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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2662

Ms KING (BallaratParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing) (17:17): I rise to support the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011 and the Road Safety Remuneration (Consequential Amendments and Related Provisions) Bill 2011. I do so as the parliamentary secretary who has responsibility for the Gillard government's road safety initiatives.

Every year, some 1,300 Australians are dying on our roads. Every year, some 30,000 people are hospitalised as a result of road trauma. And, whilst we are seeing a reduction in the number of fatalities on our roads, we are actually seeing an increase in the number of those who are seriously injured. We have the balance right in terms of getting the road toll down, but we are certainly seeing a large increase in serious injuries. Every day, around 90 Australians have their lives drastically changed by a serious injury sustained in a crash. I have repeated these figures many, many times.

The statistics for heavy vehicles are no more comforting. During the last 12 months, there were over 200 deaths across Australia involving trucks; almost 50 deaths involving trucks in my home state of Victoria. Heavy vehicles make up around three per cent of the total vehicle fleet, yet they are involved in almost 20 per cent of all road fatalities. Members in this House should understand that heavy vehicles are over-represented in crashes on our roads, something that those opposite should think long and hard about when they are voting on these bills. I also acknowledge the fact that many of these truck crashes do not just involve the truck driver but result in other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists being killed.

These statistics paint a very grim picture, one that the Gillard government is continuing to address. Although the latest road death statistics show that the numbers are continuing to fall, the Australian government is continuing to look at new ways to get the number of these fatalities down. I have no doubt that the majority of members and senators have been affected by the impacts of road trauma. Road trauma takes a very heavy toll on every state and territory, every city and every rural town across every corner of this country.

The Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011 being debated today highlights the Australian government's ongoing commitment to tackling road safety. With this bill we seek to remove incentives for drivers to drive unsafely. This new road safety remuneration system aims to remove those financial incentives that see truck drivers driving while tired or speeding in order not to lose money. Excessive speed is a major contributing factor in around 15 per cent of truck crashes, and fatigue is a major contributing factor in 14 per cent of truck crashes, and that cannot be ignored. Speed and fatigue take a huge toll on our roads.

Without action and with a growing road transport industry, the number of road crashes involving trucks will continue to rise. Over the last decade, the number of kilometres travelled by commercial heavy vehicles increased by more than 20 per cent. There are more truck drivers on the road, driving longer hours and longer distances with even tighter deadlines.

This bill establishes a new Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which aims to promote safety and fairness across our road system. With this bill we will see a system where truck drivers are paid more fairly and where truck drivers are not encouraged to speed or drive when tired to simply cover their costs. This tribunal is set to take a good look at the practices that exist within our road transport system and, where necessary, determine minimum pay rates and conditions for drivers. The tribunal will consist of experts across the road transport industry, along with members of Fair Work Australia.

If this tribunal finds that there are specific issues within the industry, it will make a determination to tackle these issues. These determinations will be known as road safety remuneration orders and will complement existing workplace rights.

Of significant importance is the fact that the bill allows for the tribunal to resolve disputes between drivers and their hirers or employers, along with others involved in the supply chain. This will be done through mediation, conciliation or private arbitration.

This tribunal will be looking for issues giving rise to incentives for unsafe road transport practices. The tribunal is also equipped to make safe remuneration approvals in relation to remuneration and related conditions in a road transport collective agreement. We have extended enforcement powers to the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure that road safety remuneration orders, safe remuneration approvals and other determinations made by the tribunal are met.

The establishment of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal complements the hard work of my parliamentary colleague Minister Albanese over recent years with the establishment of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, which will become operational on 1 January next year.

The bill is one of a number of ways in which the Australian government is acting to address road trauma. Last May, other transport ministers endorsed the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020. The strategy aims to cut the road toll by at least 30 per cent by 2020. It is not just the Australian government's plan to reduce road trauma but the plan of every jurisdiction across the country. The Australian government believes death and serious injury should not be accepted as an inevitable cost of road travel. This strategy is based on the Safe System approach—safe roads, safe speeds, safe vehicles and safe people. The Australian government has already tackled some of the actions outlined in the strategy. Last year I announced a new Australian government fleet purchasing policy which mandates that all light passenger vehicles purchased by the Australian government must have a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 1 July 2011. Having safer vehicles on our roads is a vital first step.

The National Road Safety Strategy looks at a broad range of steps to reduce our road toll. Many of these steps seek to reduce the number of road crashes involving heavy vehicles and complement the measures in this bill. Some of those steps include the implementation of antilock braking systems and load proportioning brake systems for heavy vehicles; considering increasing heavy vehicle cabin strength; electronic stability control and lane departure warning systems for heavy vehicles; increasing the effective application of chain of responsibility legislation to prosecute heavy vehicle speeding offences; and harmonising legislation to assist cross-border enforcement.

Governments are also looking to improve driver licensing arrangements for heavy vehicle drivers, including options for the adoption of competency based standards. Governments have agreed to look at other measures to improve fatigue management in the future such as the development of telematics as a regulatory tool for heavy vehicle speeding and electronic work diaries instead of paper based diaries for truck drivers.

Other initiatives already acted upon by this government include the investment of more money in road infrastructure than under any other government in our history. We have doubled the roads budget to a record $28 billion over six years—the greatest investment in the nation's highways and roads since the creation of the national highway network. This has included building more truck stops and rest areas. Under the Gillard Labor government's $70 million Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program we have already seen the delivery of 34 new and 59 refurbished rest stops; nine new and 18 refurbished parking areas; five new and 16 refurbished decoupling bays; 15 bridge strengthening projects, and 14 warning sign projects. This is the first ever federal program dedicated to rectifying the unacceptable lack of safe, modern roadside facilities along the nation's highways.

In our time in office we have also seen more funding for black spots and more funding for Roads to Recovery—fixing many country roads that more and more trucks are travelling on. And there is more money in national highway investment like the duplication of the Western Highway from Ballarat to Stawell, which is notorious for heavy vehicle trauma. All of these things demonstrate the government's commitment to road safety.

The Australian government is also contributing to international efforts on road safety. Last year in Parliament House, I and my parliamentary colleague the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs officially launched the Decade of Action for Road Safety. With this launch we announced that the government will provide $6.2 million to the World Bank's Global Road Safety Facility to improve road safety across the world. The Australian government was one of the co-sponsors of the resolution proclaiming the Decade of Action for Road Safety by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010. We will continue working with our international counterparts to address road safety issues over the coming decade.

This bill is yet another step in the Australian government's determination to bring down the toll on our nation's roads. It is unacceptable that, while only three per cent of our nation's vehicle fleet are heavy vehicles, heavy vehicles are involved in 20 per cent of road deaths. It is unacceptable that over 200 deaths each year are the result of crashes involving heavy vehicles—with speed or fatigue being a major factor in a large proportion of these.

The government are putting measures in place to deal with these issues. We have agreed to a new National Road Safety Strategy, we are a co-sponsor of and contributor to the Decade of Action for Road Safety, and we have taken the lead in the establishment of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. And now, with this bill, we are establishing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. Members have a decision with this bill—to either support the implementation of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to improve the level of safety in our road system or do nothing. The Gillard government are acting on this issue because we must.

I thank my parliamentary colleagues who have put so much work into this bill and into the work behind it over previous years. I also recognise the many road user groups, unions and industry leaders who have taken the time to work through this reform with government. Members on this side are supporting this bill and the related bill because we know that we must act to improve safety on our roads. I appeal to those opposite to do the same. I appeal in particular to those National Party members in this House—the members for the electorates of Riverina, Parkes, Gippsland, Dawson, Cowper and Wide Bay. The number of fatalities involving heavy vehicles is greatest in your electorates. More people die in crashes involving heavy vehicles in your electorates than any others. Your leader has said that if he could pass a law that could deliver safer roads then he would do it. That is exactly what these bills do and they should be supported. I commend the bills to the House.