Question Time: Dukes Highway Duplication

Wednesday November 27, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Transport. Where does the duplication of the Dukes Highway between Tailem Bend and Victoria sit on the government's priority list? With your leave and that of the house, sir, I will explain.

Leave granted.

Mr BELL: On 5 October this year, an Advertiser article indicated that RAA statistics showed that 46 deaths and 900 injuries occurred on Limestone Coast roads between 2014 and 2018.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL (Schubert—Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Minister for Planning) (14:52): I thank the member for his question and note his deep and abiding interest in that road. The Dukes Highway is an extremely important part of the National Land Transport Network and one that has had a huge amount of money spent on it.

The member mentions duplication, but this is a road that has had a whole series of treatments, from centre widening to audio tactile line marking, to shoulder sealing, to a whole series of works that have happened. Can I tell you that there is a frustration within my department about the level of death and serious injury on that road. In fact, if I am thinking from memory, there was actually a serious accident that happened there in the last couple of days where we had a number of serious injuries, including, I think, a single fatality which hits our road toll to the 100 mark this year, which is absolutely tragic and awful.

The difficulty here is that what the member is trying to insinuate is that duplication of the road is the sole answer to fixing this problem, and I am not sure that it is. This is a road that, in my view, has had as much money, or more money, spent on it than almost any other road in South Australia. We have even reduced the speed limit through sections to the border down to 100, yet we still see tragedy on this road.

It is awful and it is perplexing, and we do need to look at what more we can do and whether or not duplication is the answer to that. We know that a lot of the time what happens is that people get frustrated by sitting behind heavy vehicles and they potentially put themselves in risky situations by attempting to overtake those heavy vehicles. We know that is a factor and one that sits behind why somebody would duplicate. Off the top of my head, I think that duplication of the Dukes to the border is something that could cost somewhere between $600 million to $1 billion.

Mr Bell: It's $2 billion.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: Okay, $2 billion. I was trying to be a bit optimistic. What we have done, apart from putting a record $1.3 billion into regional road safety right across South Australia, is we have tasked now a new body that this parliament saw fit to set up, in Infrastructure SA, to evaluate where it sits within the priorities.

But the truth is that we could probably spend $10 billion to $15 billion fixing up regional roads—and there is a lot of work out there that needs to be done—and the answer is that the government does have limited option. I think we have done a huge amount to put a down payment on improving regional road safety. Really, Infrastructure SA will be the body that guides us, in an evidence-based way, on where we can best spend our money to help improve road safety, to improve vehicle productivity, to improve traffic implications for Adelaide and to spend taxpayers' money as wisely as possible.