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Economics References Committee
Personal choice and community impacts

DOW, Mr Nicholas, National Committee, Australian Cyclists Party

WOODALL, Mr Daniel, Private capacity


CHAIR: I welcome Mr Daniel Woodall, not representing anyone, and Mr Nick Dow from the Australian Cyclists Party. Do you have anything to say about the capacity in which you appear?

Mr Woodall : I am a private individual. I have done a fair amount of private research into bicycle helmets and bicycling generally, and I write a blog on which I discuss cycling matters.

CHAIR: Thank you for appearing today. Would you like to make an opening statement before we proceed to questions?

Mr Woodall : I would, yes, please.

CHAIR: Go ahead.

Mr Woodall : I have some supplementary materials I would like to table if that is possible. It might be helpful to have them to refer to during the session.

CHAIR: I am sure it will not be a problem.

Mr Woodall : They are very brief. They are just to illustrate some points.

Senator CANAVAN: It is fine.

Mr Woodall : As a society we demand to be protected, even in some cases from our own poor choices, but we are also conscious of the case of overreach. The term 'nanny state laws' encapsulates that concern, that things are not meant to be taken too far. In my submission, I propose a framework to navigate this kind of area to ensure this type of legislation is framed appropriately and is equitable. I want to expand on one point from my submission that is specific to bicycle helmets, and that is a comparison point, in this case with driving. In the 1980s there was growing concern over the head injury rates for car occupants. If you turn to page 2 of the submission, which I have just given to you, this product was launched, and it is the Davies Craig motoring helmet. At the time, the Victoria police supported compulsory head helmet wearing for car occupants. No legislation eventuated from that sort of petty low-level police report, but nevertheless this was a real product, which you could buy in the 1980s. Research continued. This was not the end where it stopped. As recently as 2000, a new design was proposed. If you turn to page 3 of that submission, you will see this was developed at the Centre for Automotive Safety Research as part of the University of Adelaide. It was estimated this type of head protection for car occupants could lead to a reduction of harm of over a third of a billion dollars. I am sure nobody on the committee would object to wearing such stylish headgear to reduce this heavy burden on the taxpayer, which actually far outweighs the costs of treating injured cyclists for head injury.

You may have noted these burdens are a common theme. These burdens of head injury rates on society are a common theme in commentary and submissions from medical groups and associations. Such associations tend to suggest widespread support. They also suggest there is clear evidence that mandatory helmet laws have been a great success. This is, actually, far from the case.

If we turn to the last page of the submission I have just given you, there are a significant number of doctors and health professionals who are interested in this area, who ride bicycles, in many cases, and on either equity or public-health grounds support the reduction or review of bicycle-helmet laws. I note there were at least two or three submissions to this inquiry from doctors or health professionals and Dr Paul Martin, who is very active in this area and who appears in this paper.

One wonders if the doctors who appeared earlier who so vehemently support mandatory helmet legislation for cyclists were also very carefully donning their motoring helmets, when they drove here today, to make sure their burden on society and risk to themselves was being suitably reduced.

Mr Dow : I also have supplementary materials that I would like to table. They are just three references, which I will refer to, and their abstracts.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Mr Dow : This one is a very recent paper. It hit the press about a week ago. Canada is also a useful laboratory because four provinces have all-ages helmet law. Four, I think, from memory, do not have any helmet laws and some jurisdictions have a mixture. This particular study also used exposure data. Canada had quite good exposure data—in other words, how much cycling is done. They looked at different age groups. They looked at head and non-head injuries, based on hospital-admission data.

In summary, the report found that the predictive factors for injury rates were gender—women have fewer injuries—and the level of cycling participation—the mode share or the number of cycling trips as a proportion—with provinces that have more cycling having lower injury rates.

CHAIR: Please speak more slowly and clearly. I missed all of that.

Mr Dow : Sorry. They found an association between gender—women have fewer injuries across Canada. In the provinces with more cycling, with higher levels of cycling, there were lower injury rates. There was no association between helmet law and injury rates, including head injury rates. They looked at different categories of head injury.

CHAIR: States—provinces—with helmets had what?

Mr Dow : They could not find any association. There was no difference in injury between the helmeted and non-helmeted states, which seems paradoxical, and people have speculated about the reasons for that. It is very close to what we have been talking about today. People have talked about risk compensation and safety in numbers, which may well be there.

The fact that is not talked about enough, and I was very pleased to hear it mentioned today, is that there are different ways of using a bicycle. One of the other references I have here is a Norwegian study, in which standard psychological techniques were used. They asked people who own bicycles a whole lot of questions. What emerged from that was two main groups of cyclists, and you will be familiar with them, here, and anywhere else in the world. They were the fast-and-furious cyclists, with racing bikes and all the gear, including helmets, and the everyday cyclists, who were wearing their everyday clothes going about their business on bicycles and not wearing helmets. The conclusion of this study was that a helmet law would disproportionately remove the safest cyclists, which we have heard today. I believe that is largely what has happened in Canada.

Individuals who are cycling with helmets may have a slightly lower rate of head injury but the population average is unchanged, because there are more high-risk individuals cycling. So the effect of removing a helmet law would be to bring back the lower-risk cyclists with, therefore, the best cost-benefit ratio, in terms of health benefits versus risk.

The other paper I have cited is a Victorian study, done jointly by the Monash University Accident Research Centre and the Alfred Hospital. That was a slightly better quality case-control study that looked at cycling accidents. It was not focused on helmets, particularly. They were able to obtain data from the patients, subsequently, and asked them a whole lot of questions. They found a strong association, of the big effect size, between the speed of the cyclist and the propensity to have a head injury. They did not find any association between helmet wearing and head injuries but, to be fair, there were not many unhelmeted cyclists in the survey. That is a piece of standard research, which goes to the question of the cyclist's speed, the type of cycling and the likelihood of having an injury. This is given that you have turned up in hospital, so you have been in a crash and you have injured yourself. If you are going fast you are more likely to have a head injury.

I submit that as humans we have evolved to move at speeds of up to about 15 kilometres an hour—that is about as fast as I can run. And we have protected ourselves against head injuries for a few million years by knowing how to fall over. If you go much faster than that it gets harder to protect yourself; things happen so quickly. I have done plenty of falling over. I have been riding a bike on the streets of Melbourne for 50 years. I have fallen off my bike many times. I have broken an arm. I have dislocated fingers. I have never hit my head. I do not ride very fast. That was what I wanted to say about those three studies.

I have a few brief remarks to make about some of the things that the preceding speakers said and a few other remarks. I would have liked to have asked those doctors if they had ever gone next door to the cardiac ward, the stroke ward or the diabetes ward. One in six Australians will have a stroke. A friend of mine, recently, had a stroke and he will never return to work. I believe that is far more common than people who do not return to work after a head injury on a bicycle. They do not have an answer to that. There is no class 1 evidence for population-level intervention on bicycle helmets at all. Class 1 evidence is required for the release of drugs, vaccines and population-level interventions. We do not have it for bicycle helmets.

They mentioned that helmet law raises helmet-wearing rates, which is true. The North American city with the highest cycling rate is Portland, Oregon. There is about an 80 per cent helmet-wearing rate. There is no helmet law. Just to the north is Seattle where the county has a helmet law. They have a lower rate of helmet wearing. So helmet-wearing rates depend on other factors.

None of the preceding speakers mentioned obesity. Obesity is not the issue. About 20 years ago the epidemiologists started to look at exercise levels and they found that exercise levels explained what had previously been associated with overweight levels. Obesity is a minor factor. Exercise levels have much more explanatory power, in terms of health outcomes. So it is about exercise not about obesity.

You asked about the Northern Territory rates and you were told that the rates are three times higher. That was very perceptive of you to point out that that is all road-accident victims. Despite that higher rate of road accidents, the injury rate of cyclists is comparable between the Northern Territory and the rest of Australia. Despite that less safe environment, and despite the fact that cycling levels in the Northern Territory are higher, in the—

Senator CANAVAN: Can we have clarification of that?

Mr Dow : I will back that up. As for the census data being once every five years, that is very true and that is why it is much more useful to look across Australia and across a number of years. And if you see a clear pattern repeating itself over those timescales, as has been demonstrated by Dorothy's papers, you are entitled to draw conclusions. In the Northern Territory census data they, consistently, have the highest rate of trips to work by bicycle of all Australian jurisdictions. Darwin has the highest rate of any capital city. Alice Springs has the highest rate of trips to work by bicycle of any regional city of comparable size—it is about five per cent of trips. That is the answer in the case of the Northern Territory. Injuries rates are not worse but the exercise rates are higher.

I was living in a regional town in Victoria when helmet law was introduced. I want to explain to you how rural policing works. There is one policeman in the town, and it is a blot on their reputation if their area is seen to have a worse crime rate or law-breakers. My local policeman gave me one warning and told me he would fine me after that. So, basically, if you are living in a country town you are pretty heavily policed. That is how it works. Whereas in Victoria you will never see the same policeman twice if they pull you up for not wearing a helmet, except for the bike police—

Senator CANAVAN: For helmet offences.

Mr Dow : Helmet offences, yes. So that is how regional policing works.

The doctors mentioned the 1993 McDermott study, and I will just say a brief word about case-control studies. A case-control study, if it is going to have any validity at all, rests on matching the cases and controls. They have to be identical in all respects except for the thing that you are measuring—in this case, helmet wearing. These studies, which Dr Grabita has published a few of, take hospital admissions and they assume that the patients who were not wearing a helmet are identical in all respects to the patients who arrived after having been wearing a helmet. This is clearly an assumption that you cannot justify yet the whole basis of their methodology depends on it. Case-control studies are not a class of evidence; in fact, they are the lowest level of evidence in the pyramid of evidence for health outcomes.

The other type of evidence that the University of New South Wales team has produced has been time series data based on head injury rates. Again, they have used leg and arm injuries as the denominator to try and measure changes in head injuries, which assumes that the population behaves the same—rides their bikes in the same way—in other words, the way that people ride bikes or the mix of the population was not changed when helmet laws were introduced. Pretty clearly, we have heard a lot of evidence that the safer cyclists were removed so you are going to change the ratio of head to leg-and-arm injuries, and you would have to speculate as to what direction that is going to work in. By the way, that particular study also found a significant effect in improving pedestrian safety when helmet laws were introduced for cyclists but they were unable to explain that and still published the model.

There has been no mandatory helmet law introduced in any jurisdiction in the world where there is an active cyclist lobby group. Effectively, cycle groups do not want helmet law. Those are voluntary groups that exist to promote cycling and represent their own interests. And I would just like to finish by turning the tables, if I can, and asking you a question. As senators, you make laws for Australia: can you give me another example of a law which criminalises an activity that benefits the individual and benefits society?

Senator CANAVAN: We ask the questions, not answer them!

CHAIR: Some people would argue that smoking marijuana for medical reasons does some good and it is criminal—so, yes, I think there are other examples. Mr Woodall, I understand you participated in an inquiry on this issue, on bicycle helmets, in Queensland. Can you tell us what happened, what the committee's recommendations were and what the government's response was?

Mr Woodall : I did not participate in the Queensland inquiry.

CHAIR: You didn't?

Mr Woodall : No, not directly. I may have made a submission, possibly, but I certainly did not attend the committee hearings.

CHAIR: Okay.

Senator CANAVAN: I might ask: what did you think? Have you seen the final report of that committee?

Mr Woodall : Yes, from what I remember of it from reading it a while ago, it was a reasonably balanced report. It made a recommendation that helmet laws should be relaxed, particularly in low-speed areas—perhaps a little bit similar to what has happened in the Northern Territory. It seems to me this is a reasonable approach—to take some steps to see whether a relaxation of helmet laws will actually change cycling behaviour and indeed then whether there will be any change in injury rates or cycle acceptance. As I understand it, that was then overruled. The then transport minister in Queensland more or less said: 'No, that's not going to happen. I believe bicycle helmets save lives.'

I think that this is one of the difficulties with the debate around this topic—the sort of dogma and the established, entrenched positions of intuition often overrule rational discussion. It is a very complex area. I spent so much time digging into this, reading thousands of research papers and reading the statistics and mathematics endlessly—my poor wife has to sit while I do all this stuff. One thing that is very clear is it is a very complex area; it is almost impossible to comprehend the whole amount of it. I guess what is always disappointing is how low-quality the debate is on this topic. It is often the case that the people who are talking about this do not have all the evidence, they are not aware of all the positions and the limitations of evidence are not always made clear. So I think that Queensland inquiry was a good one. I think they did take a balanced view and I think it was a pity that those recommendations were so summarily rejected.

CHAIR: I had some questions that assumed that you were a little more involved, so perhaps I will skip those and invite you to comment on the issues of enforcement and policing with respect to helmet laws.

Mr Woodall : Yes, I have some personal experience of this. I have been stopped by police on maybe 20 occasions for riding a bicycle without a helmet. I have appeared in court on three different occasions and probably received maybe 12 tickets for riding a bike without a helmet.

It has been very interesting. The course of those interactions with the police—and I have to say that this has all been in New South Wales—have all been very professional and very positive. But what is very clear is of course that you get to know some of the same police officers because you keep bumping into them in the same place in Sydney day after day when you are not wearing a helmet. It became quite apparent they had sympathy for me. There is a bit of a disconnect in some regards between what, particularly, some of the bicycle cops—the policeman who ride bikes themselves as part of their duties—have on this issue versus what they know they have to do: what the law requires them to do and what their senior command requires them to do.

The police are in a difficult position; they have to uphold the law. If they do not, it creates all kinds of issues. You cannot just ignore a law. What would that mean for the rule of law that we have? But it is also very clear that some of the police doing this can really see this is not an especially productive use of their time and they can also see that it probably is not an especially useful law in terms of actually helping to reduce the kinds of societal impacts, injuries and all the wider things that police deal with day to day.

I did indeed get one response from a police officer I engaged with when I was stopped. I talked about this issue and he invited me to send in some more information—he was quite interested in the topic and in some of the evidence that Nick provided and in some other things as well. I sent him a fair few things. He then emailed me back from his police account telling me he actually thought the helmet law should be repealed for adults. Similarly, when I have been to court, most of my helmet fines have been waived by magistrates on the basis that they can see these laws are just unhelpful. The magistrate in my case said this law is very unhelpful due to the amount of time it was taking up through the judicial system for such a trivial offence that had no real benefit to society.

Sue Abbott, who is another campaigner on this issue and who has been to court many times, went to the District Court on appeal on a bicycle matter and the judge in that case actually said—after reviewing much of the same evidence that has been submitted to this committee—that he felt that there was no evidence that wearing a bicycle helmet would actually help in the event of the injury you were going to get and that bicycle helmet laws should be a matter of choice. So when we are in a situation where the police and the judicial system are flagging that this is not a helpful law, this is not an easy thing to do and this is a waste of time then I think we have to ask questions about whether this is a law that should be sustained.

CHAIR: The Brisbane bicycle hire scheme, I understand it is popularly referred to as 'Newman's folly'. Is that true? Can you explain why if that is the case?

Mr Dow : I can think of some other things that are called 'Newman's folly' now.

CHAIR: We are only on bicycle helmets here.

Mr Woodall : I do not agree with that. I am a big supporter of public bicycle schemes. I think it was great that Brisbane took that first step. I am not a great admirer of Newman's politics more generally but I think he was on the right track with the bike scheme. But, unfortunately, as many people said prior to the introduction of that scheme, and sadly it was kind of shown afterwards and similarly when the scheme in Melbourne was launched—Senator Canavan, you already pointed out the data—that the usage levels of these schemes is very low. You have to look at them and say they have been a failure. One of the reasons why it got called 'Newman's folly' was because nobody is using it. But I do not see that as the fault of the then Premier; I think the problem actually is helmet laws.

When we look at surveys that have been done into why those schemes are not used, 60 per cent of respondents, when asked why do they not use those bicycle share schemes, refer to helmets as the reason—either they do not want to wear one or they could not find one. So to say that helmets are not a significant barrier to use of those types of schemes is wrong. It is a very significant reason why those bicycle share schemes in Australia are not succeeding.

CHAIR: When I have discussed that, including with journalists, I have said that people do not want to wear helmets that other people have been wearing. There is a perception of lice and that sort of stuff, which actually is not real but there is a perception of it. Is that the reason or is it just that they look ugly or they do not want to get helmet hair because they get sweaty in them or what is it that they do not like about them?

Mr Woodall : I think it actually has a lot to do with convenience. The whole principle of a bike share scheme is that you jump on it without having to think. It is not something that requires consideration. It is not something that requires planning. I walked up from Flinders Street Station today. It would have been a great trip to go, 'You know what? I need to go up the hill so I will just jump on this bike and ride up there.' But all of a sudden there are these issues: is there a helmet, is it dirty, should I go and buy one? The problem with it is not so much the specific problem of the size of the helmet or of the lice, it is more that these schemes require spontaneity in order to work. If you put a barrier in—it does not have to be a particularly big barrier-all of a sudden you say, 'You know what, I will walk, I will take the tram or I will jump in taxi,' because those options are immediate so you are suddenly making an option that requires thought and planning versus something that is immediate and of course it then drops away as a choice.

Senator CANAVAN: Mr Dow, I might be getting the evidence you provided slightly wrong. You mentioned something about the humanities of old to know how to fall at slow speeds but when we get faster we are a bit more clumsy. Has there ever been thought given to say in urban areas or on bike paths having of some kind of speed limits on bikes—if you are not going above a certain speed then you do not have to wear a helmet? I know that would be very hard to enforce because you do not have a speedometer necessarily. But presumably there could be a rule of thumb that if you are just above jogging or running pace you are fine. Has that ever been given some thought to?

Mr Dow : I do not believe that has ever been proposed as a reform to the law even though it would make quite a lot of sense. I think the evidence on the link between speed and head injuries has not been looked at much in the past and it is emerging more of an effect for that. You will notice the doctors did not talk about it, for example. It has not been on the radar so it has not been considered but it would make a lot of sense to require helmets if you exceed speeds of, say, 20 kilometres an hour.

CHAIR: There are speed limits on bicycles paths in parts of Sydney. Are you aware of that?

Mr Dow : Do you mean on shared paths?

CHAIR: On pedestrian and cycle paths.

Mr Dow : Yes, shared paths. It is interesting. There are some in Melbourne but none of them are have any legal force.

Senator CANAVAN: Are they just sort of indicative?

Mr Dow : It is just councils sticking signs up.

CHAIR: I have no idea how they would enforce them or how the cyclists would know but they are there.

Mr Dow : The issue with cyclists and speed limits is that if you take a cyclist to court for breaking the speed limit, the courts will not convict them.

Senator CANAVAN: My understanding is that in the Territory, at least in the past, with cars was there was no formal speed limit but if you were driving dangerously, you would potentially be penalised. So something potentially could apply to bikes that if you are operating at a moderate pace and reasonably safe that is fine. If you are hurtling down a shared path like you are in an Olympic event then you could get picked up.

Mr Dow : What the Norwegian paper pointed out was that high-speed cyclists wear helmets as part of the uniform—the lycra, the helmet and the fast bike—so that pretty much happens anyway.

Senator CANAVAN: Although there is still the risk to the safety of others in those environments as well.

Mr Dow : Yes, speed limits on shared paths.

Senator CANAVAN: What is your ideal change to the law? Mr Woodall, you did mention the benefits of an incremental approach. But what would you like to see? If you were dictator for a day, what would you do?

Mr Woodall : From my perspective, I would like to see the repeal of the law. It has been an unmitigated disaster in all aspects but I understand that for some people that may seem a challenge or too much. So I think either a phased withdrawal or two-year pilot or something is the way to get the legislation to be changed. That is possible. Another option would be decriminalisation: so keep the legislation on the rule book but just remove the penalty so that it sits there almost as an advisory note in the rules of the road but there is actually no penalty for not wearing a helmet. These are all ways of keeping an 'advisory' status, if you like, or a 'you should do this' status on a legislative level without actually creating these kinds of difficulties.

But, no—if I were dictator for the day I would just wipe it all away!

Senator CANAVAN: Do you see it as a risk that if you repeal the law there will be some sort of signalling effect that helmets are not important and—

Mr Woodall : It is not so much that, because I think that, as we have seen from the number of submissions to this inquiry, those people who ride bikes actually care quite a lot about this issue. There are actually quite a lot of people out there who do care about helmets. I think that a lot of other people probably would not care.

Where the difficulty comes is that if you repeal helmet laws tomorrow, somebody is going to have a head injury on a bike at some point—

Senator CANAVAN: Yes.

Mr Woodall : It is going to happen. At that point, of course, it is just a lot of backlash and things to deal with. So any withdrawal of the law or change to the law has to bear in mind that all the medical professionals who were arrayed before you before are going to leap up and down at the point where that happens. So we just need to make sure that however the law is changed, that it is just done in a way that accepts and is prepared for that outcome.

Senator CANAVAN: What are the current penalties? I have not yet seen in the submissions a comparison. Do you know, Mr Woodall?

Mr Woodall : It varies state by state. In New South Wales at the moment I believe the penalty is $87 if you just pay the ticket. If you go to court, the maximum penalty is $2,000. In Victoria I think it is $287—it is much higher. It is the same penalty as for driving through a red light or other similar offences. And again, if you elect to go to court, or the police take you directly to court without issuing a fixed penalty notice, then I think the penalty that the court can impose is about $3,000 maximum.

Mr Dow : The Australian Cyclists Party policy—if we were to form a government tomorrow—would—

Senator CANAVAN: What—

CHAIR: You can't laugh!

Senator CANAVAN: Sorry!

Mr Dow : It would be to do a trial of a Northern Territory- or Queensland-style reform of some sort, just to get confidence. We look forward to a time when there is no law for bicycle helmets because we have emphasised real safety.

CHAIR: We are running short of time, but there is an interesting aspect to Mr Woodall's submission, which is an evaluation framework for nanny state laws. This whole committee is focusing on nanny state, not just on bicycles. I found that interesting, and I am just wondering—for the committee and for Hansard—if you would like to explain your evaluation framework?

Mr Woodall : Yes, I would be delighted to have the opportunity. I suppose that when I came to this I was coming at it from a perspective of trying to understand. As I said in my introduction, there is some societal expectation that we are protected—in some cases from ourselves, but there is also this concern that things can be overreaching.

We have heard a lot of debate today about the comparative of bicycles versus cars and helmets. It is very difficult, because these things become very emotive. It is all about vegetables in intensive care wards or about freedom of choice and health, and all the rest of it. What I was attempting to do was to create something that was a little more objective, to say, 'Well, let's take away some of the emotion.'

So I proposed five tests or principles for looking at whether a piece of legislation in this area, which is specifically about legislation that is designed, if you like, to protect people from themselves, is fair and equitable. The first test is the test of comparison, which is to ask, 'Is the proposed legislation applied equally across different areas?' The difficulty with this type of legislation is that it is somewhat prone to pressure groups or lobbyists. Bicycle helmet manufacturers, for example, sent representation down to the initial hearings done back in the 1980s. Clearly, there is a huge commercial benefit to them to have bicycle helmet laws, so we need to be careful. The whole idea of the test of comparison is to make sure that we are not just picking on random things, that there is some sort of benchmark—that we are not just picking on things.

And then there is the individual assessment risk: are people able to make a clear assessment for themselves? If I am able to make a good assessment of risk for myself, surely that is my business then to take that risk? There may be some activities where that is difficult to do, where it is difficult to make an assessment of risk for some reason. Alcohol might be an example: it seems very easy to determine how much alcohol to drink at the start of the night but after three drinks it gets harder and harder to do so. Clearly, things can impair our ability to judge risk. This is another test: is this something people need to be protected from because they are unable to make these judgements rationally themselves?

The third principle was the burden-to-society test. This is the idea: are we doing something because we want to regulate an activity because it places a burden on society? It is interesting. In this, I want to make the distinction between a burden on society in terms of healthcare costs, which I think is an erroneous way to look at this, because at the end of the day there is a healthcare cost to everything—we would have to end up outlawing anything that had any negative health implication whatsoever, which would mean we would not be able to do anything at all, given I notice that air was classified as a carcinogen, so we cannot even breathe, or the hoo-ha about bacon—and the reality that the burden needs to be things which offer a more structural problem to society—things that will, if you like, impact on our sense of the fabric of society or the way we interact. I used hate speech as an example, not because I want to make any particular point about hate speech but to make the point that this is the kind of structural hazard that we need to watch out for. Are we regulating something because of some impact it has on wider society?

The fourth principle was the side-effect test: are we sure that the legislation is framed in such a way that we are not going to see a side effect? It is all very well regulating activity A to say, 'This is dangerous,' and stop people doing it, but if in the course of that regulation you cause everyone to do something else that is equally dangerous, or we create some other side effect such as, in the bicycle helmet case, people giving up cycling, we are not succeeding. The intervention has not worked, because all we have done is play whack-a-mole; we are creating problems elsewhere as fast as we are solving them.

The fifth principle was the scrutiny test. There was a lot of debate today around the lack of good data as to whether mandatory bicycle helmet laws have helped or hindered in Australia. One of the things that should be done when this sort of legislation is proposed and set up is to set up a proper before-and-after test, so we know what we are trying to do, we have documented the expected result, we introduce this legislation to generate a specific result and now we are going to measure whether it is successful. What I would recommend is that this type of legislation be introduced with a sunset clause which says that if after six months, two years, 10 years—whatever the appropriate time frame is, depending on what the legislation is—that post-implementation assessment shows that the effects were not achieved, or there are side effects or whatever else, it should lapse. That way it forces us to be very rigorous, to make sure that such legislation is working.

These are the five tests I put together as a way of thinking about it, to try and think, 'Could legislation meet these five things?' They are fairly strict, but the other point about this, when I was thinking through, is that there is legislation I can imagine that would meet all five criteria. There is always some debate—these are things where nothing can be completely black and white—but I think to bring some sort of objectivity into debate, so we can talk about what level of protection we require as a society and where the limit of nanny-statism is, would be helpful.

CHAIR: Very interesting. Thank you, gentlemen.