Road Traffic (roadwords) amendment bill

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) (11:34): I rise on behalf of the opposition to speak to the Road Traffic (Roadworks) Amendment Bill. I indicate that the opposition supports this bill. We always welcome any legislation that improves traffic management and traffic flows—

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting:


The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: It's early. Did the dairy cows reject you this morning, or you are angry or something?

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting:

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Yes, okay. We welcome legislation that improves traffic management and traffic flows around roadworks, although I note the member for Unley introduced a similar bill earlier in 2016 and it was rejected by the government—I suspect because of their own media agenda. It is something we experienced up here when I introduced a bill to allow farmers to grow opium poppies. I was grateful that the government saw that it was a good idea, we worked on it and now that is law. I think next year we have the first opium poppy trials to be grown on South Australian land in the South-East.

The same thing could have happened with this bill if the government had not had their own agenda, their own media plans. We could have had this supported by both parties well into last year and have it in practice today, but sadly, it is not. It is important that we protect our road workers in the way that we protect our emergency services workers when they stop at an incident. However, when forced to unnecessarily reduce your speed when there are no roadworks in progress on prominent roads, it can frustrate motorists.

I am sure we have all seen that situation where you slow down, drive for a few hundred metres, and in some cases a few kilometres, and there are no actual roadworks going on. When motorists are forced unnecessarily to reduce their speed, it brings about complacency and increases the risk of motorists becoming less inclined to obey the signs when they see them, when they are actually intended to be followed.

We are happy to see this bill pass and to see helpful progress on our roads. We acknowledge that this bill will cover a number of points to improve traffic and legislation in South Australia. It is worthy to note that the bill aims to improve planning behind the use of road traffic control devices by road workers and other authorised utilities. The Commissioner of Highways would also be granted the authority to issue permits to those requiring roadworks speed signs, but exemptions with appropriate time frames will be made in the case of emergencies such as another burst water main, as Minister Hunter would be well aware of.

Probably the most notable change in this bill is something I am very eager to see in action, namely, the improved coordination between utilities and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Disruption and the cause of congestion due to non-urgent roadworks will be considered more carefully, with planning toward the time frame of when the work will be carried out, to avoid the duplication of work.

It probably has nothing to do with this bill, but I always like to put the following incident back on the record. Members would know I lived on the South Australia-Victoria border. We had an upgrade of the highway, and ETSA at the time decided that they wanted to move the powerline closer to the side of the road so that they could manage the maintenance better. So, they moved all the powerlines to the side of the road. Then, when the highway was widened, they decided they would move the powerline back into the farmer's property so that it would not be a safety problem. They moved the powerline back out (this is the SWER line that went to our part of the community) when the road was widened—shifted it out into the farmer's paddocks.

Then, two employees of the Commissioner of Highways, I think, collected native vegetation seeds and revegetated the side of the road because there was no powerline anymore. Of course, ETSA found it was problematic to service the line in the middle of the farmer's property, so they moved it back to the edge of the road and poisoned all the trees that we taxpayers had paid for to have the seeds harvested and then sown. You can see that lack of coordination and planning can result not only in congestion on the roads, but also a huge waste of money.

I think the duplication of work is very unnecessary. We have often seen a new hot mix put over a road and then, 12 months later, SA Water or another one of the utilities coming along to dig it up to do some repairs and maintenance—not necessarily as a result of a burst water main, but maybe just some other utility work.

Lastly, the bill will address the structure and enforcement associated with penalty levels. This will ensure that penalties will be issued for the misuse and/or breach of conditions for the placement of traffic control devices at roadwork sites. I think it is also very important that if you are going to have a set of rules they have to be abided by, and if somebody does misuse them then there are some penalties as well.

This bill will address some of the long overdue issues, and is another example of the government's approach to try to apply a quick fix to a bandaid solution. But the government has missed one big opportunity in this bill and that is to allow motorists to turn left on a red light. I gave a contingent notice of motion yesterday that during the committee stage of the bill I will seek to move an amendment with regard to this which will give motorists the ability to make a left-hand turn on a red light.

People might baulk at this, but 56(1)(a) of the Australian Road Rules currently allows a left turn at a red light, but not at a red traffic arrow, if there is a left turn on red permitted after stopping sign. There are other provisions of the road rules, such as the give-way rule, 62(1)(b), which also cater for the situation in which they may be framed. In effect, the law already allows for us to do left turns if the appropriate signage is in place, and can be put up at any intersection where there is an option to see this as desirable.

This is what the member for Unley moved in the House of Assembly; he had special leave to introduce this amendment. Likewise, we have had to move a contingent notice of motion yesterday to allow this to happen. It just makes sense. We are getting more and more congestion. The government has had a passion for reducing our carbon footprint and making this city a carbon neutral city. Surely some of these initiatives, where you could have traffic flowing more quickly—we have all sat with a red light and no vehicles, when you could turn left quickly and get on with your business, whether it is a plumber, a handyman, a tradesperson, or whether one of the general public.

We are becoming more congested in Adelaide. Only six of our intersections allow for a left turn on red after stopping. There is obvious need to take action on this to help improve the traffic flow. These proposed amendments will help get traffic moving by allowing motorists to access the left turn on red option at appropriate intersections. It was proven, and strongly supported, by the locals of the Brisbane City Council to introduce more left turns on red after trials conducted at five intersections in 2013 and 2014. There are now 50 signed intersections with this change across Brisbane.

We have six intersections that we have been trialling in South Australia. It just seems logical and I beg members of this chamber, when we get to the committee stage of the bill, to support that amendment. It is a sensible amendment. It would make for easier traffic flow. It would reduce waiting times at intersections and reduce emissions. Brisbane is a bigger and much more complicated city, yet they are able to do it quite well. With those few remarks I ask that members, at the committee stage of the bill, consider that particular amendment. It is an important step forward, and I look forward to their support at the committee stage of the bill. I commend the bill to the parliament.

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