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Monday, 5 March 2001
Page: 24942

Mr NEVILLE (4:19 PM) —I join with my colleagues in expressing dismay and sorrow at the number of fatal accidents that occurred on the nation's roads during the Christmas-New Year period. It is always sad when life is cut short and even sadder that many of these fatalities could have been prevented. As someone who lost his own father in a motor accident, I know the reality of that only too well.

I note that last year 20 per cent of road fatalities were unrestrained; in other words, passengers and drivers did not wear seatbelts. That is a very disappointing statistic. Obviously there is still a level of complacency in the community about seatbelt usage, and road safety campaigns are being ignored or taken for granted. This is one area where we can improve things. We have done a lot in the control of alcohol and speed, albeit at a higher level of control than in the past. But it is interesting to reflect—and I do not say this to have a swipe at this particular state—that New South Wales, the state that has the toughest laws, that doubles the demerit points over the holidays and that has Safetycam for its truck drivers, had nearly as many accidents as the rest of Australia put together.

So we have to look even beyond that. We have to look to those other things that might be causing road accidents. Of course the roads themselves are one thing. The Roads to Recovery is a good program. In my electorate, it will mean that shires will get between a quarter of a million dollars and a bit over $1 million each. It will mean, for example, in the shire of Isis, that over 50 per cent of the rural roads will now be sealed. It is a very good program. Work on the Bruce Highway in my electorate is marvellous north and south of Bundaberg—the Gunalda Range, Tim Fischer Bridge, Three Mile Creek Bridge, the Colosseum stretch. A whole range of things have been put there by the Commonwealth government, but I think we have to go a bit further still.

One thing that my colleague from Tasmania just referred to is fatigue. It is important that drivers stop and rest every two hours, especially if they are feeling tired. Members of parliament are probably the worst offenders of the lot, because we push ourselves and push ourselves. The standing committee on transport, which I chaired, looked at fatigue in its report Beyond the midnight oil. Broad ranging research suggests that fatigue is four times more likely to adversely affect drivers than do drugs or alcohol, so it is really a major area of concern.

We took evidence all over Australia and found that the cost of fatigue in motor accidents could be as high as $3 billion a year. That is a huge cost to Australia, to say nothing of the emotional cost when a fatality or a permanent injury occurs. People talk about fatigue, but they do not really come to grips with it. We need a culture of anti-fatigue education, in much the same way as we had the Life Be In It campaign—the `Norm' ads that everyone joked about but that everyone watched—and the Do the Right Thing campaign, with the kid putting the lolly paper in the rubbish tin, or the Clean Up Australia campaign, which we have just been through in the last couple of days. Those sorts of things keep punching it home to the community. I think the shock ads, such as the `bloody idiot' ads, have some impact but we need a permanent, ongoing culture that people take into account and temper their judgments with when they go driving.

There are lots of things we could do. For example, we could have a television campaign. We could double the number of roadside stopover areas, not only for trucks but also for cars. We could make sure that slot-in at supermarkets and warehouses was such that drivers who had been on the road for 12 hours did not have to waste another three or four hours getting rid of their loads. We should be looking at Professor Drew Dawson's computer modelling of rostering and things like that, which could make things safer for the trucking industry. On top of that, we should make fatigue management profiles obligatory for anyone who wants quality assurance. Many things could be done. (Time expired)