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Food truck reforms accelerate after soft serve hard sell

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The author of the State Government’s food truck reforms – which unexpectedly passed parliament last night – has denied that unsavoury vendors could exploit a “Mr Whippy” loophole in the new legislation.

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“Mr Whippy does not come to my street,” lamented Liberal MLC David Ridgway in parliament late yesterday afternoon.

“Maybe I am too mean and miserable, but he does not come to my street.”

Ridgway stood to oppose what Labor’s Ian Hunter had described as the “save Mr Whippy amendment” – one of two changes to the Government’s food truck reforms bill needed to secure John Darley’s vote.

The Xenophon Team MLC – who had the deciding vote – said in June that there was absolutely no way he would endorse the Government’s food truck reforms.

He was miffed because Labor had brought on debate over the bill without him in the chamber, against his express wishes.

Asked, then, whether there was any possibility he would change his position he said: “No, no, no; not at all.”

However, after an apology from Labor Leader in the Legislative Council Kyam Maher, Darley was back at the table.

He would support the food truck reforms – which force councils to grant an unlimited number of mobile vending permits and set a maximum $2000 licence fee – but only with explicit safeguards for bricks-and-mortar businesses and ice-cream vans.

One of the few powers left to local councils under the new law – to set location guidelines for where food trucks can operate – will be overseen by the Small Business Commissioner.

And ice-cream vans will be unequivocally exempt from these location guidelines.

“This could be called the ‘save Mr Whippy amendment’, I suppose,” said Hunter, who infamously enjoyed an ice-cream after a foul-mouthed tirade at interstate politicians last year.

“While location rules are well suited to most food trucks, ice-cream trucks in particular – a very important food group, ice-cream – (… are regularly) starting and stopping in dozens of different locations.

“It has never been the government’s intention to put any ban on Mr Whippy vans.”

Chris Picton, who has been leading the Government’s food truck reform push, assured InDaily the Mr Whippy amendment could not be exploited by unscrupulous operators.

Picton said he was confident it would not be possible for an enterprising mobile vendor to populate their menu with 51 per cent ice-cream products and 49 per cent fajitas, for example, in order to exempt themselves from location guidelines.

He said the legislation was drafted carefully enough that: “If you are suddenly becoming a fajita van it would fall out of the scope of this (amendment)”.

However: “If that was to come to pass that’s something that we would seek to prevent.”

Picton said the new law would “address inconsistencies (of food truck regulation) across the state” and prevent councils from charging exorbitant permit fees.

He said the Small Business Commissioner – whose remit includes both bricks-and-mortar and mobile businesses – would make “sensible” judgements to balance the interests of the two types of businesses.

Darley added that the Small Business Commissioner would be able to direct councils to change their location guidelines, or face a $5000 dollar fine for non-compliance.

“My prime concern was to protect bricks-and-mortar businesses, who have a financial investment in (a shop),” said Darley.

“I think this bill now does that.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how well it operates.”

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