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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3207

Mrs DARLING —I continue my comments on the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety. I have commented on the urgent need for Australia to have a national road safety code. We hope that advertisers will respond by promoting positive driver attitudes whenever possible. There is no justification for advertisements which in any way may promote dangerous behaviour on the roads. The Committee's report recommends that the Office of Road Safety, in conjunction with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and the advertising industry, develop a comprehensive code relating to road safety. The Committee is content to see self-regulation continue provided a firm road safety code is introduced and is properly enforced. We are not satisfied that the current codes have been stringently enforced in all cases in the past. We are particularly concerned that on occasions the codes have been interpreted narrowly in favour of the advertisers, allowing advertisements to be used which glamorise the handling characteristics of vehicles at high speed or other dangerous practices. Even if this means advertisements which are a little less entertaining, it is surely not an unreasonable request in the interests of saving lives.

A number of suggestions are made in the report for improvements in the operation of self-regulation in the industry and for changes to the composition of key bodies such as the Advertising Standards Council. The Advertising Standards Council needs to be, and to be seen to be, independent from industry dominance. Provision should be made for a more direct involvement by consumer interest groups. We would particularly like to see at last one member of the Council with road safety expertise. Self-regulation has much to recommend it, but it must operate in the public interest. It must be open at all stages to public scrutiny. It must give a full public reporting of its activities and detailed reasons for its decisions. The Committee trusts that its suggestions on these matters will be picked up by the industry and fully implemented.

Many who gave evidence to the Committee called for the total abolition of television advertisements for alcohol. There is a well-established association between drink driving and deaths on the roads. The Committee believes that an attack on this problem should be part of a comprehensive government policy to deal with all aspects of alcohol abuse. Australia has a drinking problem, and deaths caused by drink driving are just one way in which that problem is made manifest. Drug driving is another area of concern outside the terms of this particular inquiry. Community attitudes to drinking must be changed. Action is necessary to decrease the accepted level of consumption, as well as fighting the widely practised habit of driving while affected by drink. It is particularly important not to encourage the young to adopt the undesirable habits of the adult community. The Committee believes that advertising of alcoholic beverages on television must not be allowed during hours when significant numbers of young people are viewing. We therefore recommend a greater restriction on the hours allowed by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal for the advertising of alcohol. Some witnesses called for a total ban. The Committee will keep this option in mind when monitoring the effect of the new, restricted viewing times.

As I indicated at the beginning of this speech, many factors are involved in causing death and injury on the roads. If we can remove from advertising the negative influences on road safety, then we are taking one step in the right direction. In this context, I wish to place on record my appreciation of the concerned participation and plain hard work of Committee members who have severed party lines to work together on this important issue. I would also like to acknowledge the co-operation of the Department of Transport, of Mr Bill Upton and officers of the Office of Road Safety, and the many members of advertising and related industries.