Road Safety — Speech in the Federation Chamber 01/07/2024

July 1, 2024

Hansard 01/07/2024  House of Representatives

Mr LLEW O’BRIEN (Wide Bay) (16:55): First of all, I commend the member for Barker for putting this motion on road safety forward for discussion. Road safety is one of those areas that so many communities and so many individuals are impacted by. A road accident is one of those terrible events that can just reach out of everyday life, take someone before their time and destroy a family. I have listened to the speakers before me, particularly the member for Cowper, who is a former police officer, as I am. We know only too well what that looks like, and we don’t want anyone else to be exposed to that if possible. That’s why there is a goal around road safety that is striving for zero deaths. There are people working hard, and it is the case that, as the saying goes, road safety is everyone’s responsibility. What we need, though, is for the states and territories to act responsibly in this fight against road deaths and start sharing the very critical information that they have. Much of it they keep secret at the moment, which is quite extraordinary.

We are living in the middle of a genuine crisis. We had 1,237 people lose their lives last year, and we still have around 40,000 people every year being seriously injured. Is that not enough for governments of all persuasions, at all levels, to say, ‘We will do everything that we possibly can’? For some reason, states and territories are saying: ‘No. We want to hoard our information relating to causal factors, injuries, road design, road ratings.’ Only recently, and only through a freedom-of-information request, was I able to get some up-to-date data around road ratings, and it certainly did paint a very horrible, poor picture of the roads in Queensland. The vast majority of the roads are two-star-rated roads. They are killer roads. Very few are five-star-rated roads, the safest rating. But this is the information that should be readily available to everyone who’s working in the space of road safety, not hoarded, effectively, by politicians who are afraid that they won’t be able to make an announcement in a particular area because it’s not justified, and that will stop pork-barrelling. Well, people are dying, and we need to put every effort into solving this. Sharing data is a good place to start.

The Labor Party came into power after the last election making a commitment that they were going to do this, they were going to cause data to be shared, pulling the levers that they have, particularly around infrastructure spending—and they have made some progress. I will say that. As previous speakers have said, we need to be as bipartisan as possible. But it is the job of those who hold the government to account to point out where they are failing. There have been failings in relation to road safety—particularly around the amount of money that has been given to states, and around the Bruce Highway in my state.

When we left government, the federal government’s contribution was 80 per cent, and the states’ was 20. Recently, the Labor government, at a federal level, changed that to 50 per cent from the states and 50 per cent from the Commonwealth. This is not a good decision for road safety. This is a decision that will see important infrastructure projects that would save lives put on the backburner. There’s no accountability around that spending. It’s put into a pool; it’s not being put directly into projects, as we had been doing.

Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. I call on the states to do what they should and share their data.


In the spirit of Australia, I acknowledge all citizens who contribute to making our nation the greatest on earth.

I acknowledge our defence force personnel, past, present, and emerging, for their service to our nation, and particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of Australia.

I also acknowledge the Australian taxpayers who, through their hard work, pay for the infrastructure, health, education, and emergency services that keep our proud nation healthy, safe, and prosperous.