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Monday, 29 May 2000
Page: 16445


Mr LLOYD (5:22 PM) —I rise to grieve for something that is costing the lives of many young Australians, something that does not receive a lot of publicity or a lot of notice. I have lived and worked on the water for most of my life, on the Hawkesbury River, and my family have been around the waterways for most of their lives. My children have grown up enjoying boating, and so have most of my family, here and throughout Australia. Something that has come to my attention is the number of injuries caused particularly to young Australians by propellers on outboard motors.

I mentioned that I have worked on the Hawkesbury River for much of my life, and my first contact with an outboard motor injury was when I was first officer of the cruise ship Lady Hawkesbury. We were disturbed one night at anchor by the screams of a young man obviously in distress and in extreme agony. We administered first aid to this young man when he came on board. We were a 68-metre cruise vessel, so we had the facilities to take care of him. He and his mate had been skylarking around, and one of them had fallen overboard. People do muck around in boats and think they are a good thing to have fun with. But he sliced half his foot off, and my understanding is that he never fully recovered from that injury and today has a permanent limp. That was a timely reminder to the many young crew members that I then had on the Lady Hawkesbury of just how dangerous outboard propellers are.

That was unfortunately reinforced by a tragedy experienced by members of my own family back in 1999. I received a phone call late one night saying that my nephew Wade Robinson had been severely injured by an outboard propeller. An hour later, his father rang me—a phone call that I will never forget—to say that Wade had been killed. That was of course very traumatic for the family. I think it is because of the simplicity of these accidents that they do not gain enough attention. The coroner's report for Wade—which I have here, from Mr R.B. Lawrence, District Coroner of Bunbury in Western Australia—said that the boat and the motor were mechanically sound at the time. Wade had many years of practical experience in controlling and driving boats. At the time, the water was calm, there was a moderate south-westerly wind prevailing and there were many submerged rocks in an area that Wade knew well. Apparently, he was in the boat, the boat hit a rock and he was thrown out. They were doing absolutely nothing wrong at the time—they were enjoying their boating—and, in a split second, a propeller slicing through his body gave him fatal injuries.

The dangers of outboard motors were reinforced to me by an incident in my electorate. Not very long ago, a boy who was only 12 years old was killed. His family were enjoying a day at Patonga Beach. The Express of 2 February 2000 reported that the boy's grandfather was driving the boat, his father was waterskiing and the boy was in the water. Unfortunately, the boy swam out, was not seen and was hit by the propeller of the boat—again, a 12-year-old boy's life was ended far too soon. I tried to find statistics on the number of people injured or killed by outboard propellers, but those statistics are not available. Through the best resources of the Parliamentary Library service and others, I could not find where records are kept. Whilst this is only anecdotal evidence, I suspect these injuries are very common, and I do not believe they receive enough publicity.

Boating is a pleasure thing. It is mostly done with family and friends and, when there is an accident of this severity, it is unfortunately nearly always witnessed by friends and family, which makes it far more tragic and traumatic for the people involved. There are some 570,000 recreational craft in Australia at the present time and more than half a million boats. With our climate and our wonderful waterways, many Australians enjoy boating. I want to use this speech to highlight the dangers that lurk with outboard motors. When you look at an outboard motor—for those of you that are familiar with an outboard motor—the machinery at the top of the motor is well protected. It is covered. The noise and exhaust are contained within a safety cover so that there is no exposed machinery. But, if you look at the propeller, there is no protection whatsoever. There is a fast-spinning blade which has no protection. The only protection it has is that it is covered by the water, and you cannot see it. So it is the old adage: `If you can't see it, it really can't hurt you, so you shouldn't be too worried about it.' But that is part of the danger.

I appeal to governments in every state in Australia to look at ways of if not enforcing legislation then changing the way the propellers are fixed to outboards or looking at whether it is possible to put some sort of safeguarding band around those propellers. I would ask all state parliaments to look at those possibilities. I am aware that surf-lifesaving rubber duckies and like vessels do have their propellers encased in a safety cage. I also understand the difficulties of restricting or limiting the performance of outboard motors. All of us involved in recreational fishing, skiing or boating do not want to see the performance of our outboards limited, but there must be ways in which some sort of safety band could be put around propellers. Whilst that may not completely stop injuries, it may minimise those injuries.

I even went to the extent of trying to research the United States, because obviously that is where most of the outboard motors are manufactured and there are a large number of boats there. There does not seem to be any safety requirements or legislation in place even in the United States that deals with the propellers of motors. They deal with things like having fire extinguishers and safety equipment in the boats and noise pollution, but there was nothing that I could find in their legislation that dealt with the actual safety of the boats and the propellers.

I would call on the state parliaments and also a group called ANZSBEG—the Australia New Zealand Safe Boating Education Group, which was established in 1994 following a national review into safe recreational boating and boating safety education that was undertaken by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority; and I will be providing them with a copy of this speech—to look very carefully at what they can do to initiate a public education campaign to make people, particularly young people, more aware of the dangers of boating and, in particular, the dangers of coming into contact with propellers.

As I said, this is obviously a personal issue to me, with my nephew Wade having been killed by an outboard motor, but so many other incidents have come to light in recent times that I felt it was important I raised this. I emphasise again that there are always things that, unfortunately, will cause accidents. Motor vehicle accidents I guess are the ones that come to mind, but boating accidents seem to have such an impact on the families because, in almost every incident that I know of, the accident is witnessed or is part of a family outing with friends and family. Some of the stories that have come through to me on those sorts of injuries—not even fatal injuries, but just severe cuts and lacerations—are very traumatic.

I really believe that we need to do something about this so that we can stop senselessly wasting Australian lives, particularly young Australians, because they are the ones who tend to enjoy boating, swimming and water skiing and they are more at risk. In the cases that I have highlighted today, we could find nothing in the coroners' reports or any other reports to show that these people were doing anything wrong. Their boats were sound, they were well prepared, they were experienced boating people; yet these accidents still happened, and the two young lives that I detailed today were senselessly lost. (Time expired)


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs De-Anne Kelly)—The question is:

That grievances be noted.

Question resolved in the affirmative.