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.

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Debate on rollover protection rolls on

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.

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More voices raised about quad bike safety

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.”

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Honda and Yamaha dig in over quad bike safety

“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)

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Release of authoritative quad bike safety report is still not enough for the Federal Minister

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.

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Two exemptions to Victoria’s Industrial Manslaughter laws

Every industry sector should have its own occupational health and safety (OHS) conference.  This allows for specific OHS topics to be presented but also provides for a broader context. The recent conference conducted by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) was a great example.

So close to a State election and in the lead-up to a Federal election it was not surprising that the trade union movement’s Change The Rules campaign gained attention, as did the push for the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws, in the presentation by Dr Paul Sutton.

The main points of his presentation are familiar and have been reported on previously but this presentation included news about two exemptions to the laws which may raise uncomfortable questions. 

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ACCC slaps down the FCAI on quad bike safety

On June 5 2018, Sharon O’Keeffe of the North Queensland Register newspaper aired the response of the Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Mick Keogh to claims from the Federated Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) on the safety of quad bikes and crush protection devices (CPDs). O’Keeffe says “the gloves are off”.

In March 2018, the ACCC announced its intention for a mandatory safety standard for quad bikes, or All Terrain Vehicles (ATV,) that included CPDs. 

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