Subjects; Road safety
SCOTT WALES: Anthony Albanese, good evening.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good evening, good to talk to you.
WALES: You say the Government has got to take some measures to address this; these numbers are really worrying. What is it you want them to do?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is that from the 1970s through to recent years, there’s been a steady decline in fatalities, year after year, because of a range of measures. The changes in rules, the introduction of new technology, particularly seatbelts which revolutionised road safety; but also changes in driver behaviour, the greater consciousness about issues such as drinking and then driving.
What we’ve seen over the last few years is an increase year on year. So what I’m calling for is the Transport and Infrastructure Ministerial Council to be convened by the Federal Minister who has recently got the job, Barnaby Joyce, to sit down with state and territory transport ministers and work through what measures, be they new technology, new rules, measures that might change the behaviour of drivers. To get that back on track so that we have, instead of an increase, return to what we saw year after year, which is a decrease in the number of fatalities on our roads.
WALES: Do you think that technology in terms of people using their phones while driving is obviously a factor, and a lot of people don’t seem to get that message? Should there be perhaps tougher new rules around using mobile phones and the like while driving?
ALBANESE: There’s no doubt that that’s a factor. But one of the things that such a measure, an urgent ministerial meeting, would do is to do what we’re doing right now, which is to have greater discussion of these issues so people begin to get the message that they can’t drive whilst using their mobile phones, while using these new technologies, that no doubt are a factor in a number of accidents on our roads.
WALES: Do you think that simply increasing fines or the punishments that state governments can hand down would make a difference?
ALBANESE: The point is to listen to the experts, listen to the police, listen to those people who deal with the tragedies on our roads. Take proper advice and listen also to the motoring organisations around Australia; the AAA bodies, be they the NRMA in New South Wales, or RACV in Victoria, the various state bodies that represent motorist organisations about ways that they think we could improve the situation.
This is nearing the end of what was to be the decade of road safety, where along with the rest of the world, globally, we were moving towards a decline in the per capita number of fatalities on our roads. What we’re seeing is some real issues, particularly at a time of the festive period, whereby for those families affected by tragedies, every year they will be reminded of what’s occurred over the recent weeks.
One death is one too many. But we need to do what we can to minimise these fatalities. Certainly investment, as well, by government; there’s no doubt that dual carriageways on the Hume Highway, the rollout of dual carriageways on the Pacific and the Bruce have provided some assistance. We need to have a national discussion about how we get more freight and trucks off our roads and onto rail.
We need to have a re-commitment of a comprehensive plan to deal with this issue and it needs to be done in a non-partisan way. I’m not suggesting this is a party political issue, far from it, and I’d hope that any such forum convened by the Federal Minister, that he would involve the Federal Opposition and as broad a spectrum of the representative bodies as possible.
WALES: All right, let’s see what sort of traction that gets in the New Year. Anthony Albanese, thank you for your time.
ALBANESE: Good to be with you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.