Second Global High-level Conference on Road Safety
17 November 2015
Good morning everyone—and my thanks to Your Excellency [Ms Dilma Rouseff, President of Brazil] and Ms Chan [Margaret Chan, Director of the World Health Organisation] for being with us this morning.
This conference is indeed a milestone in global efforts to curb road deaths and injuries, and their tragic and costly consequences.
By way of introduction, I am the Australian Government Minister responsible for Road Safety.
Australia's perspective on road safety is sharpened by both domestic and international issues.
We have a highly urbanized population—and extensive rural road networks. We understand the urgency of addressing both urban and rural road safety.
I am conscious of the efforts involved in achieving ambitious targets such as that which has just been set under the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, to reduce road deaths and injuries by 50% by 2020. Stretch targets like these provide a valuable focus for the efforts that must be made—by governments—vehicle makers—and by road users.
Our latest annual progress report shows that Australia's road fatalities have reduced by 19 per cent under our National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020.
However our progress has not been uniform for all areas and all groups—it is frustrating to note that fatalities on our remote roads fell by a more modest 6.7 per cent and deaths of older drivers and motorcycle riders have increased.
Although we have difficulty reliably tracking serious injuries nationally, the data we have also suggest that they may not be declining at all.
These frustrations are a spur to further efforts—and to assess how we can better target them. A key focus for Australia, and we expect for others as well, is improving the tracking of serious injuries from road crashes.
Australia's efforts to cut road trauma are progressed under the National Road Safety Strategy and the nineteen priority actions identified in its supporting National Road Safety Action Plan.
We aim to reduce the annual numbers of deaths and serious injuries in Australia by at least 30 per cent by 2020.
The mid-point of the Decade of Action is a natural point for assessing international progress. The WHO's latest global status report found that the overall number of deaths had plateaued since 2007.
In the context of increases in population and motorization, this is a strong result and suggests that some of the interventions of the past few years are working well.
But we clearly have a long way to go. The WHO has calculated that 1.25 million people died through road accidents in 2013 a staggering 90 per cent of them in low—and middle—income countries.
Australia continues to contribute to international road safety efforts, most recently through our leadership in developing a better international standard for side impact protection in light vehicles—which we encourage others to adopt.
We also carry out applied safety research that contributes to improved vehicle safety globally.
To reflect the international nature of vehicle standards, we are working to accelerate the harmonisation of the Australian Design Rules with international standards for vehicles.
Developing safer transport infrastructure is integral to our international aid efforts.
We provided $250 million in 2014–15 in aid for road development and maintenance, and road safety criteria are integrated within all the projects we support.
We recognise the need to target road infrastructure investment with a view to gaining the greatest safety benefit.
On the domestic side, the Australian Government is making a $50 billion investment in improving both urban and regional road networks—and this will achieve complementary road safety and economic benefits.
For instance, our investments in Queensland's Bruce highway have helped to dramatically cut fatalities from 53 in 2012 to 17 in 2014—the kind of reductions which are, of course, a fundamental outcome for all of us.
Finally, I want to affirm Australia's commitment to remain at the forefront of global road safety efforts.
Much progress has been achieved—and there is much more for all of us to do. I look forward to the gains we can make as an international community and the knowledge we can share with each other at this important global event.
Thank you very much.