Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 15 October 1973
Page: 2094

Mr INNES (Melbourne) - I rise to speak to the motion that the House take note of the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Road Safety. Having been associated over the last few months with this very fine Committee I would have been most disappointed tonight not to hear the Carpricorn Highway mentioned; so I am indebted to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) for referring to it. I join with the previous speakers in this debate in saying that I hope this preliminary report of the Committee will play a substantial part in leading to the production of a com prehensive document which will lead to an alleviation of the road horror and the number of tragedies that we see from day to day as a result of road accidents.

It has been my pleasure to participate in the work of this Committee, which is dealing with one of the most important matters within the responsibility of this Parliament. The co-operation of everybody who has served on this Committee points to the advantage of all-party committees endeavouring to reach a consensus, in this instance, on the basis of which methods can be found to eliminate as far as possible the incidence of road accidents. I think that the people who have worked in concert with this Committee - in particular the Secretary, Mr Beggs, and other staff associated with the Committee - are to be commended on the way in which they have carried out their duties. I publicly acknowledge the work they have done on this very important task.

The interim report contains 3 preliminary recommendations. They include the setting up of a national authority on road safety and standards, the collection of statistical information to assist in a narrowing of the major areas of the problem and the need to develop a conscious desire to achieve a high degree of road safety by education including educational programs to influence children, drivers, pedestrians, passengers, cyclists, manuf acturers and the general community. A great deal of work already has been done. It has been carried out by a number of organisations which certainly have applied themselves in the areas in which they have been involved. But I believe that much of this effort has been wasted because, although the objectives of these organisations may be commendable, a number of bodies appear to bc pulling in all sorts of directions and because of this lack of co-ordination the results have suffered accordingly. For instance, I mention one aspect of the evidence that was put before the Committee. Evidence was taken from all sorts of people from all walks of life. They included people from the medical profession, manufacturers and road safety organisations. Evidence was also given by town planners and other people who are looking to conservation and areas that might be preserved around roads but not ignoring the effect their proposals would have on road safety.

I understand that for some 14 years we have been trying to get a co-ordinated, uniform method of putting statistics together so we would have the simple operation - I think it is a simple operation but there may be more complexities than I envisage - of people going to an accident on the road and simply writing down the statistics that are necessary to be compiled for the benefit of a uniform operation by those people who look at statistics, see how they can be analysed and see how they can advise various people who have an effect on road safety and who can be a party to the elimination or reduction of the road toll. After 14 years we have the deplorable situation that we cannot even get from each of the States a document compiled on uniform lines. We have 6 different States and 6 different documents. 'It seems to me unbelievable that that should be the state of affairs, but the evidence is that it is the state of affairs. Australia is not so large that we should not be able to produce one document showing the make of car involved, how the accident happened and the other statistics that are necessary to conform with a uniform project. But that is not the case. I could show honourable members 5 different documents from 5 different States. So it seems to me that there is a necessity to get down to the matter of co-ordination and organisation.

We have had a lot of reaction to the report. Since it has been produced numerous people from all walks of life have contacted me saying: 'It is a commendable proposition. We think that some of the recommendations must surely be supported by the Parliament. We think that surely the police departments in each of the States - the experts - can direct their attention to producing the wherewithal to reduce the road toll'. However some other people, for political or other reasons, have made some stupid observations about the recommendations and what I believe was a comprehensive report brought down by the committee. That is unfortunate, because we have heard the honourable member for Kennedy, the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) and others who have served on this Committee say that politics was set aside, because human life surely is above that when you are looking at such a serious proposition.

Therefore we should be looking at the matter of road safety in a vastly different way from the way in which we see some people within the various States looking at it. Instead of the Chief Secretary in Victoria, Mr

Rossiter, making some inane comments about the report, I would have expected the Victorian Government to make every endeavour to develop co-operation with the Commonwealth and the other States to institute a road safety code designed to reduce significantly the shocking road toll. It will not be just over the dead body of Mr Rossiter that we will achieve co-operation. If we do not achieve the utmost of understanding and liaison it will be over the dead bodies of a number of road users that people like the Chief Secretary will satisfy their ego. I think it is far more important to consider this than it is to listen to Mr Rossiter rave on about all these things.

One would think from the observations of Mr Rossiter that we were well equipped to deal with road safety, but let me tell the House that we are not. Statistics are not available to local organisations or panels set up to deal with this very serious matter. If they want statistics they have to go to the Commonwealth Statistician or perhaps make investigations through Mr Beggs or someone else to find out what information is available. If we intend to examine this question in a responsible way we should be looking to the next Commonwealth conference to see what will be made available to the States for national roads. The Country Roads Board in Victoria receives in the vicinity of 60 per cent of the return to the State from the tax on petrol. This is spent on roads within Victoria. Far more money is spent on the country highways than on roads in the metropolitan area where the standard of road is left to the whim or will of the municipality which does not come to grips with the major factor in road safety - the standard of the roads and the way in which they are maintained. It seems to me that a great deal of attention should be paid to roads generally in Victoria by the people concerned.

I do not desire to take up a great deal of the time of the Parliament but I would like to mention the areas into which the Committee will move. It will be looking at conservation. It will certainly be looking at the institutional frame work, the proliferation of authorities and the constitutional power which has been mentioned. There should be no constitutional barrier to setting up a central authority which could deal with road safety exclusively. No impediment should be placed in the way of any section of the community to prevent it from doing the sorts of things we would want it to do. The Committee will be looking at aspects of traffic engineering for road design, town planning, land usage, exposure to accidents and priority roads.

I refer again to Victoria. When it comes to the introduction of signs on priority roads Mr Rossiter should take another look at these things. The signs have been up and down like a yo-yo. Perhaps not enough thought was put into looking after the interests of people using the roads. A mad dash was made. The municipalities were given the authority to put up the signs. They did not know what was meant by priority roads. The signs were put up, and the next day they were ordered to be taken down. It was Mr Rossiter who indicated that it would be over his dead body that there would be co-operation with the Commonwealth authority with the expertise to deal with this matter in a proper and intelligent way. So it seems to me that, within the frame work of the environment we should apply ourselves in a very real sense to town planning. To deal with this concept we will have to have people who can not only look after the environment in a way to be admired but who can also apply themselves to seeing what trees along the sides of the roads may be hazards and will have to be removed. They will have to decide how to overcome what is referred to as the hardware along the freeways. One cannot be hard and fast about the principle of freeways running around cities or through them.

Human life is another factor to be looked at. It may well be a great thing to be able to enable an additional 1,000 cars to pour in and out of Melbourne each day. In terms of costs, it may well be that goods travelling between Sydney and Melbourne and beyond should not be impeded but the value of human life, to which the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) referred, considered. I am pleased to note that every member of the Select Committee on Road Safety has set other considerations aside and has intelligently, in my view, considered the evidence that so far has been put before them. What is done from now on is in the hands of the Committee. There was a unanimous decision that the Committee should look at those fields to which I have made brief reference. Vehicle design, manufacturer cooperation and all the information that the Committee has had to this point of time from departments and other people must be taken into account. I commend the Committee's recommendations to the House, which, at some future time, will have to face up to what is a commendable proposition from the Committee. The Committee certainly will be presenting further reports after - having examined people who, I am sure, are dedicated to the aspiration of all members of the Committee, its Chairman and its staff, namely to save as many human lives as possible. I commend the report and hope that Committee recommendations which come before the House will be supported by all honourable members whether from the Opposition or the Government benches.

Suggest corrections