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March 25, 2014

Every Gippslander has been touched by the road toll.

Last year, 1200 people died on Australian roads and although the Victorian toll has steadily declined, a disproportionate number of deaths and injuries are still occurring on regional roads.

It’s estimated that road trauma costs our nation $27 billion per year, in addition to the enormous social impacts on our community.

It’s why we must never become accepting of the toll and continue to explore new initiatives to reduce the frequency and the severity of road accidents.

This week I have joined forces with a Labor Senator Alex Gallacher to obtain support from both sides of Parliament to form the new Parliamentary Friends of Road Safety Committee.

Our aim is to elevate the issue of road safety to a new level within the Commonwealth and help provide national leadership on road trauma.

One of my key concerns is the disproportionate number of rural and regional road users who continue to die or are seriously injured on regional highways and rural road networks. It remains an enormous challenge for our community and all levels of government.

While I acknowledge that increased enforcement activities and improved driver behaviour are important, we must invest more funds on building and maintaining a safer road network.

The research that underpins the National Road Safety Strategy found that 50 percent of the anticipated reduction in road fatalities would come from building safer roads.  That is consistent with the earlier work by the Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) which argued that building safer roads had the capacity to save more lives than the combined impacts of improved driver behaviour and increased law enforcement.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that he intends to lead an “infrastructure government”. We will support many new road projects in our cities and regional areas, as well as the construction of the inland rail that will limit the need for more heavy vehicles carrying freight across our nation.

I have already had the Deputy Prime Minister visit Gippsland on several occasions and he has taken a personal interest in Gippsland’s roads.

He has travelled the length of the Princes Highway through Gippsland and recognises the opportunities for road safety upgrades along our most important stretch of road.

He has supported the latest stages of the highway duplication project between Traralgon and Sale and also provided funding for new overtaking lanes east of Nowa Nowa but there is a lot more work to be done.

The successful Roads to Recovery program will continue to receive funding along with a Bridges Renewal initiative and blackspots in regional areas.

I am very keen to work across the party divide with the Parliamentary Friends of Road Safety in this coming term of Parliament to deliver bipartisan support for projects to reduce road trauma in Gippsland, and across Australia.


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