Road safety spending slammed
Road safety spending slammed

The State Government could have "blood on its hands" for failing to fund $42 million of life-saving initiatives recommended by the Road Safety Council in 2014-15, former minister Rob Johnson has warned.

Mr Johnson said the Government was "abusing" the road trauma trust account while Labor accused it of raiding the fund for political purposes during a multi-pronged attack during Budget estimates last night.

As road safety minister, Mr Johnson ensured 100 per cent of speed and red light camera fines would go into the fund from July 2012, resulting in a whopping $142 million budget for the council this financial year.

The council recommended all that money be spent on projects it deemed the highest priority to save lives, but Cabinet approved just $100 million of expenditure.

The bulk of the funding, $91 million, was earmarked by the council for regional and remote road improvements, but the Government has allocated just $35 million for that purpose.

Similarly, the council recommended $12 million be spent on increasing breath and drug testing carried out by WA Police, but the Government slashed that to $4.6 million.

Mr Johnson slammed the funding shortfall in what appeared to be a dig at colleague Troy Buswell’s traffic woes.

“A hell of a lot of money could be spent to try to eradicate those people who drive through the suburbs blind drunk, who smash into vehicles and who could kill or critically injure somebody,” he said.

One project the Government funded above the amount recommended by the council was flashing 40kmh signs for school zones, to which it allocated $12 million – almost five times what the road safety body deemed worthy.

Shadow road safety minister Michelle Roberts accused the Government of “playing politics with road safety money” by only inviting Liberal and National MPs to launch the facilities in communities.

Mr Johnson agreed the program was “being politicised”, saying there had been no deaths at a school zone in the past 10 years and the signs should be funded by Main Roads like any other road signs.

Asked why she was spending $42 million less than was available, Mrs Harvey said she would “ramp up” funding after receiving a review of the trauma account’s governance structure, which was necessary to administer a “significantly bigger fund”.

“The Road Safety Council is a collection of representatives of government - it is not independent. The chair is appointed by the minister and is independent of the government agencies,” she said.

“From time to time, the council will make recommendations to government and then through government processes we will review those recommendations and approve a different budget.”

The West Australian

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