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Thursday, 3 May 1984
Page: 1561

Senator CROWLEY —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether he has seen the article in the Age of 30 April referring to the huge cost of road crashes, estimated at $3,000m a year. Is he aware of the figures by the Road Safety Council in that report that show fatal crashes are five times more costly than crashes with major injury and 265 times more costly than those causing only property damage? Can the Minister say whether the Government agrees with the claim in the report that Australians expect high standards for aviation and shipping safety but are very casual about road crashes? What action is the Government taking to change that attitude and to reduce the huge cost of road crashes?

Senator GIETZELT —In my briefing notes the Minister for Transport has provided me with a copy of the booklet entitled The Cost of Road Crashes, which actually is an incredibly important book of statistics. It shows the cost to the community not only in human terms but also in monetary terms. For example, there is a table on page 7 which shows that the average cost was $300,000 for a fatality, $ 67,000 for a major injury, $8,000 for a minor injury and $1,900 for property damage only. The total community cost has been estimated as a result of the work by the Road Safety Council as follows: $1,000m for fatal crashes, $240m for those involving major injuries, $500m for those involving minor injuries, $970m for those involving property only-totalling $2,710m. This has prompted the Government to take a much higher national profile on road safety than has previously been the case. To that extent the Government will be launching a three-pronged campaign and will be publishing documents such as the documents I have before me which show the monetary cost of road crashes. There will be what has been described in my brief as slick television commercials, mainly aimed at the high-risk under-25 age group. The Government has already indicated during the debate on the road legislation today that there will be a dramatic increase in Federal spending on roads. In the 1983-84 period Federal spending on roads will be close to 50 per cent higher than that in the period 1982-83, which is an unprecedented increase.

The Government will also be commissioning relevant research that will be conducted at Sydney University into the effects of drugs, including pharmaceuticals, marihuana and alcohol taken in combination, on people's driving ability. I understand that this will be the first time such research has been conducted in the Western world. However, the Government indicates that it will not usurp the proper role of the States but that it will work closely with them on a number of joint ventures designed to overcome the obvious human costs as well as the monetary costs to the Australian economy.