Subjects; Road safety
ROSS GREENWOOD: The Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the former Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese has called for an inquiry. I said we don’t need an inquiry, what we need is ideas and try and get those ideas implemented as quickly as possible. I said we would give him a list of things and he is on the line right now. Many thanks for your time Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to talk to you Ross.
GREENWOOD: This is an important issue; there is no doubt. So we put it out there to people today and we’ve heard from district court judges, we’ve heard from road safety campaigners, we’ve heard from police officers, we’ve heard from the community and it seems as though broadly there’s a number of things that could be done to try and improve the roads and the rules, national.
Say for example, licensing to make certain people understand the way it goes. Tougher penalties for those people who perennially disobey the rules and understanding that there are no accidents, there are only crashes on the roads. Just tell me, why is it that we need more talk-fests, more conversation about this from a political angle, as distinct from the action to just simply change the laws and make certain that fewer people are killed on our roads?
ALBANESE: Well we are talking about the same thing here, Ross. Of course what you’ve said, your listeners have done and those experts, is precisely what I’m calling for. There are three things that can impact on the road toll. One, of course, is new technology and the big jump was when we introduced compulsory seatbelts. The second is rules and the third is driver behaviour.
We need to tap into the best minds to explain why it is that after decades of decline, every single year, from 1970 through to 2014-15, we had a decline in the number of fatalities on our roads and extensive declines when you look at it per capita. There’s obviously more people on the roads now than there were in 1970.
GREENWOOD: I’ve made the observation that it works out, and I’ve done the calculation today, every year we’re seeing around 400,000 new vehicles registered on our roads, which goes with our rise in population. For example over the past three years it’s around 1.2 million extra vehicles on our roads. So you could argue on a per capita basis we’re still doing incredibly well when it comes to fatalities. But, as you point out it’s rising and with the improvement in the vehicles, with the improvement hopefully in the road systems it should be doing better again.
ALBANESE: Absolutely and every year it was declining. Year after year, state by state, we saw significant improvements in actual numbers as well as per capita numbers.
GREENWOOD: OK, there’s a problem that we’ve actually identified today –state by state. Say for example a person loses their license in one state, should there not be a national register to make certain that person can never get a license in another state while they are disqualified from driving?
ALBANESE: Well I think there should be national licenses. We live in a mobile society now and the idea that people can shop around, this is something we dealt with when I was the Minister with heavy vehicles. It takes the states to move on this and that’s why what we need is an urgent special meeting of the Australian Transport Council, all of the transport ministers around the country convened by Barnaby Joyce to sit down and say look, we actually have a crisis here. We have too many families who will remember Christmas forever because of the tragedies that have happened on the roads in recent days and weeks.
GREENWOOD: OK, what about another one for example, another idea to throw out there. I mean some people say, what about the blood alcohol limit, that’s obviously a fundamental problem, why not simply make it zero drugs, zero blood alcohol limit for all drivers? Now I know that might be impractical if someone has taken some cough medicine or something else like that. One person is on a prescription medication for example. But you’ve had accidents even in recent times, terrible accidents, where it appears the person may have even been under the influence of prescribed medication. Now that clearly makes it difficult from an administrative point of view as well. But to take away even the suggestion, if a person goes to a pub, if a person is at a party, don’t have a drink. Because if you have a single drink, don’t get in your car. I mean that should almost be a pretty simple thing for people to work out.
ALBANESE: The difficulty there of course might be one of practical consequences if someone has been drinking, had a couple of beers the night before, if the next morning then they don’t have a zero reading as well. There might be some issues, which is why you need the experts and the experts who are responsible for this are in the state jurisdictions but the Commonwealth has a leadership role here.
There is a national decade for road safety, between 2011 and 2020. There were clear targets established for further reductions in the road toll over this decade and we are not going to meet those targets, which is why those responsible, the transport ministers, and certainly I would obviously be keen to participate as well. These issues shouldn’t be party political, or partisan, this is about saving lives on our roads and it should be the case that we can work across the jurisdictions and across politics to get good outcomes.
GREENWOOD: Can I just say, Anthony Albanese, great to have your time and company on the program. The Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, former Deputy Prime Minister. The one important thing Anthony said there is that saving lives is not party political, it is not partisan, it is simply the right thing for politicians to do for the community, state and federal and it needs to happen and happen pretty quickly as well. Anthony, we appreciate your time.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.