Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 11:27 :25 ): It gives me great pleasure to support the member for Mitchell and shadow minister for road safety in his desire to have this select committee established by this house. I think this is a very responsible initiative that he has taken. This is not something that is about having a crack at the government, because let me say very clearly, I have no doubt about the government’s very genuine desire to improve safety on our roads. That does not mean that a good suggestion from the opposition shadow minister should not be accepted by the government either. We have plenty of good ideas and here is a tremendous example of exactly that.
Let me also just say that I do not accept what is often publicly out there as a criticism, that the police are out there revenue raising. That is just not true. The police do not get the benefit of the funds that come from fines and penalties associated with speed cameras and other devices. There may well be an argument to say that it is a necessary part of the state government’s income, in the same way as taxes on alcohol and cigarettes and things can be part of the federal government’s income. That is something well worth considering, but I do not accept at all that the police are behind trying to revenue raise.
For the member for Mitchell to suggest that a select committee is set up to look into speed cameras and speed detection devices, current penalties, the operation of the Community Road Safety Fund and other related issues is very important. It is important to our state, but it is also very important to my electorate of Stuart. As a person who drives an enormous distance every year, previously well in excess of 100,000 kilometres a year almost exclusively in the country but now less than that and much of that now in the city area as well, as I come almost every week of the year back and forth between the electorate and Adelaide, this is something that is important to me and the people that I represent and something that I feel I have something to contribute to.
Police have said very clearly for years that fatalities on our roads are due to five key factors—not wearing seatbelts, inattention, drugs and alcohol, fatigue and speeding—so it is fair to look at speeding as part of the mix. As the member for Schubert has said, the actual percentage of speeding contributing directly to road fatalities is decreasing. So, something is going right there, there is no doubt about it, but that does not mean that we cannot finetune the approach, and that is exactly what the member for Mitchell is looking to do here.
I would add that speed limits are a very important part of this issue with regard to an incongruous set of speed limits on what seem to be very similar roads or, in some cases in my electorate and other parts of the state, higher limits on worse roads with worse incidence of accidents and fatalities and lower limits on better roads with a better safety record. That sort of thing needs to be addressed, and that is one of the issues that the member for Mitchell included in his address.
The government’s approach over the last few years of having a blanket reduction of speed limits across a whole sector of geography across our state is entirely wrong, because those five things I mentioned before—inattention, drugs and alcohol, fatigue, not wearing seatbelts and speeding—do not constitute the same thing as speed limits. So, just reducing the speed limits is not actually addressing any one of those five things, because reducing a speed limit does not necessarily stop people from speeding; in fact, it might increase the incidence of speeding. These are very important issues.
I think that including point-to-point cameras is very important; that is a relatively new addition to the suite of equipment that the government and the police have to use. While I know that this disappoints a certain number of people in my electorate, I think that point-to-point cameras are very good and that they do have a positive role to play because they take away the possibility of people driving in excess of the speed limit by accident by a very small amount for a very short period of time and being pinged seemingly unfairly.
If you go over 20 kilometres or 120 kilometres and, on average, you have been speeding, clearly you have been driving inappropriately, as opposed to your getting up to 116 km/h in a 110 km/h zone and then you realised and you corrected and got yourself back on track, you could be unfairly pinged there; but if you had been doing that consistently for 100 kilometres in a row and you did not address and correct your very brief mistake, you deserve to be reminded by the police. I would like point-to-point cameras to be part of it, and certainly the terms of reference that the member for Mitchell has suggested would cover that.
Road maintenance is a very big issue. I have some figures here that are about 10 months old, but 10 months ago, according to the RAA, the backlog of state government road maintenance funding had soared from $160 million in 2001 to $269 million at that point in time and was estimated to be nearly $350 million by 2019. I know that upgrading our roads would make a big difference.
It is always the driver’s responsibility: you do not blame the road, you do not blame the weather and you do not blame the car, unless for example you happen to be hit by lightning or unless your car is well serviced and your brakes still happen to fail. Ruling out those exceptional things, it is the driver’s responsibility; however, better roads would make the ability of the driver to fulfil his or her responsibilities much easier, and they would be able to do so in a much safer way. It is not feasible for the government to try to excuse itself from its responsibility with regard to addressing the really unacceptable backlog in road maintenance.
As I hope all members of this house would know, we went to the last election offering to double the state’s contribution to black spot road funding. I think that would have been an exceptionally positive thing to do with regard to contributing to road safety. Obviously we were not able to put that policy in place but I encourage members opposite, I encourage the government, to put that policy into effect, because it will certainly save lives, it will certainly reduce accidents. It will certainly let the government off the hook a little bit with some of the arguments that come along about the government focusing on the wrong areas, if the government were to say, ‘Look, here are some black spots, here are known places where there have been serious accidents, and here is the government addressing that by increasing funding to improve the safety of those roads at those black spots.’
Again, I commend the shadow minister for road safety, the member for Mitchell, on this issue. This would be a very large body of work that the select committee would have to engage in if it were to look at this, but I think that the way the member has put forward his six points is very responsible, and I think it would be an extraordinary shame if the government did not address this issue and did not want to put a bipartisan, responsible group of members of parliament together to address exactly these things.
It is not about asking why the government does not care about road fatalities; of course, the government does. It is actually about saying, ‘Why don’t we get our heads together in a really responsible way and try to improve what, unfortunately, to date, has eluded all governments of all political persuasions: that is, that golden chalice goal of getting road fatalities down to zero.’ I suspect that is not possible any time soon, but we could make a very big dent in that. Allowing this select committee to be established would be a very positive and honourable way of contributing towards that target.