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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1136

Mr WRIGHT —I direct my question to the Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Consumer affairs. I ask: What action is the Government taking to reduce the economic and social costs of industrial, traffic and other injuries in Australia?

Mr BARRY JONES —The injury problem in Australia is of major dimensions and, as the question suggests, very broadly based. It involves people at work, school and home, apart from recreational activities. Injuries to children causing death and disabilities are of particular concern. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics approximately 600 children under 15 years of age die each year in Australia as a result of accidents. Seventy thousand children are hospitalised and 1,500,000 medical treatments are provided each year as a result of injury. Costs to the community of medical treatment of injuries in Australia have been estimated at $1.1 billion per annum.

The Government has taken a major initiative in 1986-87 towards injury reduction with the funding of a pilot national injury surveillance and prevention project. The project is jointly managed by the Australian Institute of Health and the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia. The project is based on the collection of specific and relevant injury data from accident and emergency departments at selected hospitals and the dissemination of this data to all interested parties, including the people and agencies equipped to develop and implement injury prevention strategies. The project began during 1986 and injury data is currently being collected at Adelaide Children's Hospital, the Modbury Hospital in South Australia and the Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital in Western Australia. The data collection system and data output formats have been designed to provide maximum user benefit. That includes information on the location of the injury event, the activity at the time of injury, the actual event giving rise to the injury, the mechanism of the injury, the nature of the injury and the body parts injured, any product involved in the injury, and the profile of the person injured. The data will be of great benefit to a wide range of both government and community agencies concerned with injury reduction.

Within the Federal Consumer Affairs Bureau the data will provide for the first time a reliable data base for setting priorities for the introduction of consumer product safety standards, for the necessary bans on unsafe goods and for consumer product safety education programs. It would be very interesting to find whether this is another initiative that the Opposition wants to oppose and whether on the basis of cost cutting those opposite say `No, protection of children against injury is something that we leave to the free market' or whether they say: `Yes, there is a legitimate role for government and we will support and endorse it'. Let me tell this Opposition that it can expect a far higher level of government activity in this area of product safety with the consolidation of all consumer related activities under the new Consumer Affairs Bureau. It will do a great job for Australia and it deserves the strong support of the Parliament.