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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7521

Senator MUIR (Victoria) (19:24): I rise to make some short comments pertaining to motorcycle crash helmets for use on public roads in Australia. The crash helmet is the most important part of motorcycle protective equipment—combined, of course, with the brain that is inside the head inside the helmet. Recognising this, there are laws and regulations about what helmets can be sold and what should be worn. Compulsory helmet laws make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, in Australia, that is about where the logic ends.

As 650 specialists from around Australia and overseas meet on the Gold Coast this evening on the eve of the first Australasian Road Safety Conference, it is an appropriate time to highlight the significant conflicts around motorcycle crash helmets between Commonwealth laws and those of the states and territories. These conflicts have been recognised for a number of years, yet little has changed to address this—and nothing at the Commonwealth level. Hopefully, through the COAG process, this is about to be addressed.

Motorcycle and scooter use has grown significantly in Australia in the past decade. There are almost twice as many riders in 2015 as there were in 2005. The number is now around 800,000. Yet riders looking to do the right thing would be confused because it has been impossible to purchase a complying motorcycle helmet for almost that entire decade.

The consumer product safety standard governing the sale of motorcycle crash helmets is Consumer Protection Notice No. 9, which was published in 1990—25 years ago. It refers to the Australia and New Zealand helmet standard 1698, from the year 1988. However, Standards Australia subsequently reviewed this standard in 2006. Whilst federal laws govern what can be sold, it is state and territory regulations that govern what is legal for use whilst riding. These state and territory regulations refer to the later standard, AS 1698 of 2006. Since the introduction of the updated standard, no helmet sold in Australia has complied with Consumer Protection Notice No. 9. What kind of consumer protection law is this?

Following representations from rider organisations, the governments of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Victoria have amended regulations to allow riders to wear helmets complying with the European standard, ECE 22-05. This is all well and good, yet it remains illegal to sell a helmet in Australia complying with ECE 22-05 as a motorcycle crash helmet. That is because the consumer protection notice is 25 years old.

Motorcycle riders recognise their own vulnerability and are highly aware of safety. Riders want to choose from the best helmets they can afford. Consumer Protection Notice No. 9 needs to be revoked or amended to allow the sale of ECE 22-05 helmets and to recognise the current Australian standard, not one that was surpassed a decade ago. This needs to go a further step to ensure that Australia has a standard that reflects the current global market. All state and territory road authorities need to amend road rule 270 and the definitions of an 'approved motor bike helmet' to ensure uniformity across all jurisdictions.

I understand that, through COAG, the infrastructure and transport ministers from across the country plan to discuss this issue at their next meeting, in November. I urge the relevant Commonwealth ministers to ensure that we work with the states and territories to finally bring about a quick and sensible resolution of this issue. I also urge the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to play their part in working with organisations such as the Australian Motorcycle Council to resolve the matters around consumer protection as soon as possible, in the interests of improving motorcycle safety.