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Food trucks overhaul rests on one MP

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The State Government’s stalled food trucks bill will pass the parliament - but only if bricks-and-mortar businesses get explicit legal rights to appeal against mobile vendors trading in their patch, the MP with the deciding vote has told InDaily.

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Responding to a divisive public debate over the role of food trucks in Adelaide’s CBD, the State Government introduced legislation mid-last year to force local councils to grant an unlimited number of mobile vending permits, and cap licensing fees.

Under the legislation, councils would retain control over the locations in which mobile vendors are allowed to trade, but lose the right to decide when they can trade.

The Liberal Party and the Australian Conservatives oppose the bill, while the Greens and Kelly Vincent are joining with Labor to support it – leaving Xenophon Team MLC John Darley with the deciding vote.

Darley told InDaily he would support the bill if the Government agrees to let fixed businesses appeal to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) if they don’t like where a council decides mobile vendors can set up shop.

He said it would be an “injustice” for bricks-and-mortar businesses to have to appeal directly to councils to reconsider their decision – instead, an independent third party should consider the matter.

“I’m concerned about this bill and the impact it will have on bricks-and-mortar businesses,” he said.

“I don’t think a hard and fast rule [about distance between food trucks and fixed businesses] is going to work.

“I want the brick-and-mortar people to have a right to object to any particular location that’s suggested by local government.”

He said an appeal to SACAT only costed $70, and that it would be the most appropriate body to resolve disputes.

Darley said he had been convinced to drop his earlier objection to the government’s legislation – that a $2000 cap on the cost of mobile vending licence permits was far too cheap – because he realised many mobile vendors bore high costs to maintain commercial kitchens.

He said he told the government “a couple of months” ago that he wanted an appeals mechanism for fixed businesses, and was still waiting for a response.

“I’m waiting on [Labor frontbencher Chris] Picton to come back on what I have suggested,” said Darley.

Picton, who has been tasked with shepherding the bill through parliament, told InDaily the Government was working to allay Darley’s concerns.

“We’ve been working with John Darley as well as the Greens and [Vincent] about this food trucks bill,” Picton said this morning.

He said he had worked through “a number of issues” with the cross-bench, and Darley’s appeal mechanism was “one of the last things” left to negotiate.

“We’re looking at options about how we can resolve his concerns here.”

He said SACAT may not be the only way to give businesses appeal rights, but he “wouldn’t be quite ready to say what other options could look like at the moment”.

He said he was hopeful the Legislative Council would consider the bill “soon”.

Liberal frontbencher David Pisoni told InDaily the Governments bill would impose more regulation, not less, on the burgeoning food trucks industry.

He said it should be up to councils to decide permit fees because they have to recoup the cost of services like health inspections.

“We don’t think there should be a cap on what the councils can charge for a permit because every situation is different, and we need to make sure the cost of services like health inspections … aren’t subsidised by anybody else,” said Pisoni.

“It’s another example of the government not consulting before bringing legislation to the parliament.

“For change to be successful you need to bring people with you.”

Picton said the Liberal Party was standing in the way of entrepreneurs by opposing the bill.

“They’re just not interested in supporting these new businesses in South Australia,” he said.

But Pisoni accused the Government of being “inconsistent” on innovation.

“The Government needs to explain why it stood in the way of Uber for so long,” he said.

Australian Conservatives MLC Robert Brokenshire said his party had suggested food truck trading be limited to the times of 10pm to 5am, “so that they do not interfere with the existing businesses that are paying lots of additional money [compared] to what food trucks [operators] pay”.

“The Government want their model or no model … we can’t support it.”

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