Government needs to be proactive, not reactive: Donato

Phil Donato at a level crossing near Parkes last year. The Inland Rail project will deliver significant increases in rail movements and, consequently, increased danger to vehicles crossing at the many uncontrolled level crossings along the track.
Phil Donato at a level crossing near Parkes last year. The Inland Rail project will deliver significant increases in rail movements and, consequently, increased danger to vehicles crossing at the many uncontrolled level crossings along the track.

FLOODING RAINS

Dorothea Mackellar's famous poem 'My Country' sums up perfectly the extreme conditions we've experienced in the past few years.

The dusts of the worst drought in living memory have now well and truly been washed away with flooding rains.

Communities along the Lachlan River have been inundated, as have those along the Belubula - to a lesser extent.

In Forbes, more than 800 houses have been subject to flooding and 1,800 people have been evacuated from the flood zone.

The rain has also been a menace to farmers' crops.

With more rain predicted, I'm concerned conditions will prevail.

The damage to property is yet to be calculated, but I'm pleased to hear that the flood event at Forbes has been declared a disaster, which now triggers funding to assist in the recovery.

A big shout out to the SES, RFS, Forbes Shire Council and the many volunteers who've turned out in the hundreds to help out.

NSW GOVERNMENT VOTES AGAINST TRANSARENCY

Last week the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party introduced the Government Sector Finance Amendment (Government Grants) Bill 2021 into the NSW Legislative Assembly.

The Bill was intended to legislate transparency to the Government's grants funding processes and how it spends our taxpayer dollars.

The NSW Government has been plagued with the scandal of grants documents being erased and shredded to hide their tracks on where and how taxpayer money was directed.

It got worse, with the former Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, investigated over her involvement in grants funding by the Independent Commission against Corruption.

During subsequent hearings at Operation Keppel's public inquiry, the former Premier admitted that state funds were strategically directed in "a desire for electoral popularity".

This marred the government's integrity and it raised questions within the community as to the government's ability to fund grants on the basis of merit in the absence of oversight or legislative framework - rules!

Premier Berejiklian resigned under a cloud, and was replaced by Dominic Perrottet.

Following his appointment, Premier Perrottet publicly acknowledged the failings of the his Liberal National government in its practices regarding grants funding, so I held out hope that he would clean up the government's act and insist on change to restore public faith in how the government handled and spent taxpayers' dollars.

Given his comments, you'd think the new Premier would support this Bill to insure against further shady funding arrangements, such as their practices of making grants applicants and recipients sign non-disclosure agreements about details of grants funding.

Sadly, the government voted against this Bill and in doing so it demonstrated the Premier is unwilling to put his money where his mouth is.

WHAT'S A LIFE WORTH?

Recently in Parliament I sought leave of The House to contribute to the discussion on the important petition brought before the Legislative Assembly, for improving safety at level crossings.

The petition was initiated by Madeline Bott when her fiancé, Ethan Hunter, and Mark Fenton were tragically killed in a collision when their B-double collided with a train at a level crossing at Bribbaree, near Young, on February 23, 2021.

The government had the ability to allow me to deliver my short five-minute speech, but instead chose to effectively gag me, which I think is an insult to the 21,011 petitioners, and Madeline who was in the gallery watching the debate.

Perhaps they didn't want to hear the truth of what I had to say?

Level crossings, and the dangers inherent to them, have been the subject of several parliamentary inquiries over the years, yet nothing of substance has been done to improve safety.

Typically, it takes a death for government to react, as it has in the case of Ethan and Mark.

Following their deaths, the government imposed speed limits approaching active level crossings to 80 km/h, however not for passively controlled crossings such as the one at Bribbaree.

There are some parallels to be drawn with the identified safety issues I brought to the attention of the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Paul Toole, concerning the intersection of Mitchell Highway and Thompson Road near Orange.

I wrote to the Mr Toole, advising him, and I quote, "...this is a potentially dangerous intersection. Something more needs to be done before somebody is killed!"

And in a second letter to Mr Toole, regarding the dangers of the intersection, I said, and again I quote, "...It's a dangerous spot, needs urgent attention".

Those letters were sent to Mr Toole in February this year.

Nothing of substance was done to improve safety at the intersection.

Five months after I write to Mr Toole a collision occurred at that intersection and a 15-year-old boy was killed.

It will come as no surprise that immediately following this tragic death, the signposted speed approaching the intersection was reduced from 100km/h to 80km/h.

Typical of the government, reacting to a death rather than proactively initiating safety upgrades to identified risks and preventing tragedy from occurring.

It should not take a death to initiate achievable safety measures to save lives when the risks are so obvious.

If the government were a business required to conduct risk assessments and did not implement appropriate safety measures, they'd be deemed negligent and liable.

The government have a duty of care!

So, what has this government done to improve the safety at the hundreds of passive crossings in country NSW where the only warning is a stop or give way sign, such as the crossing at Bribbaree? Nothing!

The community is sick of hearing from government say, time and time again, that they're holding an inquiry. There's been enough inquiries, now we need investment in upgrades which better warn drivers of the crossings and make trains more visible.

What is a person's life worth? I say it's priceless, and the cost of installing the safety upgrades to the passive level crossings across the state is worth doing to save the life that will inevitably be taken if these safety mechanisms are not installed.

What do you think?

Send a letter to the editor by filling out the online form below.

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: