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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4110

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (12:55): I would like to make a contribution in senators' statements about a very important issue which often goes unremarked and unaddressed in this federal arena.

Just to start off, I attended the RAP program—the Road Awareness Program—run by the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service. It was absolutely inspiring to see the work that the firefighters are doing. I know, Mr Acting Deputy President Marshall, that you have some knowledge of the firefighting services and what they contribute around the great country that we live in.

The South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service go out to schools in regional, rural and metropolitan South Australia and they talk to P-platers, learners, and young aspiring drivers about the great risks that come with the awful responsibility of having a licence in Australia. There's probably no more evidence of the great wealth of this country than most of our young kids aspiring to a learner's permit, a provisional licence and the independence and freedom of movement that the motor vehicle gives them.

But there are enormous consequences for a moment of inattention. One of the contributors in the RAP program—a young man called Yudhi Mohan-Ram—is now in the 15th year of recovery from a moment of inattention by a P-plater. Basically, in a moment of inattention, a P-plater T-boned him on a motorcycle, setting off catastrophic injuries which took months and months of being in a coma. He had broken legs, broken ribs and every organ in his body was bruised. But in the spirit that this young man has, he now spends his volunteering time addressing young children about the responsibilities they have when they do get their licence and partake of the great independence and freedom that motor vehicles give us.

It is a remarkable story. Mr Glenn Smith from the Metropolitan Fire Service is also another remarkable contributor. Part of his daily job is to go and secure the perimeter of an accident, then secure the immediate vicinity of the accident and then use the jaws of life or whatever tools are required to take victims and people out of accidents. It's part of the service's daily job, but they want to do less of that. That's why they go into schools and that's why they present this great program to young adults who are going to take that next step into driving and the independence and freedom that motor vehicles give them.

It is an absolutely inspiring program, and I'm sure that if anyone in South Australia gets the opportunity, they could go along and witness it in action. It's a continual effort, supported by the Motor Accident Commission of South Australia, the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service, the government of South Australia, SA Power Networks, the RAA, Our Family Helping Yours and the Australian Professional Firefighters Foundation.

I just wanted to get that completely on the record before I go to what I think is missing in this debate: from 2007 to 2017, we've had 14,275 Australians killed on our roads—14,275 in a 10-year period. We did have a proper ongoing target of reducing deaths and injuries by 30 per cent, but we're not making that target. By 2020, we should have reduced deaths and injuries by 30 per cent. We've reduced them by 14 per cent, so we're 16 per cent short.

This is a chamber of political debate, so let's just go to see where the responsibilities lie for this inaction. I contend that the federal parliament has responsibility in a number of areas and I'm going to put a few of those on the record. Better roads will boost productivity and improve road safety, and we could get the Roads to Recovery and Black Spot programs expended. There's the support for the Keys2drive program. There's the better approach to cycling safety and a review into the economic and social costs of road trauma. There's the encouragement of purchasing safer cars, and tasking the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities with examining whether it is appropriate to stop the importation of cars with less than four-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program ratings by 2016. It is now July 2018, or it was the last I looked. There needs to be greater collaboration and better communication and working with motoring and motorcycle organisations. There's increased cooperation through the Council of Australian Governments. There's support for successful state based programs to encourage safer driving.

All of that is the other side's, the coalition's, road safety policy. If we were to go back and see which of those road safety policies have been acted upon—this is the 2013 policy of the coalition, supported by the ALP and, I presume, every other stakeholder in this chamber because road safety is a bipartisan issue—what have we seen in that space? Who do we talk to about it? Would it be the Hon. Michael McCormack, the incumbent? Would it be the Hon. John McVeigh? Would we have to go back and ask the Hon. Warren Truss, the Hon. Darren Chester or the Hon. Barnaby Joyce? Or maybe we have to go back and ask the Hon. Jamie Briggs? They've all been in ministerial positions holding responsibility for policy in this area.

We'd have to say, given that we're nowhere near our target of 30 per cent reductions by 2020—in fact, we have a very short period of time to get a 16 per cent improvement—that the coalition policy has failed. If I was to go into estimates and ask, 'Who is responsible for road safety?' it wouldn't be abundantly clear. What if I asked the bureaucrats: 'Who is working on 5G? Who's working on intelligent intersections? Who's working on intelligent cars? Who's working on autonomous cars, electric cars? Who's going to put all of this great efficiency that will come into our road network together for the benefit of the economy?'

Senator Farrell: Not the Liberals!

Senator GALLACHER: I take that interjection, Senator Farrell. It is extremely clear that coherent policy, probably bipartisan policy—not bipartisan, but multipartisan policy—that is easy and achievable has not been acted upon by a succession of ministers, not acted on by a complete section of ministers.

When I go to estimates and ask the questions, I dare say the department is quite embarrassed about this. You do need direction. The policy's great, but you need a minister to give the direction to the department that they need to act upon. You do need a clear, identifiable pathway. Yudhi Mohan-Ram is a lucky person—he's alive. He's had 15 years of injury; 15 years he's been out there. The spirit he has to give back to the community of road safety is really rewarding, especially when you see him in operation with young children, just trying to make them aware that one moment of inattention can have a lifetime of consequences.

We all know this; this is bread and butter stuff. There's no debate between us, but why, with great policy in 2013, is it that the inaction of that side of the chamber is clear and evident? It must stop; 14,275 lives ended. It needs to stop now. The government needs to be clear in its definition of who is going to be the road safety champion on that side of the chamber. They need to announce it; they need to push it out and get it done. There will be a road safety conference at the end of this year in Sydney. Dare I say it, the minister will turn up and then he'll turn up at the next one next year. We need someone working on this every day, because every day in Australia people are getting killed or seriously injured on our roads, and it affects an enormous number of people.

Mr Mohan-Ram has done a little bit of research. He worked for a company that employed 1,000 people. Everybody in that company knew that he'd been tragically and catastrophically injured. He has 38 first cousins; they all knew. His wife and 18-month-old daughter drove past the accident scene; they knew. If we can do anything to stop or reduce this, then this parliament should be united in its application and dedication to make our roads much safer. It's within our ability to do it. Dare I say it, 2013 policy is tremendously relevant today. All of those things are still relevant; they just simply need to be acted upon. The government should immediately put in place someone to act as a road safety champion for this country.