TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT CAMERA REVENUE
Discussion on Petition Signed by 10,000 or More Persons
Mr MARK COURE
(Oatley) [4.27 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to speak to this petition signed by more than 13,500 residents of New South Wales who are concerned about road safety and expenditure of public money on road safety initiatives. I congratulate the NRMA and the Police Association of NSW on bringing forward this issue and generating public interest in it. The petition calls for all revenue from fines generated by safety cameras to be put back into road safety initiatives. Revenue from traffic fines is expected to raise approximately $300 million this financial year, and that is a significant amount of money that could be redirected into improved road safety.
The NRMA and New South Wales Police Association have recommended that 40 per cent of revenue from safety cameras be used to recruit 200 highway patrol officers, at a cost of $110 million, and that the remaining 60 per cent be invested in roads and road safety education. This would put extra police on our roads to deal with irresponsible drivers and, through education, improve the quality of drivers, particularly young drivers who are most often at risk of injury or mishap as a result of inexperience. Far too many people die in road incidents across New South Wales every year and sadly members of the community have become cynical about the effectiveness of safety cameras as a worthwhile means of changing driver behaviour and reducing the road toll.
Some of these issues were brought to light by the audit of speed cameras conducted by the Auditor-General which made a series of recommendations to improve the use of speed cameras. This also resulted in the switching off, or removal of, 38 of 141 cameras that were found to be revenue raising and not fulfilling a definitive road safety role. The response to this petition from the Minister for Roads and Ports indicates that further to the audit a New South Wales speed camera strategy is currently being developed. The measures advocated in this petition are deserving of consideration as a part of that review and it is a commonsense approach to the expenditure of revenue raised from safety cameras. A similar approach has been used in other jurisdictions to advance road safety measures.
In a similar vein, the Federal Government recently announced that $2 million confiscated from criminals will be used to support police and community youth clubs and help to reduce the risk of young people succumbing to a life of crime. It is an example of the Government using money generated by the misdeeds of the criminal members of society in order to alleviate a significant community problem. That is how public money should be used. Road safety has improved over the years through the concerted efforts of government and stakeholder groups, including campaigns regarding the wearing of seatbelts, drink-driving, speeding in school zones, driver fatigue, and improved education and training for learner and provisional drivers.
The end result has been fewer fatalities on our roads and, arguably, smarter drivers. However, according to the NSW Centre for Road Safety there were 378 fatalities in New South Wales in the 12-month period ending February 2012. This number is still too high and the Government should be looking at all available options to improve road safety and reduce fatalities. This is a commonsense initiative that has been advocated by the NRMA and the Police Association of NSW. I wholeheartedly support the petition and I am grateful for the in-principle support offered by the Minister for Roads and Ports.
Mr ROBERT FUROLO
(Lakemba) [4.32 p.m.]: The New South Wales Labor Opposition welcomes the tabling of this petition and indicates its support for the campaign by the NRMA and the Police Association of NSW. I acknowledge representatives of those organisations who are in the public gallery today. We congratulate those organisations on their initiative and their commitment to road safety in New South Wales. It is great to see organisations other than the Labor Opposition committed to improving road safety. The New South Wales Opposition believes improving road safety should be the first priority of the Government's roads policy—that is, all decisions made, all policies introduced and all choices about funding should have as their prime directive improving road safety. That is why we call on the Government to embrace the campaign and acknowledge the strong support of the more than 13,000 people who have signed this petition. But, more than that, we are calling on the O'Farrell Government to deliver on the intention of this petition and increase funding for road safety initiatives to the value of revenue generated from traffic fines.
If the O'Farrell Government is serious about improving road safety, if it is serious about improving transparency, if it is serious about reducing fatalities, and if it is serious about increasing highway patrols, it will increase funding for road safety equivalent to the value of the revenue from traffic fines. This would mean an extra $300 million to improve safety. On the proportions suggested by the NRMA and the Police Association of NSW, this would mean an extra $110 million for improving our roads, an equivalent amount for better-resourced and more highway patrols, and $55 million for improved road safety education. If the Premier simply substitutes the current allocations for these initiatives, which are funded from consolidated revenue, with equivalent funds from traffic fines, the Liberal-Nationals Government will have conned the people of New South Wales. On that point I refer to the wording of the petition, which states:
We ask that revenue raised from traffic fines, in particular enforcement cameras, be used as extra funding for specific road safety measures ...
The former Labor Government commenced a sustained program of improving road safety and reducing accidents and fatalities in New South Wales. In fact, between 2002 and 2010 fatalities on our roads were reduced by 25 per cent. That compares favourably with the reduction across the rest of Australia for the same period, which was only 18 per cent. In 2008 there were fewer fatalities on our roads than at any other time since records began in 1944. This is despite there being 15 times more registered vehicles, 11 times more licensed drivers and double the State's population. But of course there is more to be done. That is why the New South Wales Opposition supports the hypothecation of traffic fine revenue for road safety initiatives. It is why the Opposition calls on the O'Farrell Government to support it too and it is why we want to see this Government show true leadership by increasing funding for important road safety initiatives—not by substituting the consolidated revenue with fine revenue but by adding it to these programs.
While we are talking about road safety and road policy, it is a good opportunity to reflect on some of the initiatives of this Government in the first 12 months of its term. This policy is useful for the Government because it adds credibility to what has been 12 months of pretty ordinary roads policy. Already in the Government's first 12 months those opposite have walked away from the M4 East extension. It has refused to commit to essential infrastructure like the M5 East, the M2 to F3 link or the F6 missing link. The Government has walked away from its Pacific Highway commitments because it has failed to agree to a construction deadline of 2016. The Government has refused to rule out increasing tolls or introducing time of day tolling or distance tolling and it has refused to reduce tolls on the M4.
Mr Mark Coure:
You did nothing for 16 years.
Mr ROBERT FUROLO:
That is not true, is it? Let us be clear: Have Government members heard of the M7? That road was built by the former Government, as was a whole series of other roads—for example, the M5 East extension, which services not only my electorate but your electorate. And it is your Government that is proposing to put a toll on these roads.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward):
Order! I remind the member that he should address his comments through the Chair.
Mr ROBERT FUROLO:
The Government has refused to rule out increasing tolls on our roads, refused to rule out the introduction of time of day tolling, refused to rule out distance tolling so people in the Blue Mountains, Penrith and south-western Sydney will pay more to travel to work, refused to rule out introducing tolls on the M4—
Mr Mark Coure:
Your Government put in more tolls than any other Government.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward):
Order! I call the member for Oatley to order for the second time.
Mr ROBERT FUROLO:
The Government has refused to rule out putting tolls on roads that motorists have already paid for. [Time expired
Mr LEE EVANS
(Heathcote) [4.37 p.m.]: I thank the member for Lakemba for his contribution to this important discussion. I am proud to support the petition, which calls for traffic fine revenue collected across New South Wales to be invested in making our roads safer. By making this change, it would direct as much as an extra $300 million towards road improvements, better driver education and more highway patrols throughout the State. This is an idea that makes so much sense it is difficult to understand why it was not implemented decades ago. The NRMA and the Police Association of NSW have proposed that 40 per cent of traffic fine revenue should go towards improving road infrastructure, 40 per cent should be used to recruit 200 highway patrol officers and the remaining 20 per cent should be provided for a crucial boost to road safety education.
The funding of road safety education is especially important when one considers that a 17-year-old driver with a P1 licence is four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a driver over the age of 26. Despite representing just 15 per cent of all drivers, young drivers make up about 36 per cent of annual road fatalities. The revenue raised from traffic infringements would be allocated to a panel of experts to ensure that every dollar raised is spent as efficiently as possible to enhance road safety. Beyond the safety benefits, the measure would also please motorists, who feel that speed cameras are installed to raise revenue for the State Government's coffers. The Minister for Roads and Ports, the Hon. Duncan Gay, has already addressed the notion of decommissioning cameras that were not providing a desired safety benefit according to the Auditor-General's report.
The change advocated in the petition would further remove doubt that the purpose of the remaining speed cameras in New South Wales is to prevent crashes and save lives. Each year, 417 people on average are killed on New South Wales roads. This means that each year 417 families across the State lose a parent, a partner, a son or a daughter. Just between 2006 and 2010 more than 2,160 people lost their lives on New South Wales roads, and 180,000 people have been killed on roads throughout Australia since record-keeping began in 1925. Beyond the human tragedy, the annual economic cost of road crashes is conservatively estimated at $3 billion per annum in New South Wales and more than $18 billion across the country. In many cases, these deaths could have been prevented by a safer driver and better infrastructure. I believe the initiative will send a clear message that New South Wales is seriously committed to reducing the annual road toll. I commend the petition to the House.
Mr GUY ZANGARI
(Fairfield) [4.39 p.m.]: I speak today in support of the petition jointly organised by the NRMA and the Police Association of NSW requesting that revenue raised from traffic enforcement cameras be spent on road safety initiatives. To state the obvious, the fact that this petition has received 10,000 signatories indicates the profound public expectation that moneys raised from road-related fines should be directed to road safety and improving road infrastructure. Road safety is of paramount importance. Every year hundreds of lives are lost on roads right across New South Wales. One of the main instruments used by successive governments in New South Wales to address the issue of road safety is the imposition of financial penalties intended to act as a deterrent to speeding and to remind people to be mindful of how they conduct themselves and their vehicles on our roads.
Over the years as the number of offences that attract a financial penalty increases along with the value of the financial penalty for each offence, the community has every right to expect that revenue raised will be ploughed back into road safety. The New South Wales Labor Opposition supports this petition because road safety is, and always will be, a top Labor roads policy. The New South Wales Labor Opposition calls on the O'Farrell Government to hypothecate traffic fine revenue for road safety measures in addition to maintaining the current budget for road safety. The New South Wales Labor Opposition also calls on the O'Farrell Government to replicate the previous Labor Government's record on road safety. On Labor's watch the road toll reduced by more than one third, from 620 in 1995 to 405 in 2010.
Road safety measures introduced by the previous Government included school safety zones, flashing lights for school zones, safety cameras and mobile speed cameras. It also made a significant investment in road safety education campaigns such as the "Speeding—no-one thinks big of you" advertising campaign—remember that? Hypothecation of speeding fines will also help the community feel confident that traffic safety measures such as speed cameras, red light cameras and safety cameras are not for revenue raising—a lie that the Coalition perpetuated over and over again when it was in opposition—but are genuine road safety measures. While most people in my electorate understand that the speed camera on Fairfield Street between Scott and Mandarin streets was installed to improve road safety for drivers and pedestrians, people in my community also want to ensure that road safety programs will be protected from the changing priorities of government. If the Coalition Government is genuinely concerned about improving road safety now and into the future it should support this sensible policy.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gareth Ward):
Order! Before we proceed with private members' statements I thank those people in the public gallery who came to listen to the discussion on this petition.