What was said before, and what was said after.

The following is an extract from a Parliamentary sitting. It was held on the 10th of May 1994, 10 days before the Cannonball Run took place… As you read this you may say to yourself, “Why didn’t anyone listen” The simple fact is, there were only 10 days to go, rules can’t be changed with only 10 days notice.

The following will help understand why the race was even considered to be held in the Northern Territory. If parliamentarians do these sort of speeds, why would they have speed limits?

Chief Minister Letter

With everyone so careful not to call the Cannonball Run a “race” its funny seeing a letter signed by the then Chief Minister of the Northern Territory sending out a letter to all the competitors calling it exactly what it was… a race…..

Mr PARISH: Before honourable members get their knickers in a twist about it, opposition members strongly support the concept of the Cannonball Run, but I believe that Ayrton Senna’s death illustrates just what a dangerous game motor racing is and how quickly something can happen that results in death. Despite the fact that this man was probably without peer in terms of his skills, his reflexes and his experience in handling a car at speed and despite the fact that he was operating on a track where all the vehicles were travelling in the same direction, a track that had wide verges and sand run-off areas etc to slow the cars down, nevertheless death overtook him in a split second.

Like the AANT, (This is a breakdown service in the Northern Territory) I have concerns about the Cannonball Run. I believe greater efforts need to be made to ensure the safety of the event. I am aware that a great deal of effort has been put into it. Hopefully everything will go well, but factors, such as the approach speeds of vehicles on public roads where, except for the controlled speed sections, the road will remain open to general traffic, and the closing speeds of vehicles travelling both in the same direction and when overtaking and in opposite directions, in my view pose considerable dangers not only for the drivers in the race but for innocent road users. Many pensioners …

Mr Reed: I was doing 170 km/h when I was coming to Darwin the other day, and I was overtaken!

Mr PARISH: That is true. However, there are many pensioners who travel up the highway with their caravans or their campervans at 70 km/h or 80 km/h and they are not necessarily expecting a car to be closing on them at the rate of 250 km/h.

Mr Bell: You were doing 170 km/h between Katherine and here?

Mr Reed: I do it regularly. Come with me some time.

Mr PARISH: The trouble is that it may well be that people like the member for Katherine and myself …

Mr Reed: And I was overtaken.

Mr PARISH: Mr Speaker, at the risk of horrifying the member for MacDonnell, I must confess that I too drive between here and Katherine at those kinds of speeds. However, people like the member for Katherine, myself and the Leader of the Opposition, who travels at similar speeds, are experienced in driving on country roads. We know the dangers. We know that these are unfenced roads and that there is a danger of wandering stock. We know that you have to drive well ahead of yourself mentally in order to cope with the situation. Many of the participants in the Cannonball Run will be people who have never had their Porsches or their Ferraris out of second gear. All their driving experience will have been on roads that have a speed limit of 100 km/h. Even if you fancy yourself as a good driver, if you do not have long experience of driving on the open road at high speeds, you do not realise how quickly things can happen. You do not realise how far ahead of yourself you have to drive and you do not realise how long it takes to stop from a high speed.

I understand that there are no requirements that any of the drivers in this event must hold a CAMS licence or must have undertaken advanced driver training. I would not suggest that they should be required to hold a CAMS licence because that would be unduly bureaucratic, but I would like to see some stronger mandatory requirement for advanced driver training, both in general advanced driving and also in terms of a specific education program for the drivers in the hazards of driving on open Territory roads. If that does not happen, there is a danger that all of the great publicity and the great potential tourist attraction that the Cannonball Run can generate for the Northern Territory could be lost through a horrific accident. Clearly, that is something we all want to avoid and we all want to do everything in our power to ensure that that does not happen. I urge members opposite and those involved in the organisation of the run to have another look at the safety aspects and the driver training aspects for this event because the death of Ayrton Senna illustrates just how dangerous high-speed racing driving can be.

If only someone had listened to this man…. we might have had many more Cannonball Run events

What were the costs to the Northern Territory government of staging the 1994 Cannonball Run?

This was asked in Parliament June 30th 1994

Mr Speaker, I undertook recently to provide this information and I believe this is an appropriate opportunity. The Cannonball Run attracted 118 entries. There were approximately 340 visitors to the Territory, including drivers, crew, support and media personnel, and the staff of the organisers. If one includes the officials and volunteers from the Northern Territory, a total of about 600 people were involved directly in the event. As members would appreciate, organising and conducting such an event is an enormous and expensive exercise involving meticulous attention to detail. Despite the tragic accident that occurred, overall it was a well-organised and well-conducted event with the Territory receiving extensive media coverage. Some 90 media representatives were accredited to cover the event.

The Territory government contributed both financial and in-kind support to facilitate the Cannonball Run. Direct financial support included commissioning a feasibility study, the marketing and promotion of tour packages by the Tourist Commission, the provision of number plates, the provision of protective clothing for government officials, overtime, accommodation and travel allowance for police and government officials and the provision of telephone and fax facilities. The total direct costs are estimated at $203 939.

Mr Speaker, I table a breakdown of those expenses for the information of members. In-kind assistance provided by police and other public servants was their on-the-job time, the provision of vehicles, accelerated road maintenance and grass slashing, the use of venues such as the Wharf Precinct and the warehouse space at the TDZ, and reusable equipment such as barricades and traffic control signs. Obviously, community benefits remain after the event from items such as road maintenance, grass clearing and reusable equipment. The overwhelming community support for the Cannonball Run resulted in hundreds of voluntary man hours being contributed by Territorians from all walks of life, including many public servants, particularly public servants from the Department of Transport and Works.

The government supported the Cannonball Run for the promotional benefits to the Territory, just as we support the World Solar Challenge and other states support major motor sports events within their borders. I propose to make a more comprehensive statement on the Cannonball Run when more information is available and consultations have been held with a number of people. However, as a result of media inquiries before the Cannonball Run was conducted, I undertook to release information about the costs when they were available after the event. I have taken this opportunity to do that.

13th of October 1994

The Chief Minister has been totally exposed for his conflicting statements about the Cannonball Run. Members will recall that the Chief Minister and members opposite stated, in Australia at least, that the Cannonball Run was a run and not a race. It has now been revealed that the Chief Minister was personally promoting the event in Japan as “one of the great car races of all time”. How does the Chief Minister explain his behaviour in this matter, and does he accept that his promotion of the event as a race placed the lives of ordinary road users in the Northern Territory at risk and led to the tragedy that occurred?

Mr Perron: Mr Speaker, I am a little surprised that the Leader of the Opposition should raise this issue in the House on this occasion because, to date, and I commend him for it, his statements in relation to the Cannonball Run, in particular after the tragic accident which occurred earlier this year, have been eminently responsible. However, he seems to have cast that attitude to one side at the moment, notwithstanding the fact that there is a coroner’s inquiry in progress as we speak. I believe it is sitting this day. It is expected that it will run for a couple of weeks and it is possible that I may be called as a witness by that inquiry. I believe it would be inappropriate for me to make public statements at this time, including statements made in this House under privilege, which I appreciate I am entitled to do …

Mr Ede: Why?

Mr Stone: Read your House of Representatives Practice.

Mr PERRON: It would be inappropriate. I am not saying that I do not have the ability to do whatever I like on the floor of this House, within standing orders of course. I have the protection of privilege. I am well aware of that. I have been here a great deal longer than you have and I am likely to be here a great deal longer than you are. However, this matter is being aired publicly and perfectly properly in another forum at this stage, in a most serious and thorough examination of the accident and, in due course, the coroner will present his findings. Given the number of witnesses being called and the length of this inquiry, it will be probably one of the most thoroughly examined motor vehicle accidents in the history of Australia, and quite properly so. For me to engage in discussion on matters that may be currently …

Mr Bailey: That is why we have open courts.

Mr PERRON: … relevant before the …

Mr Ede: That is why we have parliaments.

Mr PERRON: Mr Speaker, I do not believe it is appropriate. I am very willing to answer to this Chamber on any matters at any time after the coroner has completed his inquiry.

Mr Ede: Then it will be sub judice.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Mr PERRON: Mr Speaker, in regard to the interjection by the Leader of the Opposition, I suggest that he undertake a little study of the law.

Mr Ede: There it is – House of Representatives Practice.

Mr PERRON: I believe that he should take some advice on this matter from a legal practitioner


22nd – 27th May 1994