Issues: Smart freeway technology; National Heavy Vehicle Regulator; Slater and Gordon; Prime Minister’s press conference; Tony Abbott’s 7:30 Report performance
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m very pleased to be here with my New South Wales counterpart, Duncan Gay, to announce that we’ll be providing joint funding – $8.5 million from each level of Government to apply smart infrastructure on the M4.
This will enable the preliminary work to be done. We know that smart infrastructure can make a big difference. It could reduce peak travel times on the M4 by some 16 per cent.
We know that it works because it’s been in operation in places like the Monash Freeway in Victoria, where we’ve seen travel times reduced, less congestion on the major roads and benefits in terms of safety, because you have more free-flowing traffic.
We need to make sure that we use taxpayers’ dollars efficiently and effectively. And by using smart infrastructure and having the managed motorways program, we can do just that.
Right around the country, the Federal Government is partnering with state governments to roll out this technology. We’ve done it on the recommendation of Infrastructure Australia, who identified this as an effective way of making a major difference to our roads.
DUNCAN GAY: Look, it’s – joining my federal colleague, it’s a great pleasure to be making this announcement. It’s about commonsense; it’s about taking an intelligent approach to our motorways.
You know, there are several things you can do to fix congestion. One of them is to continue building new and more motorways. The other thing is to look at the motorways that you’ve got and work out how to operate the thing better. And that’s what this is about: using the existing infrastructure and making it work better.
If you put intelligent access to be able to modulate vehicles coming on, keep the congestion at a minimum, allowing the traffic to move as well as it can, that’s what we’re about.
The people that drive on our roads are our customers. We need to keep them informed on what’s happening there, and we need them to get the best value out of it.
So, not every time do we have to put our money into concrete and pay a carbon tax. Every now and again, we can have a sensible solution like this. It’s an initiative that the minister has been talking to me for some time about and every now and again, we do talk and agree, and this is a terrific initiative. We thank them for sharing the cost in putting this together.
QUESTION: In simple terms, can one of you just talk us through exactly how this works [indistinct]?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Smart infrastructure works by identifying and controlling the traffic flow.
You can have ramp control, for example, just like on the Monash Freeway. The way that it works in Melbourne right now is that you have a green, amber, red light system that determines the flow of traffic onto the freeway.
The controlled entry of vehicles onto the motorway ensures that traffic already on the motorway isn’t slowed down.
It’s a practical, commonsense way of using intelligent transport systems and the new technology that’s available to us. We should use that technology to maximise efficiency.
This is very practical and it’s a good outcome for taxpayers. This initial money will make sure the planning is done to identify the future developments and infrastructure changes that need to be made on the M4 – a vital part of Sydney’s road network.
DUNCAN GAY: Look, it not only moderates the vehicles that go in. Those lights will become enforceable. It means that cars can come in at a sensible rate.
But on the motorways themselves, it will close down lanes. Where we need to get emergency vehicles in, it will give real time information on where accidents are and proper alternate routes.
This is about maximising not only the motorways, but the whole infrastructure of the city, and treating our people that drive on our motorways, who are our customers, in a proper manner, so they can make educated decisions and they’re getting real time information.
The different between the current VMS signs that just give you the time between destinations is this will give you information on severity of accidents, how heavy the traffic is and alternate routes, as well as slowing – as the minister said, slowing people down as they approach, so we can keep the traffic moving on the motorways and remove congestion as much as possible.
QUESTION: But does it do it automatically or is this providing information for RMS staff to then make some decisions about what to put on the signs?
DUNCAN GAY: Well, this is an intelligent operation. It will be through a computer system. It also will go back to the traffic management centre at Eveleigh where it will be monitored and decisions will be made there.
We do need a human there every now and again. They’re pre… and they’re pretty important people down there at the TMC.
QUESTION: Can it stop people – can it stop motorists altogether from entering?
DUNCAN GAY: Yes, it can. If, for example, there’s been an accident and traffic is building up, it will stop extra traffic coming on, congesting that motorway, making it hard for emergency vehicles to remove people that are injured or our recovery vehicles removing broken down vehicles.
It then would have that information to be a… allow people to go in different directions.
And, as the Minister said, and I’ve indicated, it has information to close down lanes to allow that access. Things that don’t happen at the moment.
QUESTION: [Inaudible Question]
ANTHONY ALBANESE: There’s no doubt that this will be a major improvement for road safety. In a nutshell, the information that RTA officials currently have will be able to be transported through to the travelling public in motor cars in real time, and that’s an outstanding result. That will make a difference in terms of road safety and a difference in terms of efficiency.
We all know our world has been transformed. Technology is changing every aspect of our lives and this new technology has an ability to improve efficiency, create better value for taxpayers and, at the same time, improve safety outcomes.
DUNCAN GAY: And in the past the only way we’ve been able to overcome congestion and improve our motorways has been through building new motorways. Minister Albanese and I believe that this is a fantastic adjunct, to be able to improve our current motorways without necessarily building extra.
QUESTION: So do you need more overhead message signs or just use the existing ones?
DUNCAN GAY: A little bit of both. We’ll be able to use some of the existing VMS but certainly we would need a lot more but that’s all part of the planning that this money is being put aside for.
QUESTION: What’s the time frame on doing all this?
DUNCAN GAY: Two years.
QUESTION: The 50-50 in terms of funding, what was the breakdown?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s 50-50, $8.5 million from each level of government which is consistent with what we’ve done with other state governments around the country as part of this managed motorways program.
It’s also conditional upon the support of state governments that we received for the move to national regulators in the transport sector.
Duncan mightn’t be aware but yesterday the Queensland Parliament passed the Heavy Vehicle National Regulator laws. They’ve had a great deal of support from Duncan, as the New South Wales Minister, and Transport Ministers right around the country.
We’re moving from 23 national regulators in transport down to three which will lead to some $30 billion in additional economic activity for the nation over 20 years.
A lot of the cooperative work we’ve been doing through the National Transport Ministers’ Council is focused on how we can get better outcomes through economic reform.
Just yesterday, the Queensland Parliament established through the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator a range of new measures, supported by the Trucking Association, the Logistics Council, the Livestock Transporters’ Association that will make a big difference.
These new measures will make a big difference to NSW in particular because we share so many borders with other states. When you cross the Tweed or cross the Murray you’ll now have a consistent set of rules and regulations.
This is all about good microeconomic reform, good productivity benefits and working in the national interest.
QUESTION: What did you think of the Prime Minister’s performance yesterday, that very long media conference where she addressed the Slater & Gordon issue?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The Prime Minister showed that she’s gutsy and that she’s not afraid of taking up criticisms that have been made. It’s very clear that what you had was a lot of smear and innuendo without any facts being out there.
The Prime Minister made herself available on an unlimited basis to take every single question from the national press gallery. The senior political correspondents in the land had every opportunity and essentially they came up blank. This is an old story. We’re talking about issues that are decades old and the Prime Minister, I thought, gave an outstanding performance yesterday before the national press gallery, as she did in Parliament all week.
QUESTION: The Opposition suggests that she make a statement to Parliament. Is that necessary?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: They’re not really suggesting that any more, are they? We went through Question Time yesterday and we had Question Time every day this week and they failed to ask the Prime Minister questions about this issue.
They’ve had every opportunity. Every opportunity.
QUESTION: Tony Abbott’s saying she still has questions to answer. Do you think she’ll be able to put it behind her now?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: That says more about Tony Abbott than it says about our Prime Minister. Tony Abbott’s performance this week on the 7.30 Report was an absolute shocker. He went on there and sprouted a whole lot of lines without even being able to say that he’d bothered to read the release from BHP Billiton about the Olympic Dam issue. I think this is extremely embarrassing.
His colleagues were coming up to me yesterday and saying that they were embarrassed by his performance. The last time I think he went on the 7.30 Report he got into a spot of bother over the Ashby issues. The time before that he said you couldn’t believe anything that he said unless it was scripted and in writing.
I think the real question is when will Tony Abbott agree to go on the 7.30 Report again? Will he appear at all this year? He ducks from 7.30, he ducks from Lateline, he ducks from Insiders, he ducks from Meet the Press, he ducks from the long, hard, political interviews.
It’s not surprising why because every time he does an interview, what we see is that we don’t have a leader of the Opposition, we have essentially a bloke who’s a robocaller.
No matter what the question he comes out with the same taped answer. You may as well sit there with a tape deck and just press the button: answer one, answer two, answer three, like a robocall, because that is what he’s reduced to.
I think Australians increasingly know that they should expect better from the alternative leader of the nation. Compare one of his interviews with the Prime Minister’s performance yesterday, I think it speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Do you think there is ever a need for the Prime Minister to answer another question about Slater & Gordon?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, you know, she probably should be answering questions about what happened at Unley High School’s tea party as well.
You know, this is just absurd. This is decades old and Tony Abbott had a chance to ask questions, but he didn’t ask them and when Leigh Sales on 7.30 asked what questions have to be answered, he had nothing. So there are no more questions.
QUESTION: How confident are you that this is the end of the issue and she can push on?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I reckon the feedback I had from the gallery yesterday was pretty clear. She stood up, didn’t put a time limit on it, 50 minutes of questions.
Tony Abbott can’t go 50 seconds with a serious political interview.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.