Doorstop Interview, Inspecting a communicating car at Albert Park, Melbourne



10 October 2016

Topic: New transport technology, reducing road trauma, and legislation to protect CFA volunteers.

DARREN CHESTER: Well, first of all it's fantastic for Melbourne to be able to host the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress, but when you've got a $50 billion infrastructure investment program, the critical thing is making sure that you're getting value for money for the Australian taxpayers and part of looking at intelligent transport systems how we make the most of new technology, emerging technology, and gathering some of the best and brightest people in the world together in Melbourne to discuss their ideas, to work through various issues that we're facing across jurisdictions, and it's a fantastic opportunity. We need to find ways that we can maximise the value of existing infrastructure before we even look at investing in new infrastructure.

So, you know, it's very exciting to see a glimpse of the future, to see how some of these new technologies are being rolled out around the world, and to observe whether there's opportunities to bring them into Australia in a more extensive form in the future.

QUESTION: What are some of those challenges? I mean, we're going to face with driverless cars, are we going to have legal changes? What are some of the things you'll have to do as a Government?

DARREN CHESTER: Well, one of the biggest issues we're facing right now in Australia is the increase in our road trauma. Over several decades, we've been among the world leaders in reducing the amount of serious injuries and fatalities on our roads but over the past two years we've seen a ten per cent increase in the road fatalities. I find that personally very challenging and professionally as the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, I see it as something I need to pursue very rigorously with my state colleagues so I'm working with the state ministers on that particular issue. I have no doubt that new technology has a role to play in reducing the amount of driver error which contributes to the road toll.

We believe that road trauma's costing the governments across Australia in the order of $27 billion per year. If we can get a reduction in road deaths and serious injuries through investment in new technology it's going to save money for governments obviously, but perhaps more importantly it's going to save communities from enormous trauma and emotional harm. So, you know, everyone in Australia's been touched by the road toll, it's something I'm working on reducing into the future.

QUESTION: Right now, we've got a lot of about who's responsible when a crash happens, who's responsible for a car, who's not responsible for a car. What's going to happen? What sort of laws do we have to look at for when maybe a company's responsible or our cars are responsible; how do we treat that?

DARREN CHESTER: Well, I think the improvements in driver assisted technology leaning towards driverless vehicles in the future is an area of regulation, legislation that we need to get right across our jurisdictions. We're going to need to see national standards to allow for the rollout, not only the trialling of the technology but also the application of that technology into the future. One of the things that it's going to assist us with, though, if you do have accurate information, whether it's video information or other driver feedback, almost like the black box of the airline sector, will assist us in terms of deciding who's at fault in an accident, will give us more real data on how a crash has even occurred in the first place.

It will assist us in terms of that as well, so you're going to actually get real information about how a crash occurred, what were the contributing factors. We know that, obviously, speed, use of alcohol, fatigue are factors in car crashes in Australia already, but if we've got more data, you may have a better indication of where you need to target your efforts in terms of reducing road trauma into the future.

QUESTION: What's been the most impressive thing you've seen so far? Anything jumped out at you that you've quite enjoyed?

DARREN CHESTER: Oh, look, I'm impressed by the technology that's already available in terms of assistance for drivers, in terms of giving them more information that will assist them in reducing the chance they have a crash in the first place; alerting drivers to their surroundings through technology which interacts between the vehicle and the infrastructure I think is technology that's already there, already been rolled out in other parts of the world and it's something we can look at doing more of in the future.

You know, Australia's already been working at making sure we get full value out of the existing infrastructure through investment in new technology. I think there's only going to be an increased need to do that in the future. Before we start rolling out extra lanes on our freeways, we need to look at whether we can actually make the most of the existing infrastructure through lane metering or through the likes of ramp metering; through providing ways to use existing infrastructure better in the future.

QUESTION: That's alright. Just on a different issue, it looks like the Government's going to get the CFA, the protecting volunteers legislation through the upper house. How do you see that affecting the CFA here in Victoria? You obviously deal with the CFA in your electorate, how important is it to get that through the upper house?

DARREN CHESTER: Well, it's critical that we get it through the upper house. We've got 60,000 CFA volunteers in Victoria and many of them expressed their concerns to me during the federal election campaign. It was one of those unusual circumstances where an issue of primarily a state government responsibility flowed into a federal election campaign and became quite a pivotal moment in the whole campaign.

The volunteers themselves who spoke to me were very concerned about the penetration of union control over their volunteer movement and we don't want that to happen. Daniel Andrews shouldn't be so stubborn and pig headed about this. He's already had the CEO of the CFA resign, the Chief Fire Officer's resigned, the board's been sacked. I mean, he can't be the only person who's right. There are a lot of people who have expressed concerns about the legislation and direction he was taking and he refused to listen to them.

Now, it has been up to the Federal Government and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made it clear that he would stand shoulder to shoulder with Victorian CFA volunteers and that's exactly what we've done. We're a Government which is focused on delivering what we promised we'd do for the Australian people. In the case of the CFA volunteers, we indicated we'd move legislation as quickly as we could; we've done exactly that and I encourage the Senate to support us.