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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14863


Mr BALDWIN (2:37 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the Deputy Prime Minister advise the House of the response to proposals for increased young driver education that he put forward to the Australian Transport Council at its most recent meeting?


Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for his question. I know that all of us in this House will be concerned that we, as a nation, take seriously the issue of road deaths. We have made good progress since the 1970s in cutting the road toll, particularly in relation to the kilometres that we travel and the motor vehicles that are on our roads, but in recent times the numbers have plateaued out. In a serious attempt by all governments to try to lower the death rate, particularly amongst young people, I am delighted to inform the House that, at last Friday's Australian Transport Council meeting in Melbourne, state and territory ministers agreed to the general proposition that young drivers be required to undertake further intensive training after they have started driving. The meeting agreed to study experiences here and, more importantly, overseas of methods of improving driver attitude. The joint research and development organisation, Austroads, has been tasked to develop a more detailed program.

The program envisaged would provide drivers with a better insight into the risks that they face and their own limitations. Vehicles have proved to be lethal weapons sometimes misunderstood, particularly in the hands of young people. The aim is, of course, to particularly address attitudinal and other problems of young drivers in their understanding of what they are controlling on the roads when they are at the wheel. In a set of figures that I have only recently been advised of, which I think will concern the House enormously, drivers in Australia aged between 17 and 20 are 11 times more likely to die on the roads than those aged between 40 and 49. Some one in three deaths amongst young Australians aged between 15 and 24 is as a result of a road fatality. While the focus on fatigue and the inappropriate use of speed is absolutely right and must be continued, we believe this proposal, properly developed, can help to equip young drivers to become more aware of just how dangerous and risky driving can be. It is proposed that drivers would have to complete their program within six months of first obtaining their licence.

I am also delighted to be able to say that the Australian automotive industry, which has received a lot of praise recently for its export performance, amongst other things, can claim a lot of credit for this. It was in this very building that I sat down with some of the CEOs of the Australian automotive industry and this idea emerged. I particularly thank Geoff Polites of Ford for his initial enthusiasm and I thank the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and parts of the insurance industry too for getting behind it very strongly. If we can think laterally and do more to better educate our young people who drive on our roads, I believe it is beyond doubt that we can save further casualties, accidents and lives. Every life saved, all of us would agree, would be very worth while.