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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 53

Mrs MAY (3:51 PM) —I move:

That this House:

(1)   recognises that:

(a)   Australia-wide, over a quarter of all drivers killed and seriously injured each year are young adult drivers;

(b)   road traffic injuries are a public health issue and road traffic crashes can be prevented;

(c)   in addition to the burden of personal suffering, the monetary cost of crashes is in the order of $15 billion per annum; and

(d)   during the 2004 election, the Australian government committed to work with the states and territories to introduce a national compulsory driver education scheme for all new provisional licence holders by 2007;

(2)   calls on the Australian government to deliver a national education program, that is both compulsory and intensive, through our schools involving a minimum of 120 hours of practical driver experience and nationally recognised credentials to be delivered as a certificate II course; and

(3)   on a bipartisan level provides young adults with the skills and knowledge necessary to stay safe on Australian roads.

I have spoken many times in this House on the need to introduce a national driver training program for the young people of Australia. Today’s motion before the House is, I believe, another opportunity for members from both sides of this House to support this goal and encourage both state and federal ministers of education and transport to put this issue on the table for discussion and bipartisan support so that we can save those young lives that are lost every year on our roads.

By far the highest proportion of road deaths in this country is in the 17- to 25-year-old age group, and most of these deaths occur in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings. In Queensland alone this year, 51 young people aged 17 to 24 have already been killed on our roads. That is 51 families that have faced the tragedy of losing a son or daughter—deaths that, in my view, can be prevented. We as legislators have the ability to stop the carnage and introduce a national comprehensive driver training program.

Apart from the deaths, there are the unfortunate young people who are left crippled in wheelchairs or brain damaged for the rest of their lives—young people who have suffered horrific injuries that will not see them reach their full potential in life. There are families—mums and dads—whose lives will be forever changed by the enormous responsibility of caring for a young person who will never be able to care for themselves because of the extent of their injuries. There is also the social cost to our communities—the ongoing health costs and rehabilitation costs to support these young people and the wonderful medical teams and ancillary support health workers who are involved in the rehabilitation process to help those left with horrific injuries to at least achieve a level of normalcy in their lives.

The federal government made a commitment in the last federal election campaign to work with the states and territories to introduce a national compulsory driver education scheme for all new provisional licence holders by 2007. Funding was provided for further trials to be undertaken. I do not support those trials, because I believe we have enough statistics and we have had enough trials; we know what is happening on our roads with our young people. In my view, it is time to start developing a national program that can be embedded in our schools as part of the school curriculum—a two-year certificate course delivered through the VET system. We often talk about skilling Australians for the work force or skilling them for life. Driving is a fundamental life skill that, in my view, needs to be compulsory for every young person in this country.

We have the opportunity of not just saving lives; we have the opportunity of developing world’s best practice driver training in Australia through a program that is tailored and designed for Australian conditions and Australian roads. We can set the benchmark for driver training, and we have the people with the skills and knowledge to develop the course. We do not need to look overseas for that expertise; it is right here in this country.

There are pioneers and people passionate about driver training who are already doing something about it. I want to pay tribute today to Brian Griffin, whose persistence and commitment to our local schools on the Gold Coast are paying dividends. He is delivering driver training programs to a number of our high schools. He has met with principals and teachers and with our local VET coordinator. He has spoken to parents and school administrators. I know the program he is running will provide valuable insight and data into what is needed to deliver a successful national program.

The course needs to be a certificate II course, nationally recognised and supported by all state governments and the Commonwealth. It needs the will of the ministers on a bipartisan level to undertake and commit to a national program—a huge ask, but I believe the legislators of this country can put aside their differences, solve the funding issues, develop the course and deliver it to all young people in Australia.

Road crashes cost the Australian economy around $15 billion a year—a huge cost to our country. The cost of delivering a national driver education program will not cost anywhere near this; it will be in the millions of dollars. It is my view that students would also contribute to the cost of the program. I am sure parents would agree that a contribution to a course that is going to save their children’s lives is a great investment.

Driving a motor car is the most dangerous and complex task the average person will ever undertake; yet, despite this fact, drivers still take to the road in a hopelessly underprepared state. The end result is that fatal car crashes are a daily event. Drivers are not equipped to handle anything out of the ordinary. Drinking and speed are huge factors in the number of accidents, but, if the young people of this country understood the machine they were driving—the power of that machine—and if they were equipped with the skills they needed to drive that machine, then maybe—just maybe—we could save those young lives and spare families the untold misery and sorrow they experience when they lose a young son or daughter. We must teach our young people to drive to survive. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the House for their support of this motion today.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Is the motion seconded?

Mr Wakelin —I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.