Dirty tricks in quad bike debate

This week an online entity has been establishing itself on various social media platforms as “Say No To OPDs”, “Ban The Bar” and combinations of those phrases. These sites are asking people to make submissions to the current inquiry into establishing a quad bike safety standard which is being managed through the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) at the instigation of the Federal Government. This is not an inquiry about quad bike safety; that occurred last year with the ACCC report handed down earlier this year. It is an inquiry about a specific element of safety but this has not stopped a coordinated online push to reject the ACCC’s broader safety and product design recommendations.

The Twitter feed of Say No To OPDs started earlier this week. No identifying details are included in the Twitter profile. There is no obligation to include identification in a Twitter profile but it is common practice to include basin details to offer some accountability for what is posted. SafetyAtWorkBlog messaged @no_to_opd. Below is the reply

Some of the links in the Twitter feed lead to a website – BanTheBar.com. That website is similarly vague on who owns or authored the website. A WHOIS enquiry shows the site is registered to “My Private Registration” at a post office box in New South Wales the home of NetRegistry, a domain name service provider. The BanThe Bar “site help” page includes a Contact Page link at the bottom that leads to the contact details page of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI). The FCAI has been a long-term opponent of the use of Operator Protection Devices (OPDs) on quad bikes. This establishes a connection between the new lobbying sites and the FCAI but SafetyAtWorkBlog has not had any response to its approach to the FCAI for confirmation.

Others have looked for connections between the organisations. On Twitter, one person was advised by No To OPD that its Twitter account has “nothing to do with the FCAI” but the inquirer pointed out that the Instagram account for “No To OPD” lists a mailing address that is on the same floor and in the same building as the FCAI – Level 1, 59 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston, ACT.

So does any of this matter?

It is difficult to see the ACCC changing any of its recommendations if no new information or research is presented. The weight of numbers that may come from the lobbying will be an indication of little more than the successful online communication strategy, but any politician that refuses to accept the ACCC recommendations will need to make a super strong argument that, in some way, quad bike OPDs is a special case. Didn’t the ACCC already decide that this was not the case?

Perhaps the politest perspective to apply to Stuart Roberts’ decision to seek further consultation is that he did so in anticipation of a Federal Election that the conservative parties were expected to lose. Roberts expected to make quad bike safety the responsibility of the Australian Labor Party whose, then leader, Bill Shorten, had already been a vocal advocate for improving the safety of quad bikes and was unpopular with, particularly, rural voters.

It is disappointing that the FCAI, who seems to be behind the No To OPD campaign, has not been upfront about its involvement. Perhaps this shiftiness is a last ditch effort on a lost cause.

Kevin Jones

Categories agriculture, ATV, campaign, consultation, engineering, evidence, government, OHS, politics, quad bike, research, risk, safety, Uncategorized

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