Op Ed - Your safety is your best asset, The Land



11 September 2017

QUAD bikes can be pretty crucial on a farm.

For jobs big and small, a quad bike is often among the handiest and most important investments farmers can make.

But with the convenience and utility of this Aussie farm staple, sadly, can also be a safety hazard which many of us underestimate.

The greatest asset on the farm is not the stock price or the silos. It’s not the fencing or fodder. It’s you – the farmer – or those who go to one of the millions of properties across Australia each day for work.

I am Australia’s Minister with responsibility for Consumer Affairs, and with that comes responsibility for the safety of products we purchase each day. That’s why stories of safety issues on quad bikes worry me so much.

As a very proud country MP, I have lived on and around farms all my life. Like so many, our families have used quad bikes for work and play. And sadly like far too many, my community has heard and seen of safety gone awry with consequences which can stay with farmers and families forever.

Since 2001 there have been more than 230 deaths associated with quad bikes in Australia. There have been six quad bike deaths this year, including a six-year-old girl and a boy aged seven. Tragically, around 10 per cent of deaths involve children.

As a Minister, I see how so many of the rules around quad bike safety can vary vastly across Australia, and whilst States and Territories have done some good work, we all need to do more. So I am working with my colleagues around the country to put your safety first.

That’s why Australian Government is working closely with other State and Territory governments to improve your quad bike safety. We’ve formed a committee with safety experts from across Government to work to improve safety and consistency in quad bike regulation. The committee is also developing national initiatives including consideration of the implementation of an Australian star safety rating system. Employment Minister Michaela Cash and I are also considering a safety standard and how we can keep raising safety awareness.

Through calling in the experts we are ensuring timely and independent advice for consumers to help them buy safe quad bikes. We are also asking manufacturers to engage with the process so we can work together to improve safety before people make a purchase.  Manufacturers will be able to compete on quad bike safety.  And the committee will also recognise the important recreational and work aspects of quad bikes for country people.

These are steps which in turn benefit your safety. But there is always more work to do.

Recently the New South Wales Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean announced a quad bike safety improvement program which offered rebates to farmers and farmworkers for the purchase of safer side-by-side vehicles, safety equipment, free training and free helmets. This is a serious issue for all levels of government the aims of which are to keep you safe. 

Today is a golden time for Australian agriculture and we back small businesses such as yours to do your best to help keep our country’s exports, jobs and growth high. Your good work ripples through the regions with the investment and confidence on which our towns and communities rely.

But even at the peak of harvest, remember this: your safety is your best and most essential asset.

Take care on quad bikes. Check the ones your children use to ensure they are safe. And keep an eye out for Government’s work in ensuring your safety stays our number one priority.

Together, we can keep our quad bikes the safe and central asset for Australia’s farm production.

Michael McCormack is Australia’s Small Business Minister and The Nationals’ MP for Riverina.



Dom Hopkinson