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Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 1461

Mr Cohen asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

(1)   Can action be taken to oblige all motor vehicle insurance companies to make available to authorised research personnel their records showing the (a) make and model of vehicles involved in accidents, (b) age of drivers, (c) nature of accidents and (d) nature and extent of vehicle damage.

(2)   Does the Government agree that this information, properly analysed, should (a) reveal unsafe features in particular makes of cars, (b) allow consumers to select vehicles according to the safety performances of vehicles and (c) encourage manufacturers to modify features in their vehicles where necessary.

(3)   Does the Government also agree that the 1970 figures of 3,800 deaths and 92,000 people injured are a sufficient reason tointrude upon the commercial privacy of some commercial and industrial groups.

Mr Hunt - As Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport I supply the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1)   There appears to be no existing statutory authority under which action could be taken by the Commonwealth to make records available.

(2)   Information obtained from insurance company records would be incomplete. Not all vehicles are insured against damage and some are not covered against the possibility of damage to other property. It could be expected that a large number of those not comprehensively insured would be vehicles several years old and if they were involved in accidents that their owners would bear the cost of repairs.

In addition, not all accidents to insured vehicles would be reported. One factor that could cause a person to refrain from reporting an accident would be the franchise being greater than the cost involved. In any case, the cause of an accident, as reported by an insured driver, might not always be strictly accurate. Details relating to motor vehicles and drivers involved in accidents reported to the authorities are currently collected in the States and Territories and include makes and models of vehicles, ages of drivers and accident circumstances. The reporting of the extent of vehicle damage as part of the accident reporting process is a matter to which the Advisory Committee on Road User Performance and Traffic Codes is currently giving attention. This Committee is also currently examining the system of reporting road accidents in each of the States and Territories. In addition, the Expert Group on Road Safety is considering the question of accident reporting as part of its National Review.

(3)   Commonwealth action will be taken in the light of the report by the Advisory Committee to the Australian Transport Advisory Council and the findings of the Expert Group on Road Safety.

Oil Slick (Question No. 5236)

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) ns asked the Minister for

Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

(1)   Is it a fact that the oil slick recently reported in the sea off Melbourne was released from the tanker 'Cosmopolitan 11' after the oil was taken on board in Melbourne.

(2)   Is it also a fact that the Victorian Health Department was aware of this and gave certain directions or advice about dumping the oil at sea.

(3)   If so, what action is proposed by the Commonwealth in regard to these matters.

Mr Hunt - As Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport I supply the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1)   First, it is not at all certain that the patches referred to were oil slicks. The fact that they disappeared in approximately twenty-four hours makes it doubtful at least that persistent oil was involved. In any case the slick, however composed, could certainly not have come from the tanker 'Cosmopolitan11' because it was observed before that vessel had departed from Port Philip Bay.

(2)   Inquiries have been made with the Victorian Health Department, which has indicated that it neither received any approach regarding the Cosmopolitan 11' nor gave any directions concerning that vessel.

I have separately ascertained, however that this vessel was chartered by one of the petrochemical companies to uplift an amount of material referred to in the industry as 'spent caustic' and to discharge it at sea when more than 100 miles from land. I am advised that 'spent caustic' is an industrial residue consisting of 90 per cent water and 10 per cent sodium salts which are either sodium sulphate or rapidly become sodium sulphate on exposure to the air. This material can be discharged at sea quite safely, but if it is treated at a petrochemical plant to break it down it emits an objectionable odour and this violates the Victorian Clean Air Act. I am advised that it is a universal practice to discharge this material at sea. Fisheries administrations here have expressed no concern about it.

(3)   As indicated, any discharge from the 'Cosmopolitan 11' could not have given rise to the reported slicks off the Victorian coast. Even so, I am having inquiries made to determine whether the vessel discharged 'spent caustic' in accordance with the charterer's instructions, that is more than 100 miles from land, or otherwise.

South African Sporting Policies (Question No. 5193)

Mr Kennedy asked the Minister for

Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

(1)   On what date or dates did he have discussions with the Prime Minister about further possible protest to the South African Government against its racial sporting policies as mentioned in the Prime Minister's statement to the House on 9th September 1971 (Hansard, page 989).

(2)   On what date or dates did he or the Prime Minister or any representatives of the Australian Government have discussions with any official or officials of the South African Embassy in relation to how that Embassy and the South African Government would react to a possible expression of protest by the Australian Government against the South African Government's racial sporting policies.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   I have day to day discussions with the Prime Minister on all manner of subjects and do not have any record of the date or dates of discussions relating to the matter referred to by the honourable member.

(2)   I am not aware of any discussions of the type suggested by the honourable member.

Rhodesia (Question No. 5004)

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister for

Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

Has the Government taken any diplomatic initiative to convey to the Smith Rhodesian Government its displeasure at the imprisonment of Mr G. Todd and his daughter Miss Judy Todd. If so, on what date and in what terms was this initiative taken.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

No. Australia does not recognise or have any dealings with the Smith regime. Any message would need to be addressed to Mr Smith through the British Government which has already sent messages to Mr Smith expressing its concern at the continued detention of Mr Garfield Todd and Miss Todd.

Establishment of Royal Commission into Foreign Relations (Question No. 5059)

Dr Everingham (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) asked the Minister for

Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

(1)   Has his attention been drawn to an article by W. R Crocker in the 'I.P.A. Review' for October-December 1971.

(2)   If so, will the Government take steps to establish a Royal Commission as called for by this distinguished author, offering him chairmanship of that Commission, to investigate all aspects of Australia's foreignrelations.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   No.

Empress of Australia' (Question No. 5258)

Mr Barnard asked the Minister for

Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

(1)   How many hours will it take the 'Empress of Australia' to sail from Melbourne to Devonport.

(2)   What is the average speed of the 'Empress of Australia'.

Mr Hunt - As Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport, I supply the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1)   Berth to berth, 14 hours. It is intended to operate the present schedule operated by the Princess of Tasmania' departing Melbourne at 7.30 p.m. and arriving at Devonport at 9.30 a.m. the following day.

(2)   17½ knots.

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