Barnaby Joyce sends road safety plan back to ministers after experts warn it would fail to reduce deaths

A plan to halve the road toll by 2030 will be sent back to state and territory ministers to be revisited, following experts warning it would fail to substantially reduce road deaths and could be exploited for pork-barrelling.

Over Christmas, the National Road Safety Strategy to 2030 was released, despite urgent calls it be sent back to the drawing board by the federal government’s own reviewers.

The plan was drafted by then-transport minister Michael McCormack after an extensive review of the previous decade’s road toll strategy that had failed to meet its targets on reducing road deaths.

But recommendations made by its reviewers, including to tie funding to measurable improvements in road safety, had not been adopted in the new plan, according to critics.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce — who holds chief responsibility for road safety federally — said he had heard the complaints and would make it an issue at next month’s meeting of federal and state transport ministers.

“The strategy was finalised in May last year by [Mr McCormack] and state and territory infrastructure and transport ministers from all sides of politics,” a spokesman for Mr Joyce said in a statement.

Mr Joyce is wearing a hat, and standing behind Mr McCormack who is out of focus.
Barnaby Joyce will ask ministers to revisit the plan drafted by his predecessor.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

“The Deputy Prime Minister appreciates industry’s ongoing concerns regarding data collection and the need for action items to be strengthened, to ensure the strategy’s goals can be delivered.

“That’s why the Deputy Prime Minister has listed those issues for discussion at the next infrastructure and transport ministers’ meeting scheduled for next month.”

Critics say new plan worse than last decade’s

The peak motoring body, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), has warned the plan in its current form leaves road funding open to pork-barrelling.

AAA managing director Michael Bradley said that, unlike school or hospital funding to the states, federal funding for road infrastructure had no “strings attached” to ensure projects actually improved road safety.

“State and federal governments have the opportunity to spend infrastructure dollars in areas or projects which are politically helpful rather than those projects which deliver the most safety benefits, and that’s a huge problem,” Mr Bradley said.

Former president of the Australasian College of Road Safety, Lauchlan McIntosh 3 who was hand-picked by the government to review the previous decade’s road safety strategy — said a move to tie funding for the states to reporting obligations appeared to have “faded off”.

“Without those accountabilities, the whole process is sort of lost,” Mr McIntosh said.

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