation because I would be greatly concerned that any party of business would get in the way of small businesses operating in this state.

With those few words, we look forward to a more productive conversation on this issue after summer and after the LGA has had the ability to sit down with the regulations, consult with their membership and come back to both members of this chamber and to the government with a consensus and an informed position.

I hope that we will be able to see those food trucks from the time of Mother Courage, which have been around for so many decades, if not centuries, able to operate across our state in an appropriate manner. Get out of the way of these small businesses who simply want to make somebody a sandwich for their lunch, or indeed serve a cup of coffee to a builder on a construction site where there are no other businesses around. Food trucks are very popular. They are very popular because people like them. If they do not like them, they will not buy from them. Simply, get out of the way of the business of these small operators and let them get on with it.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. A.L. McLachlan.

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