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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3082

Mr MORRIS (Shortland) -by leave-I join with the honourable members who preceded me in this debate in their comments relating to the tabling of this very important report. The issue of the impact of drink driving upon our community extends beyond party political lines. It has clearly had the support across the board of the Standing Committee on Road Safety. As the Chairman of the Committee mentioned, the only socially acceptable killers in this country are drinking drivers. That situation arises very much from the facts that, firstly, a social behaviour has been established in relation to alcohol over many decades and, secondly, as the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter), who preceded me mentioned, there is little chance of being caught.

Some of the recommendations of the Committee aim to increase the chance of detection. Once people come to recognise that their chances of being caught are much greater, we are likely to have some movement towards a change in community attitudes to drinking and driving. I think the ingestion of alcohol before driving is a factor in the aggressiveness of some motor vehicle drivers. So many people seem to drive their cars in the way in which they would wear a gun if they were back in the days of the wild west. That kind of road behaviour has a serious impact upon other drivers and particularly upon the drivers of two-wheeled vehicles- motor cyclists and cyclists. I believe that the lack of concern and the arrogance of some drivers in most cases follows the ingestion of alcohol. There has to be a change of social attitudes to this combination of drinking and driving.

The report outlines the enormous toll that alcohol takes on motor vehicle drivers, passengers and pedestrians. The most disastrous impact of all is the impact upon young people. I stress that in 80 per cent of single vehicle fatal crashes involving drivers under 25 years of age, alcohol is a major contributing factor. The combination of the consumption of alcohol and driving is a community problem. We must all join together in developing a solution to it. It is criminal, in my view, that young people gain legal access to alcohol and to motor vehicles at almost the same time. It is estimated that the driving impairment of a 17-year-old person is 10 times greater than that of a 30-year-old person following a given consumption of alcohol. Yet enormous peer pressures are placed upon young people to join in the consumption of alcohol or to develop the practised habit of consuming alcohol. They are made to feel that they are less than men, less than adults, unless they are able to cope with a quantity of alcohol. To encourage young people to drink and then allow them to drive is to invite them to play Russian roulette with their lives and with the lives of other, innocent road users.

I make mention particularly of the role of leading sporting personalities in the promotion of the sale of alcohol, particularly on television. In this area of promotion the pitch of the message of the advertisement is aimed at the younger age groups in the community. The younger people are made to feel that they are less than successful, that they cannot be successful or competitive in sport, that they cannot achieve, unless they are able to swig a can of beer as we see so often on the television commercials. I would like to see some of the other leading sportsmen and sportswomen of our nation joining in an opposite campaign to neutralise the disastrous effect of the promotion of alcohol.

Sir DonaldBradman, in his younger days and at the peak of his career, used to say quite openly that he did not drink alcohol, that he was a teetotaller. Surely there are some sportsmen like Sir Donald Bradman around today who can follow his lead in promoting a deterrent to the consumption of alcohol. I do not know whether these leading sporting personalities are paid for their appearances. I do not know what consideration they receive or what their motivation is. I can only appeal to them to have a look at the figures of the fatalities and injuries of young people who drive motor vehicles following the consumption of alcohol. I ask them: Are they doing the right thing for those young people and for all of the other young people of Australia whom they encourage to drink by their appearance in commercials. Added to that, I believe that in all public places where liquor is sold, such as hotels, restaurants and clubs, there should be an equal promotion and availability of a range of non-alcoholic drinks and low alcohol content drinks so that a choice is available. We find in so many cases at present that only alcohol is available.

I conclude with one of the Committee's recommendations. It reads: consideration be given to reducing the excise imposed on low alcohol beer (defined as containing not more than 2.5 per cent of alcohol by weight ).

I think it is a worthy recommendation. As a member of the Committee I support it, but it is not an answer in itself, although it appears to be having some favourable effect upon the problem. It is one of the tools which are available to us. I support the remarks of the honourable members who preceded me about the recommendations of the Committee. I ask the community to come together, putting politics aside, in facing up to this most difficult and disastrous problem.

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