Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
Black Spot Program
Each year far too many Australians die on our roads. These Australians are just going about their lives, whether going to work or coming home to be with their families. In the 12 months that ended June 2023, 1,205 people died on Australian roads. That is an unacceptably high number and highlights the critical need for action to improve road safety across this country. Such an effort requires cooperation at the federal, state and local levels.
As the elected representative for the largest electorate in Australia, it would come as no surprise to those in the chamber that I am too often confronted with harrowing stories within my own electorate of Durack. This year alone, in Western Australia, we have seen 105 road fatalities. This matches the 105 road fatalities that occurred last year up to the same date. Fifty-four of the 105 road fatalities have occurred in regional Western Australia.
The Black Spot Road Safety Program is a longstanding program aimed at combating the risk of serious accidents. The program has been delivered continuously since the first year of the Howard government and delivers an ongoing commitment of approximately $110 million per annum. The program invests in projects that reduce the risk of accidents occurring, like constructing roundabouts at dangerous intersections or adding overtaking lanes in problem areas. By targeting these locations where crashes are occurring or are at risk of occurring, the program saves the community many times the cost of relatively minor road improvements. The results of this program are unquantifiable, but it has no doubt saved so many families from unnecessary heartache and pain.
Despite the success of the program, I am concerned that the current structure of its guidelines is not best suited to addressing the growing problem of road safety in regional WA, and it really does need some attention. Currently, nominations for blackspot locations are invited year round, but I believe there is too much reliance on local governments to make applications. It is noteworthy that locally controlled roads account for approximately 77 per cent of total road length in Australia, yet local governments only collect around 3.5 per cent of the total tax revenue raised by Australian governments. Fifty-two per cent of all road casualties and 40 per cent of all road deaths occur on locally controlled roads.
In my electorate, there are over 40 local government authorities. Some of these LGAs have only a few hundred people living within them; therefore, they simply do not have the rate base to support resources to develop detailed blackspot applications. Given that many road deaths occur in regional parts of the country, whereby local governments may not have the resources to make an application under the current system, I would ask the government to consider adjusting the guidelines in order to make it easier for such applications to be made.
Another area of concern I have with the current Black Spot Program is that the money being allocated to improve road safety is so far underspent. This year we've only seen the data released for Victoria and South Australia, but unfortunately we are seeing a pattern emerging. In Victoria, there was an underspend of $5.5 million, and in South Australia there was an underspend of $2.9 million—totally unacceptable. Now, we know the situation has not improved, as we are well off track to achieve the National Road Safety Strategy target of a 50 per cent reduction in road deaths by 2030. So again I stress that real attention needs to be given as to why the program is being undersubscribed and that consideration needs to be given to those regional areas.
Of course, it's not just the Black Spot Program that is designed to improve road safety. Many infrastructure projects are also at risk now as part of Labor's 90-day infrastructure review, which has now surpassed 130 days. So it appears that the transport minister not only isn't able to tell us how she made the decision to block Qatar Airways but also isn't telling us which important infrastructure projects, especially in my electorate of Durack, which are aimed at improving safety and productivity, are important enough to go ahead. Currently there is $180 million being held up by the current transport minister. So to the minister: get on with it. Make the decisions to make sure our roads are safe.