Transcript of Interview, 891 ABC Adelaide with Ian Henschke



27 November 2013

Ian Henschke: Now the Black Spot Program has been launched yet again. There's a new panel of people in charge of black spots around Australia from a federal point of view.

We saw the other day that Minister Michael O'Brien from the state point of view with the black spots said that a lot of the money that comes from speeding fines is being put back into there. We did want to talk to him this morning about black spot funding in this state. We'll talk to the RAA in a moment about that.

Before we do though, Jamie Briggs, member for Mayo, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development has announced that there is a new chair for the South Australian programme of black spots. I caught up with him just before we went to air.

Jamie Briggs: The Federal Government runs a programme—a Black Spot Program—which has $60 million funding allocated to it each year. And I think the State Government also has a Black Spot Program, which they also run. In some states they run concurrently, in South Australia they're run separately.

In our case, the federal Government runs a programme which is chaired by a federal member of Parliament. And in South Australia, I've appointed Rowan Ramsey, the member for Grey, to be the chair of the consultative panel, who will look at how we allocate the amount in South Australia to projects. Projects are funded up to $2 million in federal funding, depending on the need. But usually they're smaller than that, they're usually, as you would be aware, driving around noticing these black spots, they are usually things like roundabouts, or improvements to intersections, or pedestrian crossings.

And they come about through records of accidents, or incidents along roads throughout the state. Usually local government roads or smaller roads that people use. And, as I say, they're usually smaller amounts of funding, but they have a safety impact, and also a productivity impact. Because usually, as you would be aware Ian, these roads create bottlenecks, or congestion spots, particularly if they have regular accidents. And that creates an economic problem, as well as a safety problem.

So, the programme is designed—and it's a very successful programme—to not only improve the safety outcomes, but also to improve the economic outcome for people.

Ian Henschke: Okay. Well look, we're talking to Honourable Jamie Briggs MP, and I notice, Jamie Briggs, that you've actually got two titles now. You're Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. Let's just talk about the black spots in the regions then. How do you allocate money—you're talking there mainly about city black spots—but how do you allocate the money in the regional areas, and make sure that you're giving a fair amount to both areas?

Jamie Briggs: Well, the Black Spot Program doesn't distinguish between city and regions. There's the amount allocated each year, $60 million across the country, and that is then split throughout the different states.

There is then a panel, which Rowan Ramsey, the member for Grey will chair. He'll identify members of that panel, usually people from the police, people who are involved in collecting statistics in relation to road incidents, and so forth. And there'll be a process where people can apply online through my department's website— They can apply individually if they like, there is obviously criteria, and it's worthwhile working with their local council, who usually have detailed information about these programs. Or even through their federal or state member, if they want to.

But it is a programme which is open to identifying problems, whether they be in city or regional areas. It's a programme which has been very successful in South Australia. Since its inception there been 500 dangerous sites identified by the committees each year and money allocated to improve the safety outcome. And as I say, that has a productivity benefit also. If we're improving the safety outcome, you're improving the economically productive capacity of the road. And that has benefits for all of us.

Ian Henschke: One of the issues that we've talked about a lot on the morning programme over the years is the issue of safety for cyclists. Now, I note that when you have the categories here you say that you have to have at least three casualty crashes over a five-year period. Now, I take it the cyclists are in there in the same bag as the motorists, are they, or what?

Jamie Briggs: Well, of course. I mean if it's a road where there are ongoing incidents—as we both know as residents of the Adelaide Hills—and it's a road that those of us who have been caught up in the cults of cycling often have the challenge of cars, and cyclists on the road. If there are improvements that can be made to a road, and councils have identified it, or people have identified it working with their council, then of course this program is the place to make those applications.

Ian Henschke: Alright. Now you mentioned before that you've got two separate programmes running. You've got the Nation Building Black Spot Program, you've got the State Black Spot Program, and you said they operate independently. Would it be better, perhaps, to have the two groups put together? So you had one committee, one organisation looking at it? It does seem a bit of duplication, doesn't it?

Jamie Briggs: Well, I would have thought people would want the amount spent, Ian, to be honest. I mean I don't…

Ian Henschke: No, but why wouldn't you just pool the money and have one committee? Why have two committees? Why have two groups?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, that's obviously historically what has occurred. In this instance, this is an opportunity for communities to improve their safety outcome on roads. And I think it's a good thing. And I'm not sure exactly how the state programme works, but equally, there are different opportunities for both federal and state governments to ensure you get the outcome that people are looking for, and that's improved safety on our roads.

Clearly one of the issues with safety on our roads is the quality of roads. People in regional areas particularly know this; if the road quality is poor, it often means that there are more casualties or more incidents, which cause distress, cost the economy significant amounts. And in that sense this programme is a small step, and an important one, in helping six problems across our state, and across the country.

Ian Henschke: Alright. We're talking to Jamie Briggs here, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, about the Black Spot Program. Can you give us a figure on how much money has been allocated to South Australia then, under this, now that you've announced the new chair of the programme?

Jamie Briggs: Well look, we're working through how much will be allocated to each state at the moment. There is a formula, which is due, by chance now, to be reconsidered on how it's operating, and I'm getting advice from my department. But it will be similar to the formulas of population-based splits. They don't usually operate when it comes to road…

Ian Henschke: Okay, so that if South Australia has got, say, 10 per cent of the population in Australia, whatever, we'll get $6 million? It's not a huge amount of money then, is it?

Jamie Briggs: No, but as I said earlier, the idea is that these are not huge projects, we're not talking about building the North-South Corridor with this funding…

Ian Henschke: Right.

Jamie Briggs: That's obviously part of our broader $30 billion investment program that we also put in place. This is for small intersections. As you know, just yourself driving around. It is to improve a safety outcome on a road, not to build a new road necessarily. Which, of course, then costs much more or substantially more to do. These are designed to be smaller projects, and are often quite small projects. For instance, there was a Black Spot Program improvement in Stirling that I noticed last year, which was building a roundabout to make a corner much more easy for people to operate and reduce the amount of accidents.

Ian Henschke: Alright, well, Jamie Briggs, thanks very much for your time. So if people want to get involved in this, and they've got a particular black spot, they can either go to their local MP, or they can contact Rowan Ramsey, who's the chair of this committee?

Jamie Briggs: Absolutely. Rowan is a terrific member for Grey. He covers, I think, it's 86 per cent of the state. I'm sure he'll correct me if I've got that percentage wrong.

Ian Henschke: Okay.

Jamie Briggs: But, you know, he has the vast bulk of the South Australian land mass, and understands the challenges of the regional roads, and also the challenges for safety. And I think Rowan will do a terrific job in chairing this committee. And if people are interested, the information is on the website. I'm sure Rowan's office will be able to pass on information as well. There is obviously a process that people need to apply through, but I would encourage them where they've got particular roads they're aware of, and concerns about, to work with their council. Obviously councils have a very important role in identifying and working to improve safety outcomes on local government roads.

Ian Henschke: Alright, thanks for your time this morning.

Jamie Briggs: Thanks Ian, good on you mate.