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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1934

Senator BOLKUS —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Transport to a recent item on the Willessee program indicating that light commercial vehicles on the Australian market were not safe for use as passenger vehicles even though they had been advertised for such use. Is it a fact that there are no adequate standards covering these vehicles? Is it also a fact that progress towards such standards has been extremely slow? In view of the dangers to road safety, can the Minister say whether the Government is taking any action to enforce appropriate standards in this area?

Senator GIETZELT —It is true that the standards in respect of passenger vans have been totally inadequate. The Government has been concerned for some time that all passenger vehicles for private use should provide the level of safety normally afforded by the Australian design rules. However, as the honourable senator suggested, the safety standards for light commercial vehicles, particularly vans, are different from those for cars; and, where passengers are carried, an anomaly has been in existence for quite a number of years. Accordingly, with the growing use of vans by citizens generally as passenger transport, the Minister for Transport has directed that the safety standards for these vehicles should be upgraded as a matter of priority to give van occupants the required protection afforded and provided for under legislation for passenger vehicles-in other words, cars.

As a result of the Government's efforts over a period of only several months, the Australian Transport Advisory Council in February of this year agreed on a package of measures to improve van safety. Specifically, from 1 January 1985 vans used for passenger transport will no longer be classed as commercial vehicles and a number of normal passenger car design rules will apply. As well, seat belts will be required for all passengers. New design requirements to improve van safety further, such as emergency locking retractor seat belts, seat anchorages, child restraint anchorages, safety rims for wheels, improved tyres and head restraints, will be required from 1 January 1986. That time scale arises from the necessity for the industry to accommodate the Government's new requirements. Of course, priority attention is being given to improving van braking. Work is also under way on side and front impact protection requirements . In summary, the Government has pulled out all stops to improve safety. The arrangements to which I have referred will provide a significantly enhanced level of safety for those Australians who use these vehicles in ever increasing numbers for their personal and family transport.