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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2193

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (21:50): I rise to make a contribution in tonight's adjournment debate on a matter of critical importance to the Senate and also to the whole of Australia. As co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Road Safety, I need to invite all senators to sign the pledge hosted by Fatality Free Friday and partners on Wednesday, 28 March 2018, at 12.30 through to 2.30 pm in room 2S1. The special guests will be Craig Lowndes, the Australian Road Safety Foundation and Caltex road safety ambassador. He will be there. Signing the pledge will only take a few minutes. The pledge consists of some simple proactive advice:

Join forces to beat road trauma and take the pledge for Fatality Free Friday by promising to:

Always be fit to drive

Stay focused on the road

Scan the road ahead

Keep a safe distance

Drive to suit the conditions

Get along on Wednesday, get a photo, hopefully, with the ambassador, Craig Lowndes, share it on your Facebook page, share it on any social media that you can and put the pledge in as many arenas as possible so that we can be on a proactive footing as we approach what is essentially one of the most dangerous times of the year for Australian drivers.

If we go back to 2011, 16 Australians lost their lives over the Easter break. In 2012, 11 Australians lost their lives over the Easter break. In 2013, 21 Australians lost their lives over the Easter break. In 2014, 12 Australians lost their lives over the Easter break. In 2015, 22 Australians lost their lives over the Easter break. In 2016, eight Australians lost their lives over the Easter break. In 2017, 11 Australians lost their lives over the Easter break. A total of 101 Australians have lost their lives over the four-day Easter break. If we do the cumulative sums of those Australians who have lost their lives through motor vehicle accidents in that six-year period, it is 8,638. In six years, 8,638 Australians have lost their lives due to motor vehicle accidents. There many countless thousands more who have had their lives disrupted and who have had catastrophic and serious injuries, and there are literally thousands of emergency services workers who have had to deal with that trauma.

And yet we in this parliament do not have a minister, parliamentary secretary or assistant minister for road safety. We do not have that. Each year we are losing 1,200 to 1,300 Australians on the roads. That's the equivalent each year of three 787s with 300 people crashing, and we don't have any federal coordination on this. It is an absolute travesty that we don't even spend all of the money we allocate for black spots. The money doesn't actually get where it's supposed to go as efficiently and as fast as it should, even though the science is there. There's a 30 per cent reduction in death and injury for a treatment worth $170,000. It just doesn't get spent. There's no priority. This is an absolute disgrace.

We can look at the other side of the chamber and say it's all down to the Liberal-National Party coalition, but it's simply not true. The national government of Australia, whichever form it takes, has not prioritised coordination and reduction in this area. We did tremendous things in the 1970s. We did tremendous things for a lot of the decades leading up to these last two decades. But now we're slipping lower and lower down the international rankings. We are not prioritising it from a federal point of view. As I will say in this place repeatedly, we don't make motor vehicles in Australia. What are we protecting? Why are we not mandating autonomous braking technology or lane keep assist in the same way Korea is doing and in the same way the United States is doing?

It is absolutely astounding to me that we can let these figures go without remarkable, urgent action: 8,638 Australians have lost their lives in the period 2011 to 2017. We know that over the next short period, if we look at the stats, anywhere between eight and 22 Australians won't be with us at the end of the Easter weekend. It should be an urgent priority for everybody in this chamber. It should be a priority for the House of Representatives. It is just so obvious and important that, for the life of me, I can't understand why it doesn't have a higher focus in any government's mandate.

It is evidence based. There are many, many thousands of professionals in this space working to give us the solutions. What we know—we've known this for a very long time—is that human beings are frail and they're not meant to travel at speed. If you have an accident at 60 and you stop instantly, the impact is at 120. You're going to be catastrophically injured unless there are mechanisms to avoid that. We know that other people take zero harm very seriously. They take seriously design of road safety and design of roads. They try to eliminate errors, and that's where the technology comes into the motor vehicle. If you do inadvertently fall asleep and you're on a country road, lane keep assist will stop you running off the road or crossing into the path of another vehicle. It may not solve all problems, but, combined with autonomous braking technology, it is proven to reduce the incidence and severity of accidents.

We know that 75 per cent of all accidents take place at quite low speeds for vulnerable users like children, pedestrians and cyclists. Autonomous braking technology will come in when people are not paying the full attention that they need to on the road. They are human beings; they'll make mistakes. We should accept that they make mistakes and mitigate those mistakes by putting in technology that will cut in when they're not paying full attention. You will save a vulnerable cyclist, you will save a vulnerable pedestrian and you will save a vulnerable child if they come out in front of a vehicle.

This is not rocket science, but the awful reality is that we've had a period of some six years that we've listed here in which 8,638 Australians have lost their lives, and we can't see a road safety policy that's been enacted in this place. Despite the best endeavours of many groups in the community, in the industry and in various states and territories, we can't see a coherent, cohesive plan by the federal government to put in place practical measures which will reduce this.

I go back to my starting point: Fatality Free Friday. The slogan is 'The key to road safety is in your hands'. We want people to come along and share the message on their Facebook to get it to many thousands of people out there and hopefully influence behaviour, particularly over this Easter period and also on the actual day of Fatality Free Friday, which is 25 May 2018. Obviously we need to launch this now because we will be having a break and then we'll have the budget period. On the Wednesday, please come along. Think about it and share it as widely as you possibly can.

There is not an electorate in the country that doesn't have the impact of road deaths and injuries almost every week. It's every area of Australia. Most electorates are about 100,000 people, and the road safety stats are measured as a percentage of 100,000. We know from the figures that I've just quoted you that we're probably going to lose 100 Australians each month, and they're going to be spread right around this great country. We're never going to eliminate all of those deaths and injuries, but if we get this to front of mind, front of policy and front of action for any government in this place, then we will go a long way towards reducing it. It is our fellow Australians, the emergency service people, who have to pick up these pieces. We know that the police forces cannot regulate it. We know that the doctors can't fix everybody. Political will and political effort in this place will go a long way to reducing this tragedy.