Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles has responded angrily to comments made by the head of the Pedestrian Council of Australia 12 days out from the start of a trial marking the return of open speed limits to the Stuart Highway.
The NT News reports Harold Scruby is demanding Giles and his government resign for putting lives in danger and ignoring the territory’s high road toll average (21 road deaths per 100,000 persons) – four times the national average of about five road deaths per 100,000 persons.
Claiming he would ensure tourist agencies around Australia stopped recommending people visit the Northern Territory, Scruby said the trial is “far more dangerous than the crocodile”, calling it the most disgraceful thing he’s seen in 20 years in road safety.
“Every responsible organisation in Australia has condemned it including the Northern Territory Police,” Scruby said.
“The most despicable thing is the minister is purporting to have a report that apparently says that it’s safe but he won’t release the report.
“People are going to die as a result of this decision as every hoon will be going up to test their car there.
“We will be demanding the minister’s resignation and the entire government for supporting such an anti-road safety decision.”
In response to the comments, Giles labelled Scruby a “moron” who should focus on advocating for pedestrians.
“Harold Scruby is a waste of space,” Giles said.
“More pedestrians die each year than drivers at speed. Harold needs to start advocating for pedestrians and not talk about speed.
“He can do a petition but I’ll say put the petition up your backside. He needs to look after pedestrians or get a life.
“The biggest killer on our roads is alcohol and [not wearing] seat belts. More pedestrians are drunk when they’re killed. What is he doing?”
Calling the trial a hillbilly decision by a hillbilly government, Scruby said, “It’s the only place in the world where it will happen on an undivided road.”
Announced late last year, the 12-month trial program will reintroduce open speed limits on a 200km stretch of the Stuart Highway between Barrow Creek south and Alice Springs from February 1.
Doctors representing the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), Australian Medical Association NT, the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM), and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) have united to urge the NT Chief Minister to reconsider the speed limit removal.
NT Transport Minister Peter Styles said at the time of the trial’s announcement that, “In the 10 years between 2001-2011 there wasn’t any speed related fatalities on this stretch of road”. He also made it clear that existing speed limits for learner and provisional drivers and heavy vehicles would be maintained and that police would continue to prosecute dangerous drivers and increase the enforcement of drink driving and the non-wearing of seatbelts.
The section of the Stuart Highway hosting the trial is currently being upgraded at a cost of $3.1 million.
The NT’s highways were restricted to a maximum of 130km/h in 2007 by the then Labor Government.