WALLAROO EARLY EDUCATION AND CARE SERVICE, SHELLHARBOUR
FRIDAY, 6 OCTOBER 2023
SUBJECTS: New safety standards for children's toys
STEPHEN JONES: So, great to be here at Wallaroo Childcare Centre in Shellharbour, and I want to thank Julianne and the team for talking to me about their centre and the families that have come along today.
By the end of the day seven kids will be rushed off to hospital around Australia, two and a half thousand kids a year, because they’ve swallowed a whole or a part of a toy that they’ve been given. Their parents or their carers have bought these toys and given to them thinking that they’re safe, and they weren’t. Commonly they’ve broken a part of the toy off, or they’ve got into the battery, and they swallow it. This can have devastating, tragic impacts for the kids and their families. Families are entitled to know that if they buy a toy which is appropriate for an under 3-year-old that it’s safe to be used in the way it’s advertised.
So, we’re introducing a new safety standard for children’s toys, for toys marketed to kids under the age of 3. Importantly, the new safety standard will require the toys - that parts of the toys don’t break off and that if there are batteries included in the toy, such as button batteries, they’ll only be able to be removed through the use of a screwdriver.
Why is this important? Anyone with kids will know they have magic powers, and they seem to be able to get batteries out of anything. And they stick everything in their mouth and if parts of the toy are breaking off, they’ll put it in their mouth, and they will swallow it. And this can be a life-ending tragedy. Seven kids a day, that’s seven kids too many. We want to ensure that when we’re selling kid‑ to parents and parents are getting toys for their kids that they’re safe.
JOURNALIST: Who are the key changes compared to the previous standards? You sort of mentioned breakable bits and that sort of thing. What are the actual sort of new standards applying?
STEPHEN JONES: So, if a toy has got parts, the parts have got to stay together. And they can’t be easily broken off in the way that normal 0 to 3-year-old would use that toy. And if they have batteries included in them then the battery can only be accessed through the use of a screwdriver.
JOURNALIST: The new standard as well has a requirement of a certain size. I think it was compared to a 35-millimetre film canister. Is that new or is that just a continuation?
STEPHEN JONES: There have been standards overseas that haven’t been introduced in Australia. What we’re going to do is ensure that this new standard applies compulsory here in Australia. So, toy retailers will have 18 months to ensure that everything they are selling is meeting the new standard. The important thing here is that when parents are buying toys for their kids, that they are safe.
JOURNALIST: The other thing I noticed is that the requirement applies to toys that even if they’re not marketed to under 3s would commonly appeal to under 3s. Was that something that you thought necessary, and why?
STEPHEN JONES: If a parent is buying a toy for 3 year old, they’ve got to ensure that it’s safe. And whether it’s specifically marketed for somebody under the age of 3 or is obviously going to be used by a child under the age of 3, then it’s got to be safe. Seven kids a day being rushed off to hospital. That’s a crisis for every one of those kids, and that’s what it’s all about.
JOURNALIST: You did mention button batteries before. Now, of course, last year a new standard was introduced that required that the compartments not be accessible to a child. And, as you’ve said, this new standard says that they be opened by a tool. A lot of the parents who lost kids who swallowed button batteries want a ban. Does this new requirement go far enough?
STEPHEN JONES: We think this new requirement gets the balance right in ensuring that it can only be opened by a tool, by a screwdriver. And we think that gets the balance right between safety of the toys and [indistinct] features that are normal in [indistinct].
JOURNALIST: The former [Indistinct] that the compartment has to be childproof. Adding the addition of a tool being used to open it, is that enough of a distance? Because since that requirement was introduced, around 20 kids are still being taken to hospital after swallowing button batteries. So, does adding this requirement of a tool make enough change from what was introduced last year?
STEPHEN JONES: We think it does. We’ll continuously review the operation of these standards to ensure that toys are safe. But this standard provides a significant uplift in the safety for parents, so they know when they’re buying a toy for their kid it’s safe.
JOURNALIST: Just one last question: would you rule out looking at a ban on button batteries altogether?
STEPHEN JONES: We’re continually assessing the safety of goods and the way that they are used. We’re never going to rule something in or out; we’re continually assessing these things. We know that this new standard will make a material difference.
JOURNALIST: Thanks so much.
JOURNALIST: Can you give some examples of bits that break off [indistinct]? Can you tell us, I suppose, some examples of that?
STEPHEN JONES: Common things that we’ve seen in emergency wards are kids able to get the bell out of a rattle or break the ear off a toy or remove a battery [indistinct]. We know that these are common risks, so we’re putting in place a new standard that is about ensuring that toys are safe for their intended use. Seven kids a day, seven kids too many.
JOURNALIST: And why do you think this hasn’t been implemented sooner if those numbers are staggering, two and a half thousand across a year?
STEPHEN JONES: Look, lots of countries around the world have introduced these standards. We’ve been looking at it since we came to government and wanted to ensure that we raised the bar on kids toys around the country, so we’re making this new standard. Businesses will have 18 months to ensure that they’ve cleaned up their stuff and that they’re complying with the new standards. We want parents and carers to know that if they’re buying a tool for their child then that toy is safe.
JOURNALIST: Especially heading into Christmas time as well, I mean, what’s the message for, I suppose, not just parents but manufacturers as well? Are there rules around that?
STEPHEN JONES: The message for manufacturers is that there’s a new standard in place. We want you to be complying with it. The message to parents is to ensure that when they’re providing toys for their kids or when they’re taking their kids to a childcare centre or others are giving a toy to their kids that they just have a look at it and make sure it’s safe for that kid to use.
JOURNALIST: I suppose the question that springs to my mind: how about the toys that are already in the households? How do we get the message out there or get rid of them?
STEPHEN JONES: Look, I think every parent wants to do the best thing by their kid. Sometimes tragically we don’t see the risk until it’s too late. So the purpose of us talking about this today and promoting the new scheme is to tell parents have a look at the toys that you’ve got in the kids playpen, have a look at the toys you’ve got in the cupboard and just make sure that they don’t have things that are easily able to be broken off or bells and things that are easily able to be removed or batteries that are easily able to be removed. Believe me, I know as a parent myself, kids seem to have magic powers and they’re able to pull things apart and get things out that we just didn’t think was possible.
JOURNALIST: Thank you.
STEPHEN JONES: Cheers.