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Tuesday, 28 September 1993
Page: 1246

Senator SPINDLER —My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Communications. I refer to the black spot road construction program which received funding of $180 million in last year's budget. Is the minister aware that this program is credited with a substantial and cost effective reduction of road deaths by eliminating dangerous road conditions? Why is there no provision for it in this budget, which is almost devoid of public infrastructure investment? If further funding is dependent on yet another review, why was this not done early enough to ensure that there was no break in the program which is providing both a substantial reduction in road accidents and badly needed employment?

Senator COLLINS —I am surprised by the assertion in the second part of Senator Spindler's question that this budget does not provide any significant capital investment for infrastructure. In this budget the federal government has allocated $1.2 billion for roads. As well a further $350 million has been allocated to local authorities for transport infrastructure. This year has also seen the expenditure of $300 million on rail infrastructure, that is, the bulk of the spending of the $450 million—

Senator Spindler —A drop in the bucket!

Senator COLLINS —It might be a drop in the bucket for the Australian Democrats but we on this side of the House actually have to make the sums work. I respectfully point out to Senator Spindler that the $450 million we have put into rail in One Nation, $300 million of which will be spent this year, is one of the biggest single injections into new capital works on railways in living memory.

  The original black spots program was announced on 5 December 1989. It was a comprehensive road safety package which was aimed at reducing the national road toll. It had a planned three year life. It was always intended that the program would expire at the end of June this year. Between 1990 and 1993 an amount of $110 million was allocated to eliminate a range of hazardous accident black spots. Funding to the states and territories was conditional on their accepting a 10 point package of enhanced road safety measures—a reduction in the alcohol limits being one of the more prominent measures. This original allocation was further boosted by an additional $110 million worth of One Nation funds and a further allocation of $60 million in the 1992-93 budget.

  This total of more than $260 million was fully disbursed to the states and territories before the planned completion of the program in June this year. The package has been fully implemented everywhere, except Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where a few aspects await final implementation. Over 3,000 identified black spots have been eliminated during the three year life of the program, which is now being analysed by the Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics. The report on this analysis will be completed later this year. I will make sure that Senator Spindler and indeed all senators get a copy of it.

  The purpose of the black spots program was twofold: firstly, the program was offered as an incentive for the states to agree to national standards on 10 important road safety issues; secondly, the program was designed to demonstrate to state and local authorities the value in directly addressing known accident black spots within their funding programs. The vast majority of these black spots are on local roads or state arterial roads.

  With the new separation of road funding responsibilities arising out of the July 1991 meeting of heads of government, the Commonwealth's responsibility will be restricted to the National Highway and, as Senator Spindler knows, significant additional federal funds are to be distributed as untied grants. In conclusion, I do find it difficult to have sympathy for those states that demand additional road funding when they fail to spend the untied funds they currently receive on roads.