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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Page: 2000


Mr SYMON (Deakin) (19:33): On 25 February, I had the great pleasure of the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon. Catherine King, coming out to my electorate of Deakin to celebrate a milestone in the keys2drive program. It was a particular milestone with 150,000 young people now having gone through that program. The keys2drive program is particularly important in that it teaches young people their first driving lesson. It teaches the parents and supervisors of those young people their driving lesson as well. But even better than that, it involves driving instructors, so a circle is completed.

There is hardly a day that goes by, unfortunately, in my city of Melbourne and, I dare say, in the rest of the country when any of us can pick up a newspaper and not read about another fatality or serious injury involving young people behind the wheel of a car. It has been a long-term issue in every state and territory across Australia, and it is particularly distressing when it involves someone close to you. I would doubt very much that there is a person in this place who has not been touched at some time by an accident or, even worse, a fatality involving a young person behind the wheel of a motorcar.

The milestone of delivering 150,000 lessons was held at Ringwood Square—a great place to hold an event like that. The sun was out, and plenty of people came along to the day. We had: Mr Andrew McKellar, the Executive Director of the Australian Automobile Association; Mr James Goodwin, the Director of Government Relations and Communications at the Australian Automobile Association; Mr Ben Haythorpe the program manager from keys2drive; a wonderful person by the name of Julie Clasper, the CEO and driving instructor of Wemco Driving School; and, I suppose, the star of the show for the day, Geena Castellano, the student who took part in the program. Of course, many others have gone through the program in the past.

The program has been running since 2008. It was announced in the budget and it was an election commitment—a $17 million program. The commitment was to deliver 200,000 free driving lessons to learner drivers and their parents. As I said before, it is particularly important that parents are part of this program too, because in many cases they are the person in the car teaching the young driver behind the wheel. I think many of us may fall into the situation same where what we learnt in our driving test or in our driving lessons many decades ago may not be exactly the same as what is being learnt today, or our memory may have faded a bit. It really pays to have a bit of an update before passing on the knowledge that we think we have to young people who will pick that up eagerly and follow, hopefully, our good habits and not so much our bad habits.

This program has had a great impact locally, and I think the good thing about it is that it does not discriminate against anyone wants to learn because of their age. As long as they are an Australian citizen they can apply, and that is done online. The same goes for driving instructors. There are now 1,100 driving instructors who are part of the program. I think it is really a great advertisement that people who are professional drivers are delivering the program too.

 

Because the program has hit 150,000 it was due to finish at the end of this financial year, but there is a little bit of money left, I am told, and it means that lessons will keep on going until sometime in the next financial year. I know that the AAA are so impressed with the program that they have indicated that they will be knocking on the door of the federal government to continue the program right through to June 2016.

I mentioned before Julie Clasper of the Wemco Driving School. As I say, she is a fantastic person as a driving instructor—someone great to talk to, who was to the point but friendly and really good at imparting knowledge across different ages. She, in partnership with Ken Clasper, started in Geelong in 1982. They were there for 14 years but they are now in Melbourne, and because of that Julie has completed 28 keys2drive lessons to date. That is also a great example of what can be done with local kids who are learning to drive. (Time expired)