International Road Federation Conference
15 January 2015
New Dehli, India
Thank you so much and thank you for the opportunity to speak today and to follow such a terrific address. That was a particularly outstanding contribution, demonstrating a real passion for road safety and improving outcomes when it comes to road safety and I'm sure Indian MPs just like Australian MPs will be delighted to hear that you're calling on constituents to lobby them for improved outcomes with road safety. So thank you very much for your words.
To all my fellow distinguished guests and all of you Australians and Indians alike who are here for this important conference, welcome and thank you for listening to me. This has been a very important week for the Australian Government in India. My colleague in the Australian Government ministry, Mr Andrew Robb, who's the Trade Minister, has led a delegation of Ministers and 450 Australian businesses to India this week to improve the co-operation in an economic sense between our two countries to get a better outcome for both countries when it comes to our economic ties.
There are clearly many opportunities that our countries don't take advantage of and this week has been building upon the very warm relationship between our two Prime Ministers over the last few months. We were privileged to have Mr Modi speak to the Australian Parliament last November and I think it seems, certainly from Australia's perspective, that there are real opportunities for us to improve what has been probably an under-par relationship when it comes to the economy. We have a very strong people-to-people relationship, particularly when it comes to our shared passions for cricket, but we haven't made as much of the economic opportunities that both countries have and this week's been about building strong relationships, building a deeper and more long lasting relationship and hopefully beginning what will be the year of a free trade agreement signing between the two countries.
For me personally, this is my first experience in India and it has been terrific to understand the challenges and the opportunities that this great country presents. I've been this week in New Delhi and Mumbai—two cities which alone have populations similar to the size of our entire country. So the vast metropolis that you have, the challenges that that brings, with issues like road safety are very hard to understand without experiencing them and this week it's been terrific to understand and experience the challenges that you and your government have to improve the outcome for the Indian people. The great project, bringing 600 million or more people from abject poverty to middle class; the greatest humanitarian movement of people that the world will have ever seen if successful. It has been a tremendous experience to understand and see that first hand.
The Australian Government has been particularly honoured to be asked by the International Road Federation to be a country partner sponsor for this significant event. Our sponsorship is a very important part of both Australia's close working relationship with the IRF and our ties with India.
I'm also pleased to announce this morning that Austrade, Australia's international trade, investment, and education promotion agency, will sign a memorandum of understanding with the IRF at the end of today's first session. This will cover an agreement to formalise the joint working relationship around road safety that Austrade has developed with the IRF. This will involve collaborative and co-operative efforts to further promote Australian road safety capabilities in India. The MoU is for one year, and with a clause allowing renewal for every year to the agreement of both parties.
As today's conference recognises, road safety is a global challenge. Every year, more than 1.2 million people are killed on roads internationally. Meeting this challenge demands combined international effort. The IRF has worked tirelessly in this space for 65 years to promote the global development and maintenance of better, safer, and more efficient road networks and I congratulate them for their significant contribution.
Almost every citizen of Australia and India will be affected by a road incident in their lifetime. Simply, road safety is a shared responsibility. Every time you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you take upon that responsibility yourself. The road toll in both countries weighs heavily on families and communities. It places strain on our health systems and presents a significant economic burden. In Australia, road trauma is estimated to cost around $27 billion each year, or 1.8 per cent of our gross domestic products. This is, of course, dwarfed by the $59 billion road trauma estimated cost to the Indian economy, approximately three per cent of the Indian GDP.
While these figures are confronting, both our countries are making progress. For the first time since national statistics began in 1925, the rate of road deaths in Australia has fallen to five deaths per 100,000 people. This is the lowest rate on record, a major milestone when you consider that the number of vehicles on Australian roads has increased from 300,000 in 1925 to over 17.6 million today. A fortnight ago, on 3 January this year, New Delhi reported its lowest road fatalities in a decade, a road toll of 1595 people, despite an increase in traffic, an excellent outcome which can be directly linked to a vast increase in enforcing drink driving, speeding, and road-worthiness laws.
India is on the verge of delivering a significant reform through the Transport and Road Safety Bill, a reform which is expected to deliver a steady reduction in road trauma for decades to come. However, ongoing and dedicated effort across both our countries is still needed. In Australia, vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians continue to be over-represented in our road toll. India also faces its own challenges as home to the world's second largest population, a rapidly growing number of vehicles, and over 3.3 million kilometres of roadway to manage.
In coming to Government, one of my first actions as the new Minister was to commission a study into road trauma which evaluated the outcomes of international road safety measures. The report, completed late last year, analysed trauma in 21 countries since 1965.
Three measures were easily identified as largely responsible for steady decline in fatalities achieved over the last 50 years. Perhaps unsurprisingly these were speed limits, alcohol restrictions, and seatbelt laws. Looking forward the report identified road improvement as a key next step in road safety. In line with the findings of the study Australia's ongoing efforts will be focused on building better, safer, and more productive road networks. When we talk about infrastructure investment we tend to focus on the economic and productivity benefits, overlooking the safety outcomes for our people.
The safety benefits generated from better roads should not be underestimated. Better roads are safer roads. For instance, the duplication of the Hume Highway—a major highway in Australia's east between Melbourne and Sydney—has reduced annual fatalities by 85 per cent. In the same state an upgrade to dual carriageway along the Pacific Highway—the highway between Sydney and Brisbane—is expected to prevent around a 1000 deaths, and 7400 injuries up to the year of 2050.
Last year, the Australian Government announced a record $50 billion investment in infrastructure, which will deliver new road corridors in all major cities, making a massive difference to the road safety outcomes.
Similarly 66,000 kilometres of new roads are planned in India, at a rate of 30 kilometres of road per day, costed at around $30 billion a year. Infrastructure investment is clearly a priority for both India and Australia, which is why both our Governments have formed infrastructure committees of Cabinet led by our respective prime ministers. This renewed focus on infrastructure investment is crucial if we are to leverage as much as possible out of our infrastructure budgets. This means working with the private sector to build smarter and faster. It also means making sure that each one of our investments delivers the greatest possible economic benefit. In this regard road safety should be an important part of the equation. Noting the huge financial burdens of road trauma in both our countries, there is no doubt the design in safer roads will deliver its own economic dividends.
Here I should point out that the Indian and Australian Road Assessment Programs, or IndiaRAP and AusRAP, are based on the European model. These systems provide a simple but effective approach to designing safe roads, and calculating the associated economic benefits. In short, these systems help in delivering world class infrastructure which saves lives and leverages significant productivity gains, and economic outcomes.
The work of AusRAP, IndiaRAP, supported by VicRoads is one of the many examples of the longstanding partnership between Australia and India in road safety. It's also worth noting the joint efforts of the Australian and Indian Automobile Associations, and the joint venture between Australia's ARRB group and India's Road Survey and Management. IRSM provides the low cost coding for AusRAP's star rating. ARRB provides training expertise, high value survey vehicles, and technology for video assessments of roads in India. VicRoads International is providing advice on how to upgrade the safety road infrastructure based on our recommendations in seven Indian states. This is an area where Australian companies can offer expertise in collaboration with the Indian Government.
Advances in vehicle technology will also play a vital role in reducing road trauma in both our countries. Global vehicle technologies are on the edge of major changes which will reduce the road toll exponentially. For instance, the introduction of autonomous emergency braking systems in Australia is expected to save over 1,200 lives, and prevent 54,000 injuries by 2033. Indian and Australian R&D can make an enormous difference in improving vehicle safety outcomes for people. For instance in Australia an organisation partly funded by the Federal Government, ANCAP, provides testing and a range of systems, allowing consumers to make informed decisions about the safety outcome for of vehicles. While this progress is being driven by industry the Government will have a key role in promoting this technology across the world.
Similarly in India the Modi Government is taking action to enforce consistent vehicle safety standards. In Australia these standards are largely set by the Motor Vehicle Standards Act. Last year I announced a review of this act which will focus on giving consumers access to the safest cars at the lowest possible cost. Depending on the outcomes of this review I've started a process to accelerate harmonisation of Australian design rules with international standards.
Harmonisation will keep our standards in line with international best practice. Automatic adoption of UN regulations will also remove unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, give us more time to work with the international community as UN regulations are developed. The Australian Government will continue to make a strong contribution to improving vehicle standards internationally, building on the recent agreement to improve side impact protection; a fine achievement by my department and an example of how R&D from the private sector can work with the Government regulation to improve safety outcomes for our people.
In both our federal systems, road safety is a key challenge for both the Australian and Indian government. With this is mind the Australian Government sets national road safety goals to focus the efforts of state and local governments to enforce them. This is achieved through a framework of agreements endorsed by all transport ministers from across all Australian states under the Council of Australian Governments.
The current target that the National Road Safety Strategy is set to achieve is at least a 30 per cent reduction in the number of deaths and serious injuries by 2020. National fatalities numbers are now 17.4 per cent below the strategy baseline putting us well on track to achieve this reduction result. With continued effort I believe we can achieve more than a 30 per cent reduction.
Australia has a strong record of road safety achievement stretching back over four decades and India is on the cusp of achieving a number of historic road safety milestones, but neither of us can be complacent.
In fact, in the recent Christmas holiday period we were reminded just why we can't be complacent. In Australia 28 people lost their lives between 23 December and 3 January. Eight of those were in my home state of South Australia with four people dying in a 24-hour period.
Manufacturers can implement new safety technology and governments can improve roads and regulations of our road rules, but there is ultimately no substitute for responsibility and safe driving. Road safety is and will continue to be a shared responsibility.
Thank you so much for listening.