The continuing argument over quad bike safety in Australia mirrors many of the other occupational health and safety (OHS) debates over whose evidence is truer, is the argument about politics or safety, the cost of change and whether one size of OHS laws and enforcement fits a splintering employment structure.
The Liberal National Coalition won the recent Federal Election in Australia, retaining power and with a stronger Parliamentary influence. In terms of quad bike safety, action on the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s report will follow the schedule set out by the then Assistant Treasurer Stuart Roberts. Several quad bike manufacturers and their industry lobbying arm, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), have ramped up the pressure on the Government now that they smell another three years of sympathetic government.
It is important to keep reminding ourselves that OHS, for most Australians, remains regulated at a State level and national positions and recommendations like that of the ACCC are unlikely to be implemented nationally without Federal laws.
According the Weekly Times newspaper on May 8 2019 (paywalled), Mojo Motorcycles remains committed to the Australian quad bike market. Polaris acknowledges that
“…. ATVs will go the way of the dodo.”
The Farmsafe and National Farmers Federation (NFF) Workforce Committee, Charles Armstrong, has, in Farmonline National, described the threats by Honda and Yamaha as
“….. an astonishingly infantile reaction from otherwise respected multinational companies.”
“Just carrying on doing more reviews is not going to take us very far. We now have to make a start and that’s going to require legislation,”
These words were spoken by the head of the UK Competition and Markets Authority, Andrew Tyrie, but could easily have been a quote from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in relation to its recent review of the safety of quad bikes.
Improving the safety of quad bikes, or what used to be called All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) until everyone accepted that they don’t travel safely over all terrains, has been a contentious issue in Australia for well over a decade. The issue appears in the media regularly after each death or near miss involving a quad bike rider.
Last week the issue appeared in the media for a different reason. Yamaha and Honda have both advised their dealers that if the ACCC safety recommendations and safety standard become law, they will
“….. be force[d] to cease selling utility ATVs in Australia” (Yamaha)
“… withdraw from the ATV market in Australia.” (Honda)
On April 6 2018 Australia’s Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert released the report into Quad Bike safety prepared by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC). The report makes unsurprising safety recommendations, many of these have been coming for years. The surprise is the Minister’s decision to begin another round of consultation:
“The Government is inviting stakeholders to review and comment on the ACCC’s recommended safety standard.”
The previous paragraph in the Minister’s press statement acknowledged:
“Extensive consultation has been undertaken including with technical experts, farmers, the recreational and tourism sector, consumer groups, health and medical experts, industry and government bodies. The majority of stakeholders support a new mandatory safety standard. The ACCC’s report highlights how these safety measures including installing an operator protection device can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of injuries, particularly from rollover incidents”
An indication of the level of “extensive consultation” can be seen through the process the ACCC has been running since at least November 2017. The only possible reason for this extraordinary decision is the political desire to release the ACCC report prior to the Federal Election, only just announced as occurring on May 18, 2019.
Below is the list of occupational health and safety (OHS) issues for the next three years, put to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and passed, at its Congress on 18 July 2018. Some were expected but others will cause concern, primarily, for business owners. Perhaps the major concern is that these commitments are to be rolled out nationally.