Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
Black Spot Program
I'm very happy to rise in support of this motion, and it's a very timely one. It wasn't that long ago I was up at Highfields, in the north of my electorate, opening Road Safety Week. It's a great opportunity to stand beside not just the police but all the emergency service personnel who play such an important role in keeping us safe and looking after us when accidents occur. At every one of these events, I try to tell a personal story; I think we all have personal stories of how road safety impacts us. This year I was talking about a friend of mine, Dean Batchelor, a truck driver and a kid I grew up with—a great concreter, actually; he worked with me for a lot of my youth. He was sadly caught in an accident not that long ago, and he is now on the Lights on the Hill memorial down in Gatton, where those who lost their lives in the trucking industry are remembered.
This is an important motion for us, particularly in regions like mine where the Black Spot Program is such a great program in supporting local road infrastructure improvements and upgrades. Recently, we celebrated two of those projects being completed in our area: the intersection of Bridge and Hume Street had a set of traffic lights put in there, where there had been serious accidents because of visibility issues that have been resolved—there are now dedicated left-hand turning lanes that have made a huge difference; and Perth and Curzon Street, another suburban section of road that the Black Spot Program did a great job of addressing. We've got Margaret and Mackenzie Street being upgraded in the next couple of weeks, another part of our local community where there are significant issues with visibility in suburban streets largely because of the trees on the side of the road and the hilly areas. I was also down at the corner of Canning and Brisbane Street, in Drayton, identifying another area where there is a perfect opportunity for black spot funding to come through; I'm very happy to support that application there.
This program has done so much good for us in our region, and I hope it will continue to do so. To put it into context of why it is such a crucial program—and I think it's even more important now—we're seeing the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program being brought to an end beyond 2026. This has been an absolutely crucial program for funding local roads, bridges, that sort of thing, in regional areas. Unfortunately, to see that wrapped up while the minister is still talking it up and talking about what good it's done leaves a bit of a sad taste in the mouth.
We've also got the Road Safety Program coming to an end in 2025. This is the program that the automotive association of Australia said they were extremely disappointed to see funding redirected away from. This was basically a program that allowed funding for safety upgrades of almost any road, any issue. It was a 'use it or lose it' model. It forced local governments into getting on with the action of making roads safer.
Again, it is sad to see this one being wrapped up, and I would also point out just how difficult it is for councils to deliver these road improvements. We've seen the federal assistance grants reduced. The LGAQ president Linda Scott came out all guns blazing on that one, because this reduction in the funds that the councils have to address roads and infrastructure in their regions is just another slight that is borne within changes in all of these infrastructure funding packages. If you put that beside the 90-day infrastructure review, which is now out to 130 days, we're seeing a halt on the delivery of some if these key projects, and they are so crucial in areas like mine.
My electorate pretty much sits exactly within Toowoomba Regional Council. We have a highly urbanised area throughout inner-city Toowoomba, but as soon as you drive outside of that you've got roads that simply do not have the same funding, because of the lower density populations in those areas. It's incredibly difficult for the council to fund those road upgrades that are so crucial. In those areas it's no longer just about commuters and access around the city; at that point we're talking about how we keep livelihoods going. It's about how we get produce to port. It's absolutely crucial.
We've seen a long history of bipartisanship going back a number of governments when it comes to funding road safety improvements, and I hope we see that continue. I hope to see the Black Spot Program made easier and more accessible for councils, because right now they're finding their funding reduced.