Address to 2023 National Local Roads and Transport Congress

Thank you, Linda, for your introduction and to the Australian Local Government Association for inviting me to speak today.

Before I commence, I would like to begin by congratulating the Australian Local Government Association and the Monash University Accident Research Centre, and the Australasian College of Road Safety for completing the Road Safety 2023 A Career Pathway for Women project.

I joined many of you at last year’s Local Roads and Transport Congress in my hometown of Hobart. It is great to be back, this time, in the nation’s capital. 

I want to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands we meet, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples.

I pay respects to Elders past, present, and to First Nations people here.

Managing and maintaining our roads and improving road safety is the responsibility of all levels of government. 

You and I both know that local government and councils play a particularly important role, managing more than three quarters of our nation’s roads.

The National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan reflect this, setting out key priorities for action across all levels of government, including road-trauma reduction targets for the decade to 2030.

Our targets are ambitious - to reduce fatalities by 50 per cent and serious injuries by 30 per cent by 2030 – but necessary to drive us to towards our shared goal of Vision Zero by 2050.

Since this Congress met last November, we have been working together with states and territories to implement the Action Plan.

And we are making progress on delivering on our shared actions.

More than half of the 58 action items the Australian Government has responsibility for are being implemented; I will speak to some of these shortly.

The Road Safety Ministers' Meeting is the key intergovernmental forum to collaborate in this space.

And I am pleased to let you all know that ALGA will be participating in future meetings.

This is just one example of how the Albanese Government is bringing local government back into decision-making.

We invited ALGA to share its priorities with National Cabinet earlier this year.

National Cabinet has since prioritised a more coordinated development approach, including road and infrastructure projects.

In June, some of you joined us when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hosted the first Australian Council of Local Government in more than a decade.

My friend and colleague Kristy McBain will discuss our reinvigorated approach to working with local government at your Congress dinner tonight.

Today I want to focus my remarks on road safety, which is all of our responsibility.

Tragically, on average 1,200 people are killed and a further 40,000 are seriously injured on our roads each year.

Many more people are affected by road accidents, including truckies who are often first on-scene.

The latest road safety data shows that road deaths for the month of July, 110 lives, was higher, on average, than records for the same month over the previous five years.

This is devastating and disappointing; every death on our roads is one too many.

Road safety matters are complex and don’t have quick solutions.

Improving the national road safety data will help us to inform actions and ultimately save more lives and reduce road trauma in Australia.

As you can appreciate, there are many complexities in producing a nationally consistent road-safety data sets but it is this Government that is leading the way towards a national minimum data set.

Road safety data is owned and recorded by individual states and territories, and road safety is often not the primary reason for data collection.

State and territories also have differences in how this data is recorded and reported - from questions through to data presentation.

We are creating more reliable, consistent and accessible data and looking at what other relevant data could be collected to improve the evidence base.

In May, the first cross-jurisdictional catalogue of road safety data was published through the Road Safety Data Hub. These privacy-protected road safety data sets will be continually updated.

Meanwhile, the intergovernmental Road Safety Data Sharing Agreement is being finalised, which will see, for the first time, an agreed methodology and timeframe for collecting data and national reporting.

Further, through the National Road Safety Action Plan, the Government is supporting local government capability to manage and improve road safety. For example, through road-safety risk assessments and targeting local infrastructure investment where it’s needed.

And we are co-ordinating the delivery of road-safety risk assessment training to staff of local governments by the end of next year.

These types of measures are backed by funding through the Australian Government’s Road Safety Program.

Our Government has allocated $976.4 million through to June 2025 - taking federal funding in this program to almost $3 billion from 2020.

The program will support lifesaving improvements on state highways and arterial roads.

Improvements such as shoulder sealing, protection from road-side hazards, rumble strips, safety barriers and median treatments to help prevent crashes.

We are placing a focus on enhanced road-safety works in urban regional and remote locations - from roundabouts to improved paths for cyclists and pedestrians.

Through to June 2025, projects are identified in partnership with state and territory governments and funded through 50/50 co-contributions.

We have increased flexibility by removing six-month delivery timelines and exceptional circumstances. Instead, all new projects will need to meet deadlines by June 2025.

To promote better protections for pedestrians and cyclists, we are seeking 20 per cent of Road Safety program funding in urban areas to be allocated to footpath and cycleway enhancements.

Because we are all only as safe as our most vulnerable road users.

Meanwhile the National Road Safety Action Grants Program, is providing vital funding to non-infrastructure road safety across the country.

The first two focus areas covered Community Education and Awareness and Vulnerable Road Users, and applications closed last month.

Grants of between $20,000 and $1.5 million will go to programs that support young or disadvantaged drivers to get their licence, reduce risky behaviours such as drink driving, and promote safer starts on our roads.

As well as initiatives to improve workplace road safety, road rule compliance and safer interactions with heavy vehicles.

The next two focus areas, First Nations Road Safety and Technology and Innovation, are expected to open for applications later this year – with the final focus area of Research and Data expected to open early 2024. 

In addition, the Grants are providing $6 million to the Amy Gillett Foundation to deliver the Safer Cycling for Safer Roads program by working directly with local governments.

This program will enhance skills and knowledge-sharing to support best-practice road and infrastructure building for safe cycling and test new approaches to documenting cyclists’ road safety.

I know this Congress is interested in heavy vehicles, as am I.

Our Government is supporting hard-working truck drivers who keep Australia moving through new and upgraded Heavy Vehicle Rest Areas nationwide.

This $140 million commitment over ten years, will drive jobs and opportunities for local suppliers and businesses.

Applications are open, with initial projects expected to be announced later this year.

A Steering Committee is ensuring the road transport industry and drivers have a voice in the design of the initiative.

Chaired by my colleague Senator Glenn Sterle, a former truckie himself, the committee comprises five truck drivers and four industry representatives.

Working with people who will benefit from our objectives – that is what this Government is all about.

In closing, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address this year’s Congress, the theme of which is Building communities that are stronger, smarter, safer.

Improving our roads and road safety outcomes is key to this.

As I have outlined, we are making good progress. We will continue this momentum, working together with partners like you, on the road to Vision Zero.

Because every death on our roads is one too many.

Thank you.