Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (17:39): I rise to speak on the tabling of the increase in Victoria’s road toll report by the Economy and Infrastructure Committee. As of 19 April 2021, 75 lives had been lost in Victoria—five a week. This is absolutely devastating, and we are only in April—May, now. This is why reducing deaths on Victorian roads is an issue of significant importance and one I strongly believe is worth tackling. I am proud of this report and its recommendation to improve the safety of Victoria’s roads, cars and all road users. It is something that I hope the government will have relevant bodies take to heart, as I am sure they will, considering their ongoing commitment to road safety.
Since the inquiry began, the government has released the Victorian Road Safety Strategy 2021–2030 to halve deaths and significantly reduce injuries on our roads by 2030 and hopefully reach zero deaths by 2050.
However, while this idea is one of many steps toward saving Victorian lives, there is still no clear way to evaluate success or otherwise achieving these goals. Without transparent performance indicators, cooperation and information sharing between the government and its departments, VicRoads and Victoria Police we will be unable to successfully and significantly reduce Victoria’s road toll. The report recommends that the government ensure the Department of Transport improves its record keeping, in particular in relation to flexible wire rope barriers. Wire rope barriers, unlike other barriers, require continual maintenance and checking to ensure the correct tension is maintained. A lack of records makes it difficult to plan, evaluate and maintain these barriers effectively. It also hinders any assessment of the actual cost of the state of the road safety mechanisms in Victoria.
I am pleased that the committee heard from a wide range of international bodies and organisations who were facing the same difficulties as Victoria and made recommendations based on their experience, as well as those learnings expressed by a range of Victorian organisations. One significant recommendation made in the report is that the government undertake research into the cost and time frame of ensuring all highways, arterial roads and other roads of significance in Victoria are a minimum 3-star rating. Currently 30 to 35 per cent of Victorian roads are rated a 1- or 2-star road, meaning they are high-risk and dangerous. In addition, 85 per cent of roads have dangerous roadsides, according to the Australian Road Assessment Program in 2015. Poorly maintained roads simply mean that there is a greater risk to Victorian drivers, road users and pedestrians.
Allocating funding to road maintenance and research into the standard of Victorian roads will benefit all Victorians and help save lives. The report outlines the need to promote the L2P program and to review whether the age limit for learners to complete a compulsory minimum of 120 hours of logged supervised driving should be increased to 25 years old, which makes sense as there is a reason why we do not just allow individuals to drive a 1.2-tonne vehicle straight off the bat. Vehicles are powerful and dangerous moving objects, and they should be considered a privilege to drive and not a right or expectation.
I also believe that undertaking a half-day or even a day of training is not nearly sufficient for an individual to then be able to drive a truck on Victorian roads. That is why I am pleased to see the report recommends that the government work with the heavy vehicle sector to review minimum training requirements needed to obtain a heavy vehicles licence. While this may be the end of the inquiry, it is only the beginning of improving Victorian roads and reducing Victoria’s road toll. Vital changes to the way we report and manage Victoria’s road toll, road hazards and maintenance are needed. I have learned a lot through this inquiry, and upon reading the final report it is clear what the government and the Department of Transport need to do. I hope the government adopts these recommendations and that we can work towards reducing Victoria’s road toll altogether.