Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I am pleased to speak on Mr Purcell’s motion to give a reference to the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee to consider the impact of lowering the probationary driving age in Victoria to 17 years. I am a member of the committee and I look forward to exploring the topic via the committee process. I thank Mr Melhem for wishing the committee well; I appreciate that. I am very supportive of this motion. It is common sense to consider what the rest of the country is doing and what is happening around the world. It is wonderful that Mr Purcell from Vote 1 Local Jobs has introduced a motion that is about jobs; I could not agree with him more.
I got my drivers licence in the ACT at 16 years, 9 months and 3 hours. I was there at 9 o’clock to get my licence, and the minute I did I drove to work. I was a swimming teacher, so it enabled me to teach first thing in the morning, but I was also still training for swimming so it had the added benefit of my parents not having to get up at 5.00 a.m. every day to drive me to training. Having a licence really affected my ability to work. I remember very clearly the amount of work I could do on weekends when there was no public transport. I was living in the suburbs; I was not living in a regional area. I cannot imagine what it would be like for a young person to try to work in a regional area where there is not the same public transport as in the city and where the facilities are not as close. It is not a matter of getting on your bike and riding for 20 minutes to the local swimming pool or to the local IGA.
I was interested to hear Mr Purcell’s contribution about the parents who want their children to get jobs. But how do you manage five children when two of them are doing apprenticeships? You just cannot. I know there are not enough hours in the day for most parents to make 90-minute round trips to take children to really important apprenticeships or to do something that gets them into employment. We know that the younger you start working, the more likely you are to continue working, the less likely you are to get into trouble and the more likely you are to make a great contribution to our society.
As I said, I grew up in the suburbs, where there was relatively good public transport. But there is no public transport in regional areas. Even in the suburbs I had to get to a 5.30 a.m. swimming training session or to 7.00 a.m. swimming lessons before school. There was no public transport for me, so I had to rely on my parents until, at 16 years, 9 months and 3 hours, I was able to rely on myself. Learning that independence was a very important thing to do at a young age. At 16 years and 9 months you are not 18 years old. You are still growing up and you are still considered to be a young person, but all of a sudden you have a greater degree of responsibility and independence, and that is very important.
I am really looking forward to reviewing the impacts of separating the legal age of driving and drinking during the committee’s inquiry. It will be very interesting. We are well aware of the road toll statistics for people aged between 18 and 24 years and we know that alcohol is very prominent in the road toll casualties among that age group. Looking at that correlation will be very interesting. At 16 years I had a good year and a bit of driving before it was legal for me to have a drink.
I was looking at the licence regime in Canada, which is very similar to Australia. It has a whole range of licences. It has licences for people from 14 years through to 18 years. There are various forms of probationary licences and licences where you have to be accompanied by another driver. I think Australia and Victoria could look at greater flexibility. It may be that we need a whole range of licences to meet the requirements of a whole range of different communities and situations.
Mr Purcell quoted a young man, Khalid Issa, who led a great campaign to lower the driving age. He writes about the difficulties of getting a job without having a licence, and I completely appreciate that. But he also notes the driving statistics of death by state and territory. Victoria has a driving age 18 years and the rest of the states have 17 years yet the statistics show there is not a lot of difference. The toll is not noticeably lower in Victoria compared with states where 17-year-olds are allowed to drive. We are not necessarily reducing the road toll by making people wait until they are 18 years to drive. In fact the statistics show that whether you set the driving age at 17 years or 18 years the road toll does not change enormously.
The one thing that changes enormously that affects the road toll for young people is their experience in driving — that is, the number of hours they have driven. Many previous speakers have spoken about the 120 hours of driving experience needed in Victoria. Maybe that practice could start a bit younger, as I did at 16 years. I drove for quite some time with my parents before I was able to get my licence and drive independently. I think that probably made me a better driver. Some people may dispute that — —
Mr Bourman interjected.
Ms PATTEN — That’s right; thank you. I notice that Peter Kissinger, the president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, says:
Turning 18 does not instantly make someone a safer driver.
Absolutely not. I think this is going to be a very interesting inquiry. I will be interested to be involved in it. I support the amendment the government has put forward. We are an ageing population, so at the other end of the spectrum — and I think this is what the committee will also look at — there are the older people who can no longer drive. How are we enabling them to still engage with their community? Also, maybe we should be looking at restricted licences for older people by looking at that end of the spectrum as well. The amendment the government has moved allows the committee to look at older drivers and all people who do not have the benefit of being able to drive a car independently.
I commend this motion. I am very pleased Mr Purcell put it forward. In terms of Vote 1 Local Jobs, this motion is about voting 1 for local jobs. I might just say that one of our policies is reducing the voting age, so maybe we can look at that after we get the drivers licences through.