Department for Education and Child Development’s Policy on Seatbelt Buckle Guards

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking questions of the minister representing the Minister for Education and Child Development regarding seatbelt buckle guards.

Leave granted.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: The Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) has a policy, I understand, in relation to buckle guards in DECD-funded taxis which appears to contradict the rest of the country. To explain, a buckle guard is a small hard plastic sleeve which goes over the seatbelt release button to prevent a child or young person from undoing the seatbelt while the vehicle is in motion. The seatbelt can be released with the use of any key pushed through a slot.

When you purchase buckle guards, they come with shears to cut the seatbelt in case of an emergency. The shears are designed so that they are not sharp in anyway, so they cannot be classified as a weapon. Buckle guards are regularly used for children, including children and young people with disabilities, who undo their seatbelts while vehicles are in motion, creating a safety risk where that young person is not only unsecured but could interfere with the driver operating the vehicle, of course creating a further risk.

The DECD transport section currently states that they do not allow them to be used for safety reasons, being that in case of an accident, it is not the driver’s responsibility to undo the seatbelt. Rather than seeking a solution to this issue, it appears that DECD is allowing exclusion of a child from school transport and possibly from school as a result. In every other jurisdiction, I understand that buckle guards are allowed by education departments with varying requirements, including parental permission, doctor approval, shears kept in the glove box and signage on the windscreen, with one state not having any requirements at all. There are many South Australian students with disabilities, and their parent carers, who are currently affected by this policy. My questions are:

1.How does the minister justify that DECD would prefer that a child is unsecured in a DECD-funded tax or bus rather than being allowed to use a buckle guard, with cutting shears present in case of an emergency?

2.Is the minister aware that due to DECD’s policy of not allowing buckle guards in DECD transport, children with disabilities may be unable to travel safely to school?

3.Additionally, is the minister aware that as a consequence of this policy children may not be able to travel in DECD-funded transport and parents must be available to take their children to and from school and available to pick them up throughout the day?

4.Is the minister aware that SA Health is a major partner of Kidsafe Australia and that the Kidsafe Australia website itself advertises buckle guards?

5.If SA Health supports the use of buckle guards why doesn’t the Department for Education and Child Development?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change): I thank the member for her excellent, in-depth questions on the subject of buckle guards. I undertake to take that question to the minister in another place and seek a response on her behalf. Without prejudging any of the answers that may be given, of course, I do remind the honourable member that there are sometimes very good reasons why South Australia stands apart from other jurisdictions, and that is usually because we are right.

I only have to think about container deposit legislation that South Australia has had in place for 40 years; it is taken almost 40 years for other jurisdictions to catch up with us and change their own position. There are a number of other examples I could allude to. I am not saying that is the case in this instance, I don’t know—and the honourable member seems to be mouthing to me that that is probably not the case—but, as I said, I will undertake to take that question to the minister in another place and get a response for her.