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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2626

Senator DEVITT (TASMANIA) - My question is directed to the Attorney-General and it has particular application at the moment with the summer season coming on. The Attorney-General told the Senate earlier in the week that he intended to make a regulation under the Trade Practices Act to ensure that toys could not be passed off as buoyancy aids. Will he ensure that this regulation makes it clear that these toys could be dangerous if children are left with them unattended? When does he expect that the regulation will come into effect?

Senator MURPHY -The draft regulation has now been prepared . 1 have with me some notes on the matter. The words proposed to go on each of these toys will be: 'Warning. Not a lifesaving device. Use only under adult supervision'. It has been insisted that the warning should be marked on the goods or package in indelible permanent ink or paint and that the warning be stitched into the material of the goods or be stuck onto the float in a reasonably permanent manner. There are some requirements about the size of the print and so on.

Since the matter was raised in the Senate officers of my Department have conferred with a major manufacturer and a major distributor of the floatation toys. Because of the difficulties facing the manufacturers and retailers there will be a phasing-in period before the standard becomes mandatory on 1 March next year. An interim standard will apply until that time warning of the danger of allowing children to use these toys without proper supervision. In the interim period warnings that the toys are not lifesaving devices and should be used only under adult supervision will be displayed in a prominent position where the toys are being sold. The major manufacturer has undertaken to include in all Press, radio and television advertising the warning to parents that will become compulsory after 1 March next year and I hope that other manufacturers will do the same.

No matter how prominent the warning is, it will be ineffective unless parents take heed of it and properly supervise their children. I stress that the safety of children is the responsibility of the whole community. The Government can do only so much by setting these product safety standards and information standards but the community can assist the Government by helping to see that the standards are actually observed in practice. Where goods do not comply with the standards this should be reported to my Department or to the Trade Practices Commission for investigation. In other words, what we are trying to do is to get the standard into operation as rapidly as possible and in the meantime to have an interim standard. For common sense reasons we cannot suddenly overnight have goods recalled and warnings stitched into them. But we are getting co-operation from the major manufacturer and distributors and I think that this is the most that we can do in the circumstances.

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