ABC Newsonline - Monday 22 May, 2006

School safety package not enough, parents say

Parents' groups say the New South Wales Government's new $300 million dollar school road safety package does not go far enough and they are angry they were not properly consulted.

Today's announcement by Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal follows a number of accidents involving school children in recent weeks.

The most high profile accident happened to burns victim Sophie Delezio, who was released from intensive care on Friday after being hit by a car at a pedestrian crossing on May 5.

The package includes a fast-tracked roll-out of flashing lights to around 100 schools and speed cameras installed and rotated around school zones.

High-visibility 40-kilometre an hour speed signs will also be installed across the state.

But Parents and Citizens Federation acting president Dianne Giblin says while the package is a small step in the right direction, more work and consultation is needed.

"Children's lives are priceless and they should be at the forefront of any government initiative and absolutely, we'd like to see more money invested," she said.

The initiative will also introduce harsher penalties for driving offences in school zones.

The chief executive of motoring group NRMA, Tony Stewart, says the package will improve safety around schools.

"I think it's a breakthrough for school safety," he said.

"It's something the community has been concerned about for a long time and for the first time, we have a comprehensive positive response from the Government."

Spin allegations

Earlier in the week, state Opposition Leader Peter Debnam accused the Government of engaging in political spin for not announcing the school safety package earlier.

During a press conference on Thursday, Premier Morris Iemma said the Government had a plan but would not give any details.

Mr Debnam said the Government was not making the announcement because it wanted to get a bigger headline in the weekend newspapers.

The story was featured on Sunday on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph.

But Mr Roozendaal says the school safety package was not ready to be released until today.

"The Government has only just completed an assessment of the trial of flashing lights at 43 schools and discussions with various stakeholders, including the police, Pedestrian Council [and] NRMA, were only completed late yesterday afternoon," he said.

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