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Wednesday, 14 May 1980
Page: 2189

Senator CHANEY -Yesterday Senator Bishopasked a number of questions arising out of the recent bus accident near Hay in New South Wales and relating to the safety of tourist buses generally. I gave him a general reply but undertook to obtain further information. I have obtained a lengthy but useful reply to those questions from my colleague, the Minister for Transport. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Although the responsibilities related to the design and serviceability of buses reside with each of the State and Territory administrations a great deal of uniformity has been achieved through the Australian Transport Advisory Council. The model legislation endorsed by that Council is to be found in sections 16 and 16a of what is known as the draft regulations and covers a wide range of requirements aimed at ensuring the continuing roadworthiness of buses engaged in the provision of all types of services including long distance interstate services.

In practice there are some variations in the detail or requirement from State to State but all States have licencing and inspection systems aimed at minimising the likelihood of bus accidents.

At the request of the Council, its Advisory Committee on Vehicle Performance has recently completed an extensive review of the bus roadworthiness requirements and new proposals will be coming before the Council for consideration in July next. I understand that these proposals involve a rolling system of maintenance in addition to the periodic inspections which are currently undertaken.

In respect of coachwork design and the structural integrity of buses, which was also an issue raised by Senator Bishop, I am informed that the Department's Office of Road Safety is about to commission a major research project designed to improve the restraint of bus passengers and minimize injuries in forward or rear-end collisions. The question of adequate protection in a roll-over type accident is more difficult and has worried road safety authorities around the world for a number of years. There are at present no comprehensive standards for these purposes anywhere in the world but the Office of Road Safety is closely following a program of experiment and evaluation currently being earned out by road safety authorities in Europe which may well give a basis for the development of adequate standards in this country.

I can assure Senator Bishop that, although the responsibility for the investigation of these accidents rests with the relevant State authorities, the Commonwealth has, and will continue to maintain, a close contact so that any lessons there to be learned can be applied in the wider consideration of national standards. There certainly can be no suggestion that the safety of bus passengers is being neglected but at the same time it would be foolish for anyone to suggest that there is not room for the development and improvement of safety standards in this area. I can assure the senator that the Commonwealth, State and Territory authorities responsible for safe road operations have frequently exhibited their concern and interest in the safety of bus operations through the deliberations of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. I have no doubt that the wide range of current inquiry will be pursued as quickly as resources permit.

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