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Friday, 20 February 1987
Page: 381

Senator FOREMAN —The Minister representing the Minister for Transport is no doubt aware of the recent spate of coach crashes and of the deaths of passengers as a result of those accidents. Firstly, what can the Federal Government do in regard to maximising passenger safety on buses? Secondly, is the Federal Government considering the introduction of more rigid structural guidelines to bus design to help safeguard passengers involved in accidents?

Senator GIETZELT —At the outset I think I should say that the Government and, I am sure, the whole Senate express their very deep sympathy with the families of those passengers who were killed or injured in the recent bus crash in Cairns and, more recently, in the bus crash in Victoria which involved passengers from overseas. I think these incidents have raised very sharply the need for the Australian Transport Advisory Council to pay close attention to this problem and to examine ways and means of improving the safety regulations of this form of transport which obviously is being extensively used by visitors as well as Australians to travel around our country. The Government has therefore asked for an urgent report from the Council on the feasibility of compulsorily fitting seat belts in buses. The Government is currently discussing with the States whether we can reach some agreed position in this respect.

The Senate, of course, would be aware that the licensing of and standards involved with buses are primarily a State responsibility. However, obviously there is community concern in this matter as more and more people use coaches to travel throughout our country. It is pretty clear that we will need to learn from overseas experiences. It has already been suggested to the Government that we can pick up the United Nations standards for improved seat strength and padding to minimise injuries. The Government is committed to improving our national road system. We recognise that that is an important and integral part of road safety. Therefore, we are currently seeking as much information as we can from overseas sources in order to reach the optimum that we believe is needed to improve coach movements throughout our country. I reiterate that the Government is conscious of its responsibilities and is actively taking the matter up with State authorities to reach a uniform position.