Nov 28, 2016

Private Members’ Business – Road Safety

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:10): I, too, rise to speak on the issue of road safety, an issue that impacts on all Australians. I was very proud to introduce the current National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, part of a global response to this issue. It seeks to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 30 per cent over this decade.

Unfortunately, however, as we stand up to this point we have, in the last two years, headed in the wrong direction if we look at the number of fatalities on our roads. After literally decades of improvements, for a range of reasons, we are going backwards. There are three key elements of road safety: safer roads, safer vehicles and better driver behaviour. The latest figures show that to October there have been 1,081 deaths so far in this calendar year, 6.5 per cent higher than the same period last year. These figures hide the real trauma—the trauma of all those who have families and friends. There would be not Australian who has not been affected directly in losing a loved one or a friend on our roads. Every death is one too many.

We do need to address safer roads. Major investments in roads such as the Pacific Highway and the Bruce Highway were a part of that. That funding needs to be accelerated, not slowed down as has occurred over the last two financial years. The motion refers to a range of programs for the government. The problem here is that a range of those programs have seen underinvestment compared with what the 2014 budget promise was. The Black Spot Program, for example, in its first two completed years—2014-15 and 2015-16—had an underspend of $34 million, so 55 per cent of the budgeted amount was not spent. The Bridges Renewal program had a $25 million underspend—40 per cent of the budget not invested. Most disappointingly, the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, one that I was proud to introduce—basically, truckies’ rest stops—had $27 million not spent, or 70 per cent of the budget not invested.

I was concerned last year with the government’s abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. We know that fatality rates for accidents involving heavy vehicles are about 12 times the national average, and there are about 200 lives lost annually—not just heavy vehicle drivers but, more often than not, people in passenger vehicles impacted with heavy vehicles. We need to address it. The government abolished the tribunal but did not replace it with anything.

Also, the second part of our campaign needs to be safer vehicles. Data shows that the percentage of new light vehicles sold with a five-star ANCAP rating has increased from 56 per cent to 86 per cent since 2010. That is a good thing. New technology, including smart vehicles and telematics, should also provide opportunities for increasing safety to all road users and pedestrians.

The third part of the strategy is targeting driver behaviour. The strategy measures both responsible and irresponsible driver behaviour patterns, including age, type of vehicle, lack of restraint, consumption of alcohol or not holding a licence. The segmentation shows considerable difference in results between 2010 and 2014. Federal support for programs like keys2drive, which is administrated by AAA, are very important. It is a free lesson for learner drivers at a cost of $4 million per annum, but also, importantly, a lesson for those people who are training those young people—for the parents and the friends who are doing that—and making sure that good lessons are passed on.

Safer roads, safer vehicles and better driver behaviour—all three need to be supported by all sides of this parliament if we are going to truly address these rising figures and turn it back to where it should be, which is reducing the number of fatalities on our roads. (Time expired)