Harold Bishop has a posse

The Rae St Institute > Blog archive > On Sundays Ring Road Supermarket

The first of a series of adventures into the strange dark recesses of the Australian Media, Transport policy and Activism, 1974-1986

From The Age, November 11, 1978:

Motor pioneer calls for drive against killer cars


Picture credit: JOHN KRUTOP

Caption: Sir Laurence Hartnett scratches his head as he wonders how to stop the carnage on the roads.


"I'm ashamed of the motor car. It's become a vicious weapon that kills."

The speaker is Australian motor industry pioneer Sir Laurence Hartnett - "father" of the Holden.

He is standing on the South Eastern Freeway watching grim-faced, petrol-peeved motorists battle the Friday night rush-hour.

"Look at them ... their faces show the strain." he says, "When I entered the motor car industry (just after World War I) it used to give me great pleasure to see their smiling faces as they drove out for picnics.

"But now you read of road deaths in the newspapers every day. I'd never have got into it if I'd known it would turn out like this."

In recent years Sir Laurence, 80, has been "trying to make amends" for his part in introducing the car to popular consumption.

He has been honorary president of the Victorian Civil Ambulance and chairman of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons road trauma appeal. He has headed the ambulance design committee, spoken with road engineers and spoken with the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce.

But now he is tired of talking.

He has called for the CSIRO to be charged with a far reaching $1 million research programme into all aspects of road accidents.

"Certain causes such as drunken drivers stand out strongly," he says. "But there are many other important factors such as road engineering, types and locations of road signs, road surfacing, night lighting, conditions of vehicles and medical aspects."

Typically, the first Australian managing director of GMH, who lost his job because he considered the first Holdens were too Americanised, is against car manufacturers contributing funds to the research programme.

"It's got to be Federal Government money," he says. "Once the companies get involved, you run the risk of getting a 'spin on the ball'."

The above article was four days before the opening of the West Gate, and a year or so after the opening of the Eastern. This is in the same culture where the head of the CRB
Country Roads Board, later Vicroads
was calling for a ban on bicycles on main roads (being a "menace").

Riding last night alongside the 8 lane blacktop expanse of the Eastern Freeway got me thinking how far society really is from taking a big picture approach to so many issues; economics, planning, consumption -- and how cries from 25 years ago aren't that much different from those being made today; how the Melbourne and Sydney Ring Road construction of late provides a nice metaphor for the fact that transport policy is largely going in circles.

2 Comments - [post a comment]

Graceful 'motoring' in Gladys - Brownie, Monday, April 4, 2005, 6:24 AM
My funny friend Flisty always buys GMH and names her cars Gladys after Lady hartnett. I am old enough to remember when one motored for pleasure, with a heavy felted and fringed knee rug against the open air , and when a day trip from Brighton to Rye involved first gear all the way up Oliver's Hill in a 1926 Singer. Sir Laurence was right.
Dr Henrik Ziegler, Monday, April 4, 2005, 9:39 AM
I think parallels can be drawn between the car / society and drugs / drug user.

At first it's great fun, everything's fine, life is good and the future is rosy.

Then the problems start to pop up, but it's nothing..

Then they get worse, but it's still nothing...

Then they get debilitating; but by the time it's this bad the two are so intertwined that there's no escape for the user.

Or for society.