Transcript—2UE Sydney Breakfast

Interview

DCI003/2017

02 January 2017

Subjects: 2016 Road trauma, Road safety

Murray Olds: Darren Chester is the federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister. He’s been making headlines this morning. In fact, Darren Chester’s the front page lead in the Herald this morning. Darren Chester, good morning Minister, and thanks for your time.

Darren Chester: Good morning Deb and Murray, and happy new year to you as well.

Murray Olds: Same to you.

Deborah Knight: And to you, yeah. So what is your suggestion here? You are effectively calling on parents to help out their kids and to keep them safe?

Darren Chester: Well the challenge of road safety has three key parts. You have touched on it already, it is about safer roads, it is also about safer drivers and making sure we take responsibility ourselves. But then it is the safer vehicles, the type of car we choose to drive or can afford to drive, and what we are finding is the more we can get younger people into safer cars, the more we can reduce the chance of them having a crash in the first place, and if they do have a crash their chances of injury or the severity of the injury is reduced.

Deborah Knight: And as you say, the irony is that often the first car that you have is probably the least safest.

Darren Chester: Well I know from my own experience my first car was a bit of an old bomb and it was what I could afford, and my mum and dad weren’t in a position to help me out so I bought what I could afford.

Deborah Knight: What was it? What was your first car?

Darren Chester: It was an old Chrysler Sigma. I used to go to the petrol station and I would fill up the oil and I would check the petrol. It wasn’t in great shape, but it got me through. But what I’m trying to say is if you can afford to at least help out your young driver get into a safer car with a higher ANCAP star rating, you get some safety features there which reduce the chance of having a crash in the first place.

Murray Olds: You presented your bottom for a good kicking from Labor, because look, I mean you know yourself Darren that a lot of mums and dads perhaps haven’t got a lot of money; they’re struggling to put a decent family car on the road, never mind helping our their kids. But the broad thrust is right, and these days you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a car with a decent braking system, to get a car as much as can be up-to-date. But I mean, the old ANCAP, we’re not talking about a Rolls Royce here, but even affordable motorcars seem to come with a lot of bang for your dollar.

Darren Chester: Well the more you can get people looking at the ANCAP star rating, whether it is in a new car or on the second-hand market, the more we are going to have our younger people having access to cheaper second-hand vehicles on the marketplace. So it is recognising the fact that over the last two or three years in Australia we have seen an increase in our national road trauma, which is deeply concerning. After the best part of 30 or 40 years we have had reductions year on year; the last two to three years we have had our worst results in recent time. In 2016, more than 1200 people died on our roads across Australia, and that is our worst result since 2012.

Now, we can’t just keep on doing the same thing and thinking that we are going to get a better result, and I think emphasising the need to purchase a safer car if you can afford it, the safest car you can afford to buy, is an important part of this whole discussion, along with making sure governments don’t shirk their responsibility. We have responsibilities as governments to provide the safest roads we can provide, and that means getting out there and building better intersections, building a duplicated highway like we’re doing between Brisbane and Sydney at the moment, all those sorts of things have to happen as well. But this is just one part of the equation that needs to be properly discussed, and I think it’s important that people understand that if you do have a safer car you actually reduce your chances of having a crash, and you’ll reduce the amount of injuries you receive if there is a crash.

Deborah Knight: Well as you say, safe cars is one thing, safe roads is another, and Anthony Albanese, your opposite number from Labor, is accusing the Government of underspending on the Black Spots road program, and of exaggerating the $50 billion spend on infrastructure. What’s your defence?

Darren Chester: Well it’s not true. Mr Albanese does make lots of claims, but two weeks ago I drove from Sydney to the Queensland border, and you can see the product of $5.6 billion of federal funding, which is also being matched by the state government. It’s a $10 billion program which will see travel times reduced between Sydney and Brisbane by 2.5 hours by the time this project is done in 2020, but more importantly, when that project is finished there will be 1000 lives saved by 2040. So this is a project which is changing lives and saving lives.

There’s projects happening in Sydney every day, there is a lot of work going on. It doesn’t change the fact that road safety is a complex equation. It is not just about the safer roads; it is not just about safer cars. As drivers, we have to accept our responsibility as well to be more respectful of each other, to obey the rules. I say to people you should be driving like there is a police officer in the back seat. Rather than trying to sneak a few extra kilometres over the limit, or try and get home on the back roads if you have been to the pub and had a few too many beers, drive like there is a police officer in the back seat, and show respect to the road laws and respect to other road users.

Murray Olds: Darren, before we let you go, I remember - and that’s bloody good advice - I mean, if you tell your kids just imagine there is a police officer sitting in the back seat with you, look it might go in one ear and out the other, but anything you can do just to gee the kids up a bit when they set out. What about the idea, I remember reading this before Christmas, the idea that was suggested: have some really shocking ads on our television screens, really in your face, confronting ads that underline the message you can’t be too safe on the roads.

Deborah Knight: Yeah, similar to the grim reaper-type AIDS ads of the 1980s. Would that be something you’d consider?

Darren Chester: Well the states primarily have responsibility for their advertising campaigns, and all I would be saying to the state ministers is if you think it can work, trial them and find out. My view of those is I’m not sure they would work as well as they did in the 80s. Kids today, younger people today are looking at a lot of material online, so whether they are going to see those ads on TV, I’m not sure that would occur. So you would have to make sure you get into the social media market as well.

Messages which make it real to people are the ones that seem to work best. I think if you imagine yourself unexpectedly caught up in a car crash, or members of your own family or friends caught up in that scene, then it has a more emotional attachment. If it is too detached from you and it seems like that will never happen to me, I don’t think it will work that well. But I’m very receptive to new ideas, because just doing the same thing hasn’t worked for the last few years.

It is alarming that we are still seeing about three Australians dying every day on our roads, and it is something I think we can do better. And we need to work together as state ministers and federal ministers, and state police and federal police, and everyone who has got an interest in this topic need to work together as much as we can, because we have started a new year and we want to make sure we start it better than we finished the last one.

Deborah Knight: Yeah, well said. Darren Chester, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

Darren Chester: All the best team and safe travels.

Murray Olds: Good on you.

Deborah Knight: Darren Chester there, the Infrastructure and Transport Minister. And as he says, three Australians dying every day. It is shocking. It’s not just people behind the wheel and in cars, it’s pedestrians as well, and a lot of that has got to do with people with their devices, with phones in hand. So we do need to look at other ways of bringing this terrible toll down - 30 people over the holiday period in New South Wales, absolutely shocking.