ABC AM

Interview

DCI035/2017

17 April 2017

Subject: May Budget, infrastructure spending

Kim Landers: Darren Chester is the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Minister, good morning.

Darren Chester: Good morning Kim and thank you for raising this issue on a very important day when a lot of people are traveling.

Kim Landers: Well when I spoke to you about this just after Christmas about the rising road toll, you called it horrific. You've also said that the numbers demand a national response, so what is that going to be?

Darren Chester: Well there has been a national response over the past 12 months where I have worked very collaboratively with state ministers and state police commissioners on ways that we can put downward pressure on road trauma. So, your interviewees just a moment ago talked about safer drivers in safer cars on safer roads, and it is all part of the picture. What we need to be doing is continually working towards improvements in every one of those areas. Also making it clear to each of us who use the roads, and that is all of us, that we have personal responsibility for our own actions every time we get behind the wheel, or every time we get on our motorbikes or pushbikes. It can't be just about police and governments, it is up to us as well to do our little bit to make sure we are conscious of our own safety and the safety of other road users.

Kim Landers: Well you've just heard the shadow transport minister, Anthony Albanese give one specific example. He says funding for the Keys2Drive road safety program runs out on 30 June. Will that program get more funding in next month's Budget?

Darren Chester: Well Kim, the Budget is about a month away, but all I can say about that particular program is when I was the shadow minister, I successfully fought for funding to continue for it, and when I…

Kim Landers: But will it continue beyond 30 June?

Darren Chester: And when I became the minister last year, its funding was due to expire and I extended it for 12 months to give the Australian Automobile Association an opportunity to prove the value of the program. So the Budget will be in a month's time and the Treasurer makes announcements on that night, but I've made it very clear in the past that I support every effort to improve the capacity of younger drivers in particular to get the skills they need through the Graduated Licensing System, so they are ready to drive when they get out on the road by themselves. So I have supported the program in the past.

Kim Landers: Will there be increased funding for roads in the Budget?

Darren Chester: Well the road funding when you look across the seven years that we have been talking about in terms of this government's involvement in infrastructure has seen $50 billion for land transport. So it's a major commitment to improving the safety of the road environment in partnership with the states. You're asking me to speculate on what might be in the Budget and I can't do that, but what I can say is that the Federal Government has been working with local and state government to drive better safety on our road environment. We need to make our roads safer and that is what I said before about responsibility. It is not just about drivers, it's not just about police, governments at all levels have to provide safer roads as well and I accept that responsibility as a Minister, that I need to keep working with the other jurisdictions, to provide safer roads. We need better roads.

Kim Landers: The Australian College of Road Safety is calling for a Productivity Commission inquiry into the economic burden of road trauma, will you support that?

Darren Chester: Well the point of the inquiry around getting a very clear picture of the total cost of road trauma, I support. But in terms of, do you need to do a Productivity Commission inquiry, I'm not convinced of the merits of that at this stage. We do need to get a better handle on exactly what the current cost of road trauma is. So, the figures we are quoting at the moment are $27 billion per annum, which is a very significant amount, but I think that it has probably gone up since that figure was first released. I think we do need to do some inquiries on specific issues of concern in regards to road trauma, areas where we have a gap in our knowledge like, we don't really know with mobile phone distraction, how often does it actually cause a crash or we just think it does. We don't really know for sure about that and I think we should do some work in that space.

We don't really know, for example, the full prevalence of illicit drug use. It's showing up more in our road crash data than alcohol use in Victoria at the moment, but we don't know how prevalent that really is. I think we need to do some work in that area as well.

Kim Landers: Okay. If I could ask you about another matter, do you think first home buyers should be able to use their Superannuation for a deposit?

Darren Chester: Well, it has been subject to great public discussion over the past week. I'm not going to add to the public debate. The Treasurer will release his Budget in a little over a month's time and we will know the Government's forward approach there. It's not for me as a Cabinet Minister to speculate in what may be in that budget.

Kim Landers: If I could ask you something else, Tony Abbott has written an opinion piece in The Daily Telegraph, saying the best way to keep Labor Leader Bill Shorten out of the Lodge is not to sack an elected Prime Minister yet again. Does that put an end to any speculation about Malcolm Turnbull's future?

Darren Chester: Well the best way to keep Bill Shorten out of the Lodge is to be a good government. Now we have got to work together as Liberal and National Party MPs and Ministers who are passionate about Australia's future and deliver everything we said we'd do. That's what people expect of their government. So they want to see us actually delivering. The greatest challenge for us is to fulfil every promise we made during the last election campaign, roll out the infrastructure program that I've promised to deliver, do all the things that we told the Australian people we would be doing to make Australia an even better place to live in the future.

Kim Landers: Alright Minister, thank you very much for speaking to AM.

Darren Chester: All the best, Kim and please take care on the roads today.

Kim Landers: Thank you. Darren Chester is the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.