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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 58

Mr JOHNSON (4:10 PM) —I am pleased to speak in the parliament today and support my Queensland friend and colleague the member for McPherson in this motion on the important issue of national driver education. This issue is so important that I am disappointed that the previous speaker, the member for Parramatta, chose to be a bit partisan—I know that she is a new member to this parliament but on these sorts of issues we should not be partisan—and I regret that very much on her part.

All of us know of someone who has been touched by road carnage. The human cost is unbearable. Road deaths in this country are a tragedy. Parents and families are torn apart; it is a family-destroying event. Loved ones are taken away from their families—men, women and children whose potential for a fulfilling and wholesome life is taken from them in a moment, in the blink of an eye. Ryan families have suffered too, I know. The tragedy is all the more great because we can prevent so many of these deaths. Maybe we cannot eliminate every single road death, but surely this society and this parliament can play a part to reduce the figure from thousands in this country every year to a fraction of that. We do need a culture of safe driving and road safety to permeate our community. I very much encourage all members of this parliament and those who may be listening to pay attention to developing that culture in our society.

The financial cost alone to the economy is massive. In 2002, some 22,000 accidents took place in the state of Queensland. The cost of this to our nation purely in financial terms was some $2.5 billion. Australia-wide this cost is calculated at some $15 billion to the national economy. But, as I said, more important is the fact that a life is taken away. The causes are many and varied: alcohol, reckless driving and a lack of maturity and responsibility on the part of young drivers in particular, and even road rage causes lives to be lost. Of course, we all know that the state of our roads certainly plays a part in accidents which lead to deaths. Many Australians happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they are innocent victims.

I am pleased to support this motion very strongly and, whilst this is a state and territory responsibility, like all members of this parliament, at the end of day, I am more interested in outcomes. I am pleased that the Howard government has promised to introduce a national compulsory driver education scheme. The Australian government has also sponsored a Young Driver Safety Forum, at which speakers of importance and expertise will talk to our young people. The scheme will focus on providing young drivers, in particular, with a better insight into the risks they face and their own limitations. The forum will be provided at a cost of $5 million. The trial will be jointly funded by the federal government and the Victorian and New South Wales state governments. The trial is due to commence in 2006 and will run for 12 months. My only disappointment is that my home state of Queensland will not be a part of the trial.

The trial will include some 14,000 young Australians. I strongly endorse it and welcome it. As I understand it, the focus will be on young Australian drivers in particular, and I want to make some comments on the ages of Australians who are killed in road accidents and road carnage. It seems that young Australians between the ages of 17 and 25 are most deeply affected by road accidents. Progress seemed to be made in the late 1980s, but in the early 1990s it flattened out. In 1989, 17- to 25-year-olds represented 34 per cent of all driver deaths. In 2003, 17- to 25-year-olds represented 25 per cent of total driver deaths, despite representing only six per cent of the population, and only last year 17- to 25-year-olds represented 27 per cent of all road deaths but only a small fraction of the population.

The sense of freedom and adventure in young drivers in particular is well known. Young men in particular seem to be most affected. I play a small role, as a member of the government and as a member of the federal parliament, in encouraging young Australians in the Ryan electorate to take care and to be responsible on the roads. In 2003, men represented 28 per cent of all those killed through road accidents.

Driving is a privilege. Driver education programs in the curriculum of our schools and in our education system have a role to play. But let us not forget the power of education in the home. Communities and businesses have a role to play and parental responsibility has its place. But, at the end of the day, individual responsibility must come to the fore. I implore drivers and young people across the country who have a licence to drive to take greater care on the roads of our nation. I implore families and parents to speak to their adolescent children in particular in the days, weeks and months ahead, again to caution them that, when they are behind the wheel this summer, they take care in preserving their life. (Time expired)