'Offensive denial of good policy': Farm lobby slams Honda

'Offensive denial of good policy': Farm lobby slams Honda

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NFF president Tony Mahar.

NFF president Tony Mahar.

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NFF hits back after Honda accuses it of a misleading quad bike safety campaign.

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Quad bike manufacturer Honda has hit out at the federal government's decision to mandate quad bike roll-over protection, accusing rural advocates of waging a misleading farm safety campaign.

"Sadly, special interest groups have lobbied for this effective end to quad bikes, rather than have their members wear a helmet or keep our precious children off adult quads," Honda said in a statement today.

Earlier today Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, who is responsible for consumer regulation, announced that roll-over protection will be mandatory on all new quad bikes within 24 months.

His decision came in response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission February report, which recommended the government mandate the use of operator protection devices on quad bikes and introduce a safety standard for all quad bikes sold in Australia.

It is a breathtaking and offensive denial of a good public policy outcome - Tony Mahar

Honda Australia managing director Robert Toscano said the federal government had ignored "proven" safety measures of helmet use, rider training, and banning children from quad bikes.

"This is an extremely disappointing day for farm safety and the countless farmers who rely on quad bikes every day," Mr Toscano said.

"Honda's position has always been to put farmer safety first. The final Standard released this morning fundamentally fails."

The new quad bike regulations came in response to a prolonged campaign from the National Farmers' Federation, Australian Medical Association, Royal College of Surgeons, Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Royal Flying Doctor Service, National Rural Health Alliance, National Rural Women's Coalition and the Country Women's Association of Australia, along with more recent calls from the Australian Workers Union, Labor and the Greens.

Labor spokesman for consumer law Stephen Jones said mandatory operator protection devices "will save lives".

RELATED READING: Quad bike roll-over protection to be compulsory on new models

"By the time Australians head home from work today, as many as six people will have been to emergency departments as a result of quad bike accidents," Mr Jones said.

"Over 230 Australians have died in quad bike accidents since 2001, including seven this year to date, and more than 650 people are hospitalised every year following quad bike accidents."

NFF president Tony Mahar said Honda was "kidding themselves" that the decision had been supported only by special interest groups.

"It is a breathtaking and offensive denial of a good public policy outcome," Mr Mahar said.

"This so called "special interest group" represents rural and regional Australia from Doctors, The Australian Medical Association, The CWA, The Royal Flying Doctors, the Rural Women's Coalition to Australian Workers Unions not to mention all state farming representative bodies.

"If manufacturers are happy for the on average 16 deaths per year that happen as a result of quad bike accidents to continue then that is an extremely unfortunate reflection on their producer responsibility."

CWA of Australia president Tanya Cameron said it was a "much needed reform".

Rural groups, politicians and Slim the dog campaigned for mandatory roll-over protection on the lawns of Parliament House in September.

Rural groups, politicians and Slim the dog campaigned for mandatory roll-over protection on the lawns of Parliament House in September.

"This decision will save lives, there's no doubt about it," Mrs Cameron said.

"Nine lives have been lost this year due to quad bikes. About half of all quad bike accidents are due to the bike rolling over.

"There are too many people killed or seriously injured because of a lack of operator protection, or rollover bars. We need adequate safety standards to protect people on the land."

Rural Health Alliance chief executive Gabrielle O'Kane welcomed mandatory operator protection devices.

"We simply can't ignore any longer the threat posed to rural communities by quad bikes, which have claimed the lives of over 230 Australians since 2001," Ms O'Kane said.

"Every quad-bike related death is a tragedy, not least because so many are preventable."

"This is a positive step and will genuinely save lives in rural and remote Australia."

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and its membership, including manufacturer Yamaha, have strongly lobbied against mandatory operator protection devices in favour of behavioural changes such as the compulsory use of helmets, online training and legislation banning the use of adult sized quad bikes by children.

While behavioural changes and other administrative controls were recommended in the ACCC report as apart of a holistic plan to reduce injuries and death, changes to legislation are outside the scope of the ACCC and Mr Sukkar, and would need to be legislated through the state governments.

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