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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5101


Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (21:30): Tonight I would like to pay tribute to a beautiful and intelligent young woman who was taken too soon and unnecessarily: 23-year-old Sarah Frazer was finally about to fulfil her dream. She was on her way to study photography at university in Wagga Wagga. She wrote to her aunt on her Facebook page:

My car is pretty much all packed up except for my bed linen and a few loose ends.

Her car was packed. Sarah was on her way , on a new adventure that should have seen this beautiful and adventurous young woman achieve her dreams.

She left her home in Springwood in the Blue Mountains on 15 February. The world was her oyster. But her dependable car, loaded with all her possessions , failed Sarah when she needed it most, breaking down along the way. With no other option, Sarah pulled to the side of the road. She was on the Hume Highway just two kilometres south of Mittagong. The shoulder a long this stretch of road was not very wide, but she pulled over as close to the guardrail as possible. Despite parking against the safety guardrail , Sarah's car remained stranded out in a 110-kilometre per hour lane, leaving her directly in harm's way. Passing cars and trucks that were travelling at high speeds had to swerve to get around her. Sarah knew it was not safe, but her car had stopped working. It was loaded with everything she owned. What was Sarah to do?

Sarah called roadside assistance for help. Because she was in an unsafe location they advised that they would need to send a tow truck to move Sarah and her car to a safer location. She waited for close to an hour and half as trucks and cars came up behind her at high speeds and swe rved around her. Eventually a t o w truck and well-regarded Southern Highlands local , Geoff Clark, rushed to Sarah's aid. Sarah and Geoff prepared the car for towing. It was not safe, but Geoff was committed to helping Sarah move her car from that dangerous location. It is believed that the truck driver may simply have seen the two vehicles too late, but Sarah and Geoff died instantly.

The deaths of these two innocent and treasured people is a tragedy that could have been avoided if the breakdown shoulder had been wide enough to allow Sarah's car to be completely out of the high-speed lane.

I have had the honour of meet ing with Sarah's parents, Peter and Judy Frazer. These two people, who lost their precious daughter so soon and suddenly, have made a commitment to make the roads in New South Wales safer for everyone. This tragedy and the loss of their beautiful daughter have inspired them to take action and to submit a petition to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly requesting that roads across New South Wales be audited.

The petition requests that the New South Wales Legislative Assembly introduce legislation requiring that all major roads, highways and freeways have breakdown lanes and road shoulders that meet the Austroad s standard of 2.5 metres. In this way , the life-and- death risks faced by drivers, passengers , first- call services and emergency services will be mitigated. The petition also requests that the New South Wales Legislative Assembly enact ' slow down move over ' legislation requiring drivers who see flashing hazard lights on a roadside vehicle to slow down to half the posted speed limit and move into an adjacent lane , away from the vehicle displaying the flashing hazard lights. This will minimise the risk of injury and death for drivers, passengers and the first-call service and emergency service personnel who are providing assistance and protection to the driver and to their passengers.

Sarah's parents are neither unreasonable nor bitter. In the words of her father, in a letter written to my office, Peter states, 'It would seem commonsense to expect that federally-funded roads should require shoulders wide enough for a vehicle to break down and be out of harm's way.' Last week the New South Wales Liberal government promised improved highway safety, accepting the petition for wider breakdown lanes. The petition, which I am proud to say I signed, had 23,000 signatures—1,000 for every year of Sarah's life.

The New South Wales Minister for Roads and Ports, the Hon. Duncan Gay, has publicly agreed to have Roads and Maritime Services undertake an audit of major roads, highways and freeways to ascertain which sections do not meet the Austroads specifications.

I call upon the federal government to review the federal guidelines when providing funding for roads infrastructure, so that this tragedy will bring about real change with regard to how roads are built. We need to work towards ensuring that the federal government provides funding for road infrastructure only in circumstances where all roads and highways meet the Austroads standards. A fundamental expectation of the Australian community is that our highways will provide safe passage for our families. I believe it is our duty, one way or another, to ensure that our roads are safe.

Tonight I wish to honour Sarah's parents, Peter and Judy Frazer, for their commitment, for their passion, for their love for their daughter and for their bravery.