Address to Australasian Road Safety Conference gala dinner

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I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the country we are meeting on – the Gimuy-walubarra yidi peoples.

I pay my respects to Elders past and present, and to all First Nations people joining us here tonight.

Thank you Dr Ingrid Johnston and Professor Ann Williamson for the invitation to join you in beautiful Cairns.

And for your kind introduction.

Tonight, as a gathering of road safety practitioners, researchers, advocates and experts, it is a celebration of your work in making a difference and saving lives on our roads.

I am thrilled to be here in celebration of you all, particularly the recipients of the Australasian College of Road Safety Fellowship Award, Women in Road Safety Award and the Young Leader’s Oration Award.

I am grateful that I am able to continue the eight-year tradition of Australian Government involvement in this event.

This evening we recognise and share our appreciation for the invaluable work undertaken by those here and across the Southern Hemisphere that are committed to road safety.

The Australian Government is proud to sponsor this year’s conference, and I encourage you to drop by the Office of Road Safety booth in the expo centre tomorrow to say hi.

Road safety is a matter that affects all Australians each and every day.  

Whether pedestrian, cyclist, scooter or motorbike driver, the driver of their personal vehicle or a transport road worker, road safety is fundamental to our daily lives.

Normal factors impacting our way of living, such as, our communities, our towns and cities, our health, environment, and the economy, are all shaped by our access and ability to travel safely on, and near our roads. 

And we know many of these factors are intertwined and have nuanced layers of complexity.

When it comes to matters of the road, we often face competing priorities and challenges; however, safety must remain at the core.

I thank you all for dedicating your working lives to an issue that is challenging but incredibly important.

This is not an easy chosen field, and it is one that is, at times, painfully confronting.

I met recently with Dr Long Truong.

Dr Truong is a Senior Lecturer of the Sustainable Urban and Rural Transport Research Group at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

I heard details of a research project to develop planning-stage crash prediction tools and ways to integrate these tools with transport planning models.

The project has been funded by the Australian Government through the Road Safety Innovation Fund.

I hope that it will be able to be adopted more broadly to provide significant benefits in reducing road fatalities and serious injuries by enabling proactive safety planning for transport projects from a network perspective.

This is just one example of the many great projects and research programs being undertaken to reduce road trauma and improve road safety.

I want to thank everyone in the room - and on behalf of the Australian Government and all Australians, I want to acknowledge that your work is vital and impactful.

Over the last year, I have had the privilege to meet so many of you and hear firsthand about the remarkable work you are doing.

Your work makes a significant contribution to the everyday lives of Australians.

It is fantastic that so many people in this room bring different lenses, different areas of expertise and insights to the table.

This diversity allows us to work together in reducing road trauma from varying angles.

It is an issue that very much requires a multi-disciplinary, cross-channel approach and a matter for which we all have responsibility.

I am very proud of the Australian Government’s approach to road safety.

We are working collaboratively with other governments, researchers and stakeholders to reduce road trauma.

Road safety does not have a simple, quick fix, but I am confident that by working together, we will reduce road deaths and serious injuries.

Tonight, we are joined by many key stakeholders and grant recipients of Australian government-funded research activities and programs.

Thank you for your interest in these opportunities, and congratulations to those successful in receiving funding – I’m aware it’s a very competitive, merit-based process.

The Australian Government, through the Office of Road Safety, has recently released our National Road Safety Action Grants Program.

Earlier this year, $43.6 million was committed to delivering this program over the next four years as part of our implementation of the National Road Safety Action Plan.

The program provides non-infrastructure grants through five prioritised funding streams.

  • Community Education and Awareness, including workplace road safety;
  • Vulnerable Road Users;
  • First Nations Road Safety;
  • Technology and innovation; and
  • Research and data.

The first two streams close late last month with incredible interest. Streams three and four will be open later this year, with the final stream opening early next year.

This program is open to a range of organisations, including not-for-profit and research-based, as well as local, state and territory governments. 

If you’re interested, please keep an eye on the Office of Road Safety website or have a chat with them tomorrow.

Without delving into the finer details, I do want to mention my work towards improving bus safety.

Following the tragic Hunter Valley bus crash in June this year, I hosted a Roundtable on Bus Safety in Melbourne in late August.

I was joined by expert representatives from the Bus Industry Confederation, many major bus companies and manufacturers, unions, and safety experts.

We discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the bus industry and its safety.

Conversations on topics such as seatbelts, and future design rules were had and ideas such as data loggers, vehicle roll-over warning systems and future safety campaigns were shared.

We heard that there may be benefits for educational campaigns to achieve improved seatbelt use and for improved understanding by all road users for sharing roads with buses.

However, industry and the Australian Government share the commonality of prioritisation of safety. This gives me confidence that we, together, can improve bus safety.

Industry members at the roundtable also expressed their interest in achieving greater safety by introducing international safety standards more quickly.

We discussed ways that the ADR process might be better streamlined and other opportunities to more readily adopt and bring to market new technologies and standards in Australia. 

As a result of roundtable discussions, I am also keen to ensure that we seek every opportunity to upskill Australian bus industry workers and look to develop niche technology offerings where we can.

I will continue to prioritise improved bus safety outcomes and engage with experts as I progress this work.

In addition to this, I look forward to hosting a First Nations Road Safety Summit later this year.

The Summit will allow me the opportunity to hear directly from First Nations people about road safety issues affecting their communities and to develop strategies for improvement.

With First Nations people represented from every state and territory across Australia, I hope to discuss the development of culturally relevant education and messaging.

I wish to address gaps in data collection and research on First Nations road safety.

And to generate greater levels of understanding when it comes to the impacts of road trauma within these communities – this includes the significant health and economic impacts.

We will use this Summit as an opportunity to continue our partnership development and to align road safety priorities for effective policy implementation and program delivery.

I’m sure you all agree that road safety data is often at the very heart of what we do.

That is why I am proud of the Australian Government’s commitment to collaboration with all states and territories when it comes to understanding, monitoring, and tracking targets.

The National Road Safety Strategy and the National Road Safety Action Plan allows us to place a strong focus on the importance of robust data as the foundation of our work.

Supplementing our coordinated approach, an intergovernmental Data Working Group meets regularly to improve consistency in data gathering and availability.

And we continue to support through the $18.9 million that was allocated in the 2023-24 Budget for the procurement of road safety data, research and a number of evaluation projects.

Speaking of the National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan, risky road use is one of the nine priority areas identified.

In July, I hosted a roundtable in Adelaide on this particular concern.  

Some of you were there, including representatives from the Australasian College of Road Safety.

Again, I thank everyone who attended for your contributions to a very valuable conversation that will help inform Australian Government actions in this space in the coming months and years.

Our key agenda items included ways to improve seatbelt use, reduce drink and drug driving and minimise overall risky road use.

This discussion was insightful, and it was great to look into the impact of human factors, such as the dangerous outcomes of our modern, busy lives on driver distraction and fatigue.

Lastly, I’d like to reflect on the Road Safety Ministers’ Meeting I hosted this morning.

This meeting was an opportunity for ministers with road safety responsibility across all jurisdictions, as well as the Australian Local Government Association, to work collaboratively.

Here we were able to share knowledge, learnings and experiences as well as align ourselves on a coordinated approach to road safety across Australia.

I expect to meet again in the first half of next year and to continue working together as we implement the activities of the current Action Plan.

And without fear of repetition, I thank each and every one of you for the valuable work you undertake for road safety outcomes for all Australians.

Together, we are, and will continue to, make our roads safer. 

Thank you.