National Coordinating Committee Planning Meeting for
Yellow Ribbon National Road Safety Week from 8-14 May 2017
4 October 2016
Transcription of address by Hon Darren Chester MP, Commonwealth Minister for Infrastructure and Transport to the Principal Partners, State & Territory Motoring Clubs, and Commonwealth, State & Territory Government Jurisdictions, in opening the Inaugural National Coordinating Committee.
Peter Frazer thanks attendees for the past commitment to Yellow Ribbon National Road Safety Week and welcomes the Commonwealth Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Hon Darren Chester MP
Peter Frazer (SARAH): “Everyone sitting around this table has made fantastic input over the last few years for what’s now Yellow Ribbon National Road Safety Week. So, I want to firstly say, thank you to each and every one on you for your commitment and making this such a success in such a short period of time.
As you are aware, National Road Safety Week will be an event of Global Road Safety Week next year and its focus will be speed.
The purpose of today is to see what we can do on a national level to hopefully, not only coordinate, but also to be able to use resources more effectively; so the sharing of resources as well. That’ll be our major issue.
First off, I’d like to introduce Darren Chester is, who, as everyone is well aware, the Commonwealth Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.”
Minister Chester: “Thank you, Peter and thank you to those joining us online for those around Australia. Thank you also to the AAA for hosting this event today.
Thank you, as I said on the night about a month ago [Australasian Road Safety Conference Dinner, Canberra, 7 September 2016], thank you for the work that you’ve already done but more importantly, thank you for the work you are going to do in the future and I sincerely say that because we have a task ahead of us. Each of us recognises the challenge, in particular in relation to the national road safety strategy and the fact of not meeting our targets. I’ve taken that on as something of a personal and professional responsibility to make sure we make some inroads in relation to that in the term that I have in office as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.
We are going to need to work together. We’re going to need to harness all of our passion, collectively. We’re going to need to make sure we are combining our advocacy skills to help make a difference in each of our jurisdictions. So I think there is a huge opportunity for us, but also a huge responsibility for each and every one of us in this room.
Now as a Minister, you would appreciate, and I promise you, I’m not looking for sympathy here, but you would appreciate that there is a lot of demands on my time. There are many competing interests and people who come to my office and each and every one of them has a different set of priorities and each and every one of them believes that their issue is the most important issue of all. There’s no question of that.
Can I tell you though, and I’ve said this publicly before and I’ll say it again in front of you today, that there is no more important work that I do, in my role as Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, than in relation to reducing road trauma. So I don’t make any apologies to other people who come into my office who believe their issue is more important. This issue is one that actually does change lives, does save lives, does mean that we can reduce the legacy of serious injuries – the walking wounded in our community. That is why it is so important and I’m so passionate about doing the most that I can do with the opportunity that I have.
The work you are doing… the work we are doing together can actually make a difference in people’s lives and I want to keep reinforcing that and encouraging you to commit yourselves, through your daily roles, to applying every ounce of energy you’ve got into achievements in that regard.
Can I also say that, in relation to the National Road Safety Week, it is a great opportunity for us to get out into the community, both in advance, but also in particular in that week in terms of promoting safer driving and raising awareness of road safety.
Now Peter and I met about 4 or 5 years ago now and we’ve come a long way together… I have gone grey in front of your eyes! He first came with his Yellow Ribbon Road Safety Week proposal which was underway at the time and I was absolutely impressed by his passion and his determination to make a difference through that work. The point of the National Road Safety Week is that it gives us an opportunity as Governments and industry leaders to work in partnership and send a common message to the community more generally.
Peter touched on the fact that the Week will coincide with the United Nations Global Road Safety Week next year and the emphasis, or theme, is on speed. Now I think there’s a difficult conversation we need to start having with more Australians in relation to speed. Our regional road tolls, in particular, have been resistant to the improvements we’ve seen over the last 10 years in terms of the reductions in trauma.
One of the biggest factors in regional areas is speed and one of the greatest challenges is encouraging regional Australians to slow down a bit. When they get out on an open road and they’ve got four or five hours of driving ahead of them, they put their foot down. I’ve done it in the past and I hope I don’t do it in the future. It is a challenge for us and I think we need to get out there and have that conversation with more Australians and give them the information in relation to the fact that going that extra five or ten k’s per hour faster doesn’t actually achieve much in terms of their overall journey.
These are global messages and I am encouraged by the United Nations’ approach of thinking globally but acting locally. We need to take these global messages, these national themes, back down to a community level.
I’ve got a feeling that we need to re-double our efforts to make the issue of road trauma more personal to people… to encourage Australians to make their own personal commitment to their own safety, to the safety of the people who are passengers in their vehicles and the safety of other road users. I think that is a challenge that we all need to take up in the coming months. It’s personal to Peter – we all know his story… it’s a very personal story and it’s one that’s moved me to tears and others to tears when he tells his story. It’s personal for Michael… my advisor who is working with me many hours a day. Michael was involved in a traumatic road accident when he was only 21, so it’s personal for him as well.
Their own personal commitment to road safety is something that will break through the media fatigue on this issue and also ‘blow away’ any community acceptance that there is a price to pay for a modern transport system.
So I think there are some twin challenges there for us… there is level of media fatigue around issues of road trauma… and there is some level of community acceptance that seems to be that ‘well, we’ve done pretty good, we’ve been moving in the right direction but there is always going to be road crashes’. I think we need to break through on both those points.
I’m excited to be part of your inaugural meeting. I’m very keen to progress the debate at a national level. There’s a fair bit going on at a federal level; there’s a meeting today with the Secretary of my Department and the Transport and Infrastructure Chief Executives from each of the jurisdictions, bringing together their best ideas in terms of anything we can be doing at a federal level to work with each jurisdiction.
There’s another meeting going on in November in Perth where I’ve called together the State Ministers as part of the Transport and Infrastructure Council. In follow-up to our first meeting, I indicated to them that I wasn’t happy that we weren’t going to meet with national road safety targets and that we need to do better and we need to pull together the best practice across Australia and implement it on a nation wide basis. They’re coming together, with me, in Western Australia to progress that debate even further.
I think that all leads very nicely into the Christmas period which is notorious period for road trauma and also it leads into National Road Safety Week in 2017. So, there is a lot happening. I can assure you that I am as committed to improvements in road trauma as I was the day I got the job. There’s no fatigue on my behalf. I’ve got Peter cracking the whip on my back on a regular basis.
I want to finish where I started in terms of simply thanking you for what you’ve already done. Don’t think for a second that because we, perhaps, haven’t achieved the targets we set ourselves, that anyone has failed. Thank you for the work that you’ve already done but more importantly, again, thank you for the work you are going to do in the future. I look forward to working in partnership with you in the years ahead. Thank you very much.”
Peter Frazer: “When the Minister and I first got to know each other, as he said, he wasn’t necessarily associated with this portfolio but his passion was and, indeed, that was the reason that we met.
What I am really pleased about, is that the people sitting around this table have this degree of passion. If we are to make changes, it’s not just about compliance and enforcement, an indeed that’s my background. It’s about how do we get engagement with our community… How do we get engagement with the stakeholders to ensure that we’re actually moving together and moving forward. The other comment, of course, is that it has to be personal.
What happens is that it doesn’t really matter to people out there if it’s 1200 or 1300 or 1500 people killed. If they hear the story about one person, and they connect with that one person, it changes behaviour. At the end of the day, we’ve got to be about changing behaviour out there.
Again, thank you to the Minister for all his comments. I also know that we’re lucky to have a person who’s actually passionate about this. It’s not just a portfolio responsibility, it’s his lead responsibility and we really appreciate it.”
Minister Chester: “Thank you. Good luck today, team. We’ll no doubt be in contact.”
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