Sep 25, 2017

Coalition drastically cuts road safety programs

The Turnbull Government has failed to invest more than $200 million it allocated to two important road safety programs in the past three years.

In its first three Budgets, the Government committed $220 million to the Black Spot program, which upgrades safety around the nation’s most-dangerous traffic hot spots.

In fact, it spent $105 million – less than half the amount promised, according to Budget documents.

The Government has also failed to meet its three-year commitment to the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, which delivers new or upgraded roadside facilities like rest areas and truck parking bays.

It promised to invest nearly $171 million over three years, but actually delivered $64 million – $107 million less than promised.

The drastic cuts demonstrate that the Government is either grossly incompetent when it comes to administering infrastructure programs or has been serially misleading Australians about the level of its commitment to road safety.

The Coalition’s failure to deliver has coincided with an increase in the national road toll after years of decline.

Earlier this month Transport Minister Darren Chester announced an inquiry into road safety, saying he was worried about the upward trend in road deaths and wanted to re-evaluate the national road safety strategy.

However, it is clear from the Budget documents that Mr Chester has not provided the necessary investment required for the current strategy to be as effective as it could have been.

The Black Spot program has been an unambiguous success since it was created because it directly targets known danger zones.

A 2012 assessment of the program by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) found that after black spots identified under the program were upgraded, accidents involving deaths or casualties declined by an average of 30 per cent.

Given that BITRE also found that the average Blacks Spot project cost $157,000, the Turnbull Government could have delivered literally hundreds of safety upgrades right around the nation if it had only spent what it promised.

A 2012 BITRE review of the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program found it had been effective in helping truck drivers manage fatigue and linked it to a reduction in accidents.

The Government’s failure to deliver promised investment in the program is even more concerning given that last year it abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, created by the former Labor Government to remove incentives for truck drivers to speed or cut corners to make a living wage.