By Maggy Liu
If you were to guess the issue being discussed in Youth Parliament for the sixth time in its 30-year history, what would you say?
Would it be gay marriage? Or maybe legalising marijuana? Perhaps euthanasia?
Surprisingly, an issue first raised in 1987 is to lower the probationary driving age from 18 to 17 years old.
To the young people of Gannawarra Shire, the 365-day difference is not as insignificant as naysayers may claim.
It means young people in rural communities would be able to access work and education opportunities that may not have been available if they were forced to rely on public transport or family members to drive them.
Both have reputations for being unreliable and inconvenient.
Hamish Laity introduced the bill saying, “Victoria is the only state [in Australia] that forces young people to wait until 18 to get their probationary plate”
He said it made Victoria “the only state that doesn’t seem to trust the youth”.
This disadvantage is something his team is acutely aware of, coming from the border of New South Wales and Victoria, with members from both states.
Other supporters agreed, saying “people are able to get apprenticeships at 17” and for young people who want to or have to pursue that option, they must have a reliable means of transport to do so – something current laws do not allow.
However, the refuters were not so convinced, and pointed out problems in the clauses.
The proposed increase to the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of drivers over the age of 25 on their P2 plate to 0.05 was seen as an endorsement for mixing drinking and driving, making roads less safe.
Defenders said it would help drivers figure out “how to safely mix alcohol and drinking”, but this did not go down well in the chamber. The speaker’s voice was barely audible over the chorus of “shames” from across the floor.
The suggestion that drivers on their P1 plate must drive 10km under the speed limit when travelling in 80 kilometre per hour zones also drew criticism.
Shanae Joseph believed the sponsors were confusing the safety benefits gained from all cars driving at a lower speed and the increased danger of vehicles on the road driving at different speeds.
Other aspects of the bill were considered during the debate, including the different developmental development between age 17-18, the benefits of carpooling on climate change and casualties of young people on the road.
Ultimately, the bill came down to whether the potential benefits to rural youth suffering from “transport disadvantage” outweighed the risks of younger drivers on the road.
Despite the best efforts of Gannawarra Shire, the bill was contentious and failed convincingly.