Question Time: Speed Limits

Wednesday May 16, 2018

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (14:52): My question is to the Minister for Transport. Can the minister inform the house when the government will reverse the reduction in speed limits on the Carpenter Rocks Road and Riddoch Highway in my electorate of Mount Gambier, as promised prior to the 2018 election?

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL (Schubert—Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Minister for Planning) (14:52): I thank the member for Mount Gambier for his question. I will note that his question has come along with questions from members of my own side about the other seven roads that had their 110 k speed limit pushed down to 100 km/h.

To take you through a bit of context, which is entirely relevant, last year there were eight roads across South Australia that the former state government chose to have their speed limit reduced from 110 to 100 km/h, from the South-East right through to the Murray Mallee region and across the West Coast. These roads were second-tier roads that essentially weren't part of the National Highway network and sat outside as subsidiary roads.

When the decision was made, there was a lot of outrage from regional communities, who were frustrated because they are the ones who have to spend the extra time on the road driving from point A to point B and were inconvenienced by this decision. I went back and had a look, as then opposition shadow minister for the area, at the statistics around those roads. In each instance, there was one accident per year on each of these roads over the previous five years and none of those incidents had caused a fatal accident.

That is not to say that that is good enough. We should always be looking to do something better, but a lot of the feedback that we got at the time from the locals who knew the accidents that happened suggested that speed was only one factor; in fact, in some of the cases, speed was not a factor. Driver inattention, drugs, alcohol and a whole host of other things can help form part of why road accidents happen. It's why we put out there that we would reverse this decision.

But we also talked about this decision in a different context because what the former government did was they would just reduce the speed limit instead of investing in country roads. It was a very simple argument just to say, 'Well, let's just reduce the speed limit,' and it is a cheap tool, but it is a tool that disadvantages regional South Australia. What we are working through at the moment and what we said always—and that is why I am so proud to be implementing our government's Royalties for Regions scheme—is looking at what needs to be done in order to help improve not just those roads but all roads across country South Australia.

We talked about those two policies together because that is how they go. They do go together. The department is currently working through those options, but we want to do that in a responsible way and in a measured way, understanding that we are talking about hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of road. I don't want this answer to be in any way construed that we are walking away from our commitment. We will be reinstating those speed limits, but after only having come to government eight weeks ago, we want to be apprised of all the information and everything that is necessary to make sure that we do right by regional South Australians.

We will go about that process in a methodical manner, and I look forward to being able to give a more specific answer to the member, as well as regional members on my side about when this promise will be delivered.