I want to congratulate the member for Barker for moving what I think is a very important motion in the Chamber today. Those of us who live in rural and regional communities understand that a disproportionate number of our people, our constituents, our family and friends are killed or injured on our roads every year. You’ll notice that, in my contribution tonight, I won’t use the words ‘road toll’ because the word ‘toll’ suggests there’s a price we have to pay, or are willing to pay, for road safety. I don’t accept that more than 1,200 Australians have to die on our roads every year.
When you think about this issue and the ripple effect of just one road crash, the impact it has on our communities is quite staggering. Obviously, there is the direct impact on the individuals in the vehicle—or vehicles—involved, whether they’re killed or injured. It has a dramatic effect on them. But, then, the ripple goes out to their family and friends. The ripple goes out even further to the first responders, many of whom suffer PTSD for the rest of their lives from having dealt with motor vehicle accidents. Then it flows onto the health workers in the hospitals and to the long-term recovery that goes on. That’s all from one road crash. I simply don’t accept that that ripple effect—that trauma—is something that we have to accept going into the future. So I do congratulate the member for Barker for his contribution here today, for highlighting one program, the Black Spot Program, which is designed to target those areas with a proven crash history and take action to remediate, to make our roads safer for all.
I’m concerned that governments—and I say ‘governments’ plural—across the board are not doing enough when it comes to reducing road trauma. This is an issue which is costing the Australian economy $30 billion per year and, as I said previously, more than 1,200 lives. There is a responsibility for all levels of government—local, state and federal—to work in partnership on these issues. It’s just too easy, today, to always blame the drivers. We need a safe-system approach to this issue. A safe-system approach is all about safer drivers, safer cars, safer speeds and safer roads—and we don’t talk about the roads enough. Right now, in my state of Victoria, my car has to be roadworthy, but the roads aren’t ‘car worthy’. We have potholes, roads with poor shoulders and a lack of overtaking and rest opportunities for drivers. The roads are simply not car worthy, and it’s a direct result of a lack of investment, over a long period of time, in the road environment.
When we talk about this black spot funding program, it’s important to recognise that it’s just one of many programs which should be directed at improving the safety of the road environment for all road users. The member for Barker was right. Once you allocate a level of funding to a program—I think it’s $110 million for black spots—you actually have to get the money out the door and on the ground, delivering benefits to people in those communities who need it most. I can’t help but think that the level of bureaucracy we’re putting in place makes it hard for local government, with their limited resources, to apply for funding and have the capacity to deliver those road improvements on the ground. So I would suggest to the bureaucrats in charge of these programs: look for ways to simplify these programs and look for ways to get the money that’s been allocated out the door and on the ground, delivering road safety benefits in our communities.
The other point I’d like to make this evening is in relation to the current review which is underway into infrastructure spending in this country. The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government announced a 90-day review more than 120 days ago. In that time, projects that hadn’t started construction have been delayed for another 120 days. There is not a single road project in our country that’s getting cheaper by waiting.
So, while this review is going on, people are at risk of being killed and injured on our roads because we can’t get the money out the door, and this is going to go on for another few months, I fear. I have projects in my electorate which were funded and announced sometimes two or three years ago. But, because you couldn’t get the state government to make their 20 per cent contribution, work hadn’t started before this minister announced her review process. So I call on the minister to hurry up and deliver the outcomes of this review and get the work started with the infrastructure investment pipeline projects that can deliver road safety improvements in our country.
I’ll say it again: we simply can’t accept that 1,200 of our fellow country men and women have to die on our roads every year. The trendline for us in Victoria right now is appalling. We’ve had a 23 per cent increase in road deaths this year in Victoria. It’s simply not good enough, and we have to do everything we possibly can, working in partnership with local government, state government, federal government and road users themselves, to improve the safety of the road environment and reduce the traumatic impacts of these crashes. What they’re doing to our communities on a daily basis is something that demands an even greater response by all levels of government.