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Senator Alex Gallacher speaks to the Senate on road safety

8.2.2018

Australia needs good, sensible road safety practices to reduce the road toll. This would save lives, reduce injuries and enhance the economy.

Senator Alex Gallacher addressed the Senate regarding road safety, referencing the recent National Road Safety Stratgy Progress Report produced by the AAA. In his address, Senator Gallacher highlights that the AAA is not a partisan think tank, but rather the peak body representing Australian motorists and their interests.

Transcript:

I rise to make a contribution on a matter of special interest to me and, I think, to millions of Australians, and that is road safety.

When the Prime Minister makes a contribution on the radio or on the TV or in a public forum, like most Australians, I keep an ear open to see what his attitude is and what his leadership is going to be. I must say that I was incredibly disappointed at the comments made in an interview with Mr Chris Kenny. I accept that this is not the entire interview; I don’t have time to put that in the public arena in this contribution. But I want to place on the public record that the Prime Minister said:

… I’m always in favour of a national approach. But as you know, state governments and state parliaments often have different views. The critical thing is we’ve seen the death toll going down and now it’s coming up again and the question is why?

Amongst other things, he went on to say:

As a federation, the responsibility for road safety is overwhelming with state governments as you know.

Mr Kenny said: “We’ve had a lot of callers—”

And the Prime Minister said: “We have the convening power to bring them together and you know, see what we can do, what changes we can make.”

I’m not entirely critical of the Prime Minister not being across this particular area of public policy per se, but I am critical that after five years this government hasn’t got its act together on road safety.

If I were to point out that we spend $5.397 billion on roads each year—that’s the best estimate from the Parliamentary Library—then we would see we have a bit more power than getting states together. The federal entity has a lot more power than just convening meetings of state ministers and saying, ‘What do you think is the best way forward?’ It is in the public arena. The Australasian College of Road Safety calls on the federal government to:

  • Make the publication of targeted safety star ratings on the National Road Network a condition for any Commonwealth investment in the network, from 2017/18 onwards
  • Undertake a full policy review in 2017/18 of how to leverage greater safety results from its current investment in road transport
  • Ensure all new vehicles (cars, vans, motorcycles, buses and trucks) are equipped with world best practice safety technology and meet world best practice crashworthiness.

If the Prime Minister had said any of that in his interview, I would’ve been much happier—nearly $3.397 billion worth of investment in roads each year, and all we have to do is mandate that the acquitter of that money has a targeted road safety strategy and a star rating on that road. That would mean that Northern Territory roads, where the most horrific statistics exist, would become safer. Western Australian roads, which have the second-highest fatality rate, would become safer. We don’t have to rely on convening the six warring states or territories; we just have to focus the government spend on roads targeted towards world’s best practice in road design. And, we need to go on and make sure that we only drive the best and safest vehicles in Australia.

The Australian Automobile Association has delivered to every member of this place an assessment of where we’re at in road safety. For the objective ‘reducing fatalities by 30 per cent’, the status is ‘fail’. For the objective ‘reducing serious injuries by 30 per cent’, the status is ‘fail’.

We can’t even measure serious injuries in this country from road accidents. If you can’t measure them, how are you going to acquit them and reduce them? Improve vehicle safety. Status: fail. This is not some Labor left-wing think tank; this is the peak group of motorists’ representatives. It gets advice from all the jurisdictions and collates it, and it is saying very clearly that the way forward is: reinstate the Federal Office of Road Safety.

It goes on to say: remove tariffs and taxes to make safer cars cheaper, mandate autonomous braking technology, mandate lane-keeping assist, and put in place technologies that cope when human beings fail. If you look at the industry in this space, you’ve got the CEO of Toll, who used to be the CEO of Linfox, a 40-year veteran of the transport industry, writing to the Prime Minister and saying: ‘We need a national licensing scheme.

We need people in heavy transport to be fit and proper people, as they are in the UK, to run transport systems. We need a national licensing scheme that holds managers and drivers accountable so that unsafe operators out there cannot continue to risk the lives of others.’

There is abundant evidence that we can do really good work in this space, and it is an apolitical issue. There is not an electorate in this country that is not touched by a motor vehicle accident or a motor vehicle injury almost every day. For every 100,000 people in your electorate, five of them will die—that’s what the stats are saying. We have a Prime Minister who is obviously not up to speed on this issue.

The fault clearly lies with the respective ministers of transport over the last five years, and they need to get off their collective office chairs and put in place good, sensible practices to reduce the toll, reduce the injuries and kick back into the economy a growth figure. Thirty-odd billion dollars is lost to the economy as a cost of accidents, deaths and injuries.

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