Transcript—3AW Melbourne Mornings

Interview

DCI005/2017

02 January 2017

Subjects: 2016 Road trauma, Road safety

Tony Jones: Joining us on the line now is the federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester. G’day Minister.

Darren Chester: And good morning Tony.

Tony Jones: Well complements in the new year and all that sort of stuff. There’s going to be a lot of parents cursing you I reckon, because when the kids hear this they’ll say yeah, good idea, buy me a new car.

Darren Chester: Well that is not quite the way I put it Tony. What I said is that we recognise that younger drivers are overrepresented in the road trauma figures, and it coincides with the time in their life where they tend to drive the worst car of their lives. So what I have been saying is quite simply we need to try and get our younger people into the safest car they can afford, and whether that means parents can help meet them halfway, or help meet them in some ways, I think it is well worth thinking about it.

I mean, it is not for me to tell parents what to do, but I’m just letting them know that right now we have young people overrepresented in our accident figures, and it just happens to coincide with the time they are driving older and less safe cars. If we can get them into newer cars, we can reduce the chances of them having a crash in the first place, and if they do have the misfortune of having a car accident the severity of injuries is reduced in newer cars. So I guess it is stating the bleeding obvious to some extent, that if we can get people into newer, safer cars we can reduce road trauma. And this is one of the ways that we need to look at, because quite simply last year, 2016 on Victorian roads was a horror year and we need to look at different ways of reducing road trauma.

Tony Jones: Well here’s a crazy idea: How about the Federal Government chip in with subsidies?

Darren Chester: Well I have actually thought about that Tony, and I think it is a fair question you raise. The problem with putting in a subsidy for one key point is that it tends to then increase the price of cars straight away, because what you will see is - I think we had a previous scheme, a Cash for Clunkers Scheme, where the first thing that happened was that used car prices went up. So I don’t know that putting a subsidy on the table is the best way of doing it.

I have looked at some different models and spoken to the insurance sector and the banking sector and motor vehicle groups, saying well are there more innovative ways we can get younger people into newer cars? Can we look at reduced interest rate schemes, or can we look at some insurance incentives to help them out? So these conversations are continuing. So it is not a crazy idea you are talking about by any stretch, but a direct subsidy will tend to just result in increased car prices for everyone else.

Tony Jones: Obviously you’ve looked at all options at the moment once you start looking at the road toll, have you looked at speed limiters on cars, like governors and that for first year P-platers and the like, where their speed is capped at 80k’s or whatever?

Darren Chester: Well I think the point you are making and you are heading towards is particularly valid, is this is not one simple solution; this is a complex equation of safer drivers, safer roads and safer vehicles. There is technology available where you can limit the speed that vehicles can drive depending on who is using the key in that car, but that is not available to every car, so it would be a bit awkward to implement something like that.

Tony Jones: What is that - new cars is it?

Darren Chester: Yeah, there is capacity, the telematics are available to program a car to drive at certain speeds, but they tend to be very much at the top end of the market. I think what we have got to look at is what are we doing in terms of driver behaviour and Doug Fryer, the police, they are doing a great job in terms of increasing their visible presence on this busy holiday weekend, and that is a challenge for them. We need to actually, as drivers, behave like there is a police officer in the backseat of the car all the time, not play this game of trying to sneak a few extra kilometres per hour over the limit, or trying to get home on the back road from the pub if you have had too many beers. We need to act like there is a police officer with us every day, and start taking responsibility ourselves.

So that is one thing we can all do, and then as governments we have to step up as well. We have to provide safer roads, and that is a conversation I have been having with the state Transport Minister Luke Donnellan, and we are working together to try and get some very much improved roads in our rural and regional areas where the road tolls are highest. But the safer car question is a very valid one. It is important to consider when you are putting a young person into their first vehicle, and I know the first one I got was a bit of an old bomb, it was the worst car I ever drove but it was what I could afford at the time.

Tony Jones: Yeah, what was it? I was going to ask you that.

Darren Chester: It was a 79 Sigma. I used to go to the petrol station, fill up with oil and check the petrol. It wasn’t the greatest car going around.

Tony Jones: I’ve got to say Darren, that is a very daggy car for an 18 year old to be driving around in.

Darren Chester: It was what I could afford, and it took me five years to pay it off at the bank too.

Tony Jones: Okay, righto, so you didn’t just inherit it or anything, you had to scrape and bloody pay it off.

Darren Chester: I did. I think it was 40 bucks a week to pay it off, and away we went. So anyway, that was my experience. But look, the conversation has just got to keep continuing nationally. Across Australia last year, it’s 1,280 people have been killed on our roads, and I just can’t accept that that’s the best we can do. We have had our worst road fatality rate in five years. Admittedly there are more people on the road now, there is more vehicles being registered every day, so increased traffic is part of the issue, but we have got safer cars available to us, we are trying to build safer roads, and we have got to take personal responsibility ourselves for the way we behave on those roads. I mean, the police have already detected 1,380 people on drug and alcohol offences in Victoria in the last 16 days, so that is a real concern that message hasn’t got through as well.

Tony Jones: Yeah, it’s disappointing. Look, easier said than done in terms of getting parents to dig a little deeper and help their kids buy the new car, but at the end of the day they are the ones with all the bells and whistles and all the paraphernalia to make it safer in that driving cabin for the driver. So yeah, anything would help, that’s for sure, but I reckon the roads is a pretty good start as well, and that’s something you’re already addressing. So, good to catch up with you.

Darren Chester: All the best, and travel safe everyone. There’s going to be a lot of people on the road today. I’ve just noticed here in Gippsland, a lot of people heading back to the city now after their long weekend or Christmas break. Just take your time, take your breaks and arrive safely.

Tony Jones: Yeah, all right, terrific. Good on you Darren, nice to talk to you again.

Darren Chester: All the best, Tony.