George lends a hand
By MEL MARTIN
FOR television personality George Negus, seeing Sunday's fatal accident at Bonville was the last straw.
So, within a day, he had made the Bonville deviation a national issue, appearing on television program Today and John Laws' radio morning show, calling for politicians to stop sitting on their hands.
"I can offer my profile and a voice people recognise," Mr Negus, who lives near Bellingen, said.
"You can't be this close to the problem without feeling you have an obligation to do something about it, and I feel it's the contribution I can make."
Mr Negus said that while he has been outspoken about the issue locally for many years, he felt it was time to step it up a notch.
And he certainly started something.
Shortly after his interview with Mr Negus, John Laws spoke to the Federal Minister for Local Government Territories and Roads, Jim Lloyd, followed by NSW Minister for Roads Joe Tripodi, and Nationals State member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser.
And still the politicians blamed each other for the lack of action on the Bonville deviation, with statements that sounded oddly familiar.
But Mr Negus says that's just not good enough.
"It's time politicians stopped playing political football with people's lives," he said.
"This is a country road, masquerading as a national highway, and it's a disgrace.
"We don't need another summit or another inquiry. Everybody with half a brain knows what the problem is, and the solution is obvious."
In the short term, Mr Negus wants to see a 60-kilometre speed limit at Bonville backed up by extra policing, until the four-lane highway is completed, and he doesn't want to see any environmental excuses either.
"Humans are part of the environment and they need to be protected," he said.
"People die on that road with monotonous regularity. It affects hundreds of people. There are wrecked families, both of the victims and the other people involved in the accident, and there are the people who keep having to attend these scenes."
Mr Negus said that being only a few cars from Sunday's accident rammed home the reality.
"We could have been the car that was hit," he said.
"Everyone who drives up here thinks they might be the next. They wonder whether they're going to make it through that stretch.
"I'm prepared to shout John Howard, Morris Iemma and the (Federal and State) roads ministers a beer at the BIG club if they get off their rear ends and come and stand by the side of the highway with me.
"It's a dangerous road, it's not rocket science. You just have to stand there to see that it's wrong."
He's not prepared to take lack of funds as an excuse, either.
"John Howard has been bragging about the Budget surplus, and the $150 million needed for the Bonville deviation is just a drop in the ocean," he said.
"The money is there, it's the political will that isn't.
"Time for talk is over, the time for kicking politicians' arses is on!"