Transcript of Interview: 5AA Adelaide, Mornings with Leon Byner

Interview

BPC068/2014

11 September 2014

E&OE

Leon Byner: Let's talk with the Assistant Infrastructure Minister, Jamie Briggs.

Jamie, thank you for joining us today.

Jamie Briggs: Pleasure, Leon.

Leon Byner: I know you have kept a close watch on this terrible accident, what is your take on it?

Jamie Briggs: Well, I think there have been several terrible incidents in the last few years. Obviously the one just a few weeks ago was a tragic event. We were fortunate with the brilliant police work that occurred just a couple of days ago. They do seem to be different; all the same they are related. It does seem strange, I must say, to me, that this truck seemed to have issues before the tunnels, or at least in the tunnels, and it didn't take advantage of the two arrestor beds. That is obviously something the police are investigating and they are right to do so. Those arrestor beds are there for that very circumstance.

But there are obviously issues at the bottom of the freeway, which I am eager to work with Stephen Mullighan, the State Transport Minister, to look to see if we can resolve. Obviously, running of roads, roads regulation, the standards of trucks are responsibility of the state government. But it is part of our national freight network; it is an important part of our national freight network. Having a safe and reliable trucking industry is important for our country, and we are doing what we can as far as the standards for trucks are concerned to ensure that we get a newer fleet on the road; because the newer the fleet, Leon, the better the quality…

Leon Byner: Yeah.

Jamie Briggs: …of the truck, and the safer the truck.

Leon Byner: Yeah.

Jamie Briggs: So, it is not in trucking companies' interest to have unsafe trucks on the road, because if they have these incidents they lose productivity, they cause massive distress, and obviously it in the end damages their business significantly. So, it is important that we all work, I think, constructively with the industry, and constructively with different levels of government to come up with an appropriate solution to ensure we've got the freeway operating as safely as it should.

Leon Byner: What is your reaction to calls by the trucking sector that somehow the taxpayer ought to pick up the tab for extracting a vehicle from an arrestor bed?

Jamie Briggs: Well, it is an interesting question Leon, and I think [inaudible] make good points as far as those issues are concerned. In the end, if trucks are avoiding the arrestor beds and causing major incidents, I think we should look at what are the reasons they are avoiding it. Clearly these are split-second decisions, but they are life and death decisions, ultimately. Those arrestor beds are meant to be there to act as a safety net, if you like, for what is a very heavy gradient being travelled by very heavy trucks. One point I do agree with, the Transport Workers Union made this point yesterday, is that you do need to know what you are getting yourself into, as a truck driver, taking on the South Eastern Freeway. I think trucking companies need to be alert to the fact that their drivers must be aware of the circumstances they are getting themselves into. I know a vast majority of them are, because, again, getting back to the point, it makes no sense for them…

Leon Byner: [Interrupts] No, but –

Jamie Briggs: To be unsafe…

Leon Byner: [Interrupts] Jamie, absolutely, but it is pretty amazing when of 70 checks, 31 show deficiencies with steering, suspension, and brakes.

Jamie Briggs: Yeah.

Leon Byner: That is fundamental stuff.

Jamie Briggs: It is, and it is important, and I think it is obviously a signal that state government really needs to ensure that it has got an audit programme in place that is regularly ensuring that the standards are being met. I think trucking companies are, as much as they can, refreshing their fleet and ensuring that they have got new rigs on the road, will help improve that outcome as well.

Leon Byner: Yeah. Look, there has been some discussion about re-routing the traffic from Murray Bridge away from this treacherous incline and decline. But that is going to be a massive infrastructure project if it was ever done, isn't it?

Jamie Briggs: It would be an enormous project, Leon, you are dead right. The discussion has been taking at Monarto off and routing around the northern part of the hills. Now, the estimate that came out of a study that was done in 2008 just in relation to the railway line, and you would know there has been calls…

Leon Byner: Yes.

Jamie Briggs: …for the rail line also to be re-routed—was that it would cost somewhere between two and three billion, and that is without a road involved. And that is without, of course, all the planning uncertainty you would have in those areas where the new road and rail would go through. So, it is an issue which I think is a long way away from being realistic, and at this stage state government has no plans for it, it is not on their wish list. As far as the federal government is concerned, we rely on the states to tell us what their priorities are before we get into a discussion about what funding is available.

Leon Byner: Yeah. All right. Jamie Briggs, thank you for joining us. That is the Assistant Infrastructure Minister to the Federal Government, Jamie Briggs.