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Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 8502

Mr HALE (7:54 PM) —I rise today to make a heartfelt plea to road users in the Northern Territory to take more care. The Northern Territory road toll is currently at 58, compared to 35 at the same time last year. This is a horrendous toll of human life. However, the human toll is not just the 58 souls that we have lost; it is a toll on the families and friends who are left behind. I do not think I have ever witnessed more torment, anguish and pain than I have seen when visiting a family on the day that one of their loved ones was lost in a car accident.

I lost a friend on 27 October 2004. Michael Edwards died while travelling as a passenger in Darwin after a night out with friends. Known affectionately as ‘Wally’, he is sadly missed. He was the loving father of two daughters and partner of Jodie, and a fantastic brother to Tim and Patrick. But what tore my heart out the most was the impact that his death had on his mum and dad, Jackie and Stem. They are still two of the most outstanding people I know. However, the pain is still etched on their faces. They do not laugh as loudly as they used to. They miss their son. I remember the call I received from Patrick on the morning Wal had died. I am still haunted by that conversation. I was shattered, as were many other people. Wally was just 32 years of age.

My plea is to the young drivers on our roads. When you get behind the wheel, think of the two people in your life who love you without conditions, the two people who have put bandaids on your knees, changed your nappies, rocked you to sleep, blessed you when you sneezed, hugged you when you lost, celebrated your wins, read to you at night, checked under the bed to make sure there were no monsters, dried your tears at your first failed relationship, taken you on driving lessons and cooked you Sunday roasts—your mum and dad. Consider the pain and suffering, the absolute torment and despair, they will feel should you not take care.

I think that all in this place will support my plea to all drivers, as we head towards another festive season, to slow down, take extra care, nominate a sober driver and wear a seatbelt. Christmas is a time of celebration, love and happiness, not a time of despair, sadness and funerals.

The government is providing funding of $17 million over five years for an innovative new national driver training program for learner drivers, in line with our election commitment. This includes bringing forward $1.5 million into the financial year to enable the early commencement of the program. One of the first steps will be the world-first, interactive website and a pilot trial in Tasmania.

Young drivers are over-represented in serious road crashes and are particularly vulnerable during the early stages of solo driving. In fact, young people go from being some of the safest drivers on the road when they are on their L-plates to being some of the most likely to have a car crash the moment they get their Ps. Nationally, nearly a third of people killed on Australian roads are aged between 16 and 25, yet they represent only 15 per cent of the population. Research has shown that increasing the quality and variety of supervised driving can lead to reduced crash risk after licensing.

Once implemented, keys2drive will provide learner drivers and parents or mentors with a free professional driving lesson from an accredited instructor; support parents and mentors with instructional material and practical guidance on how to provide effective supervision and training to a learner driver; establish an interactive website which will offer short instructional videos, guides on handling various road terrains and weather conditions, and the location of the nearest accredited driving instructor; and, finally, deliver the country’s first ever national accredited scheme for driving instructors. The Rudd Labor government is committed to making our roads safer for all drivers, and keys2drive is a practical way of equipping young people with the skills they need for a lifetime of safer driving.

In conclusion, spare a thought for the emergency workers such as police, firefighters and paramedics who arrive at the scenes of these accidents and who are also working to prevent road fatalities. All Australians need to address their behaviour on our roads so that we can enjoy a safe and happy festive season.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—Order! It being 8 pm, the debate is interrupted.