10 October 2019

Interview with Tom Connell, Sky News

Tom Connell:

Only quad bikes sold in Australia will need to comply with new safety standards within two years. In a bid to save the lives of farmers and their families, the Government has defended how long it's taking to act with the vehicles killing about 16 people every year.

The issue at the moment, part of it, a roll guard that needs to be installed. At the moment the government is going to make sure that happens within two years but not have to retrofit it, not put it on existing vehicles, instead relying on state subsidies for farmers to get upgrades.

More on this, I spoke to Assistant Treasurer and Housing Minister Michael Sukkar.

Tom Connell:

Michael Sukkar thanks for your time.

So this announcement today, mandatory roll guards, minimum stability standards, better warning labels. Is this going to make a real difference?

We know 16 people die a year because of quad bikes in Australia.

Michael Sukkar:

Yeah Tom, look the announcement today from the government that we're accepting the recommendations of the ACCC to most notably ensure that within two years new or imported quad bikes have some form of rollover protection, will make a significant impact on injuries and deaths associated with quad bike accidents but most particularly rollovers.

These are extremely popular devices on farms and for recreational purposes. And we've seen certainly that for unregulated products that the fatality rate for quad bikes is the highest.

There's been a two year process undertaken by the ACCC ensuring that they were speaking to all appropriate stakeholders including manufacturers of quad bikes in formulating the final position.

I've accepted that final position by the ACCC which will ensure that these changes make these products which are pretty vital for many Australians around the country a little bit safer.

Tom Connell:

So this doesn't apply to existing quad bikes and won't apply to new ones for 24 months. Does that.
What is the reason for that first of all?

Michael Sukkar:

Well Tom there are about 250,000 Quad bikes at present in the market. Under the law we're able to make prospective changes to product safety laws, so this will necessarily be a prospective change that ensures that after two years, new or imported quad bikes are required to meet the minimum requirements including lateral stability and most notably rollover protection.

The reason for two years, is that in order for manufacturers to integrate rollback into the design of their particular quad bikes, that necessarily requires a lot of engineering work from their perspective to ensure that that roll bar requirement is integrated into the design of the quad bikes.

And as you would appreciate and I'm sure your viewers would appreciate, Tom, that is unable to be done overnight, so we have provided a period or accepted the ACCC recommendation that a period of time be required before or be provided before the requirement takes effect.

Tom Connell:

Obviously farmers aren't in a habit of throwing out perfectly good machinery and not many in drought affected parts of Australia should be buying new equipment, so is that a concern you'll have hundreds of thousands of older quad bikes without those roll guards out there and quite possibly causing death?

Michael Sukkar:

Well we're going to encourage the states that are already providing rebates for people who retrofit their quad bikes with rollover protection to continue that and for those jurisdictions that don't currently have those rebates that they do so. I'm also going to be writing to state and territory ministers on a range of additional changes that will compliment this decision that I've made today and there's some areas that are well within the responsibility of state governments and I'll be asking that they make some of those changes including that they require helmets be worn on quad bikes, that on single seat quad bikes you're prohibited from having a passenger and also that children are prohibited from riding adult quad bikes.

So the reality is Tom, there's no silver bullet solution to these safety issues. Between this decision today which will ensure rollover protections on new bikes, the existing rebate schemes that some states have in place and these additional changes that I'll be requesting state and territory ministers progress.

We're hopeful that it will make an appreciable impact on the fatalities and the injuries associated with accidents on these sorts of products.

Tom Connell:

So the subsidies you spoke about, some states are giving subsidies to retrofit existing bikes, is there a role here at all for the federal government other than cajoling the states or offering your own subsidy to make sure anyone in Australia now that wants to fit one of these isn't stopped by the cost?

Michael Sukkar:

Well Tom as I said there are some states who don't need me to cajole them into doing it, they've been on the front foot in ensuring that they are providing generous rebates to encourage people to fit rollover protection on their quad bikes.

We will be asking those states and territories that don't currently have a scheme like that to consider it and to obviously ensure that, for as you say, those Australians who would like to do so that the cost is less prohibitive.

In the end though Tom what I'm focused on delivering today is that in two years time anybody purchasing a new quad bike will have this integrated or otherwise built into the design of the quad bike when they leave the showroom or the dealership or  wherever they may buy it from.

So it will be there, they won't need to think about retrofitting it because it will already be a feature on the quad bike that they purchase and that's the key decision that I've accepted today from the ACCC.

Tom Connell:

All right we'll see what the other states do. Perhaps there'll be laggards that are called out in the future.

I just wanted to turn finally to the economy Michael Sukkar and what the RBA has been talking about lately the prospect of quantitative easing for the layman printing money, what's your thought? 

Do you think the economy is going badly enough to warrant serious consideration of QE.

Michael Sukkar:

Well Tom look we believe that the fundamentals the Australian economy are sound and strong. We've had 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth.

We are seeing an economy that has some areas of strength certainly in some areas that we would like to see improved.

Quantitative easing is a relatively unconventional measure. I think it's probably not a controversial thing for me to say but in the end monetary policy and all things related to it Tom you know, are within the province independently, of the Reserve Bank and decisions on interest rates and any of those sorts of unconventional measures are ultimately decisions for the RBA.

But I think it's not controversial to say that quantitative easing is pretty contrary a pretty unconventional measure.

Tom Connell:

Yes it is, it's a drastic move given what you said in the first half of your answer about where you see the economy sitting, QE from your point of view not to instruct the Reserve Bank what to do.

But you wouldn't think right now the economy is in need of quantitative easing.

Michael Sukkar:

Well Tom as I said we think that the fundamentals of the economy are sound. That certainly there are areas that we are ensuring, through our budget and through our infrastructure agenda $100 billion significant personal income tax relief, areas of the economy that we are working hard to ensure strengthen.

And as I said 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth, a triple A credit rating.

I again don't think I'm painting too rosy a picture when I say that to most lay observers you would say that is an economy that is sound and is fundamentally strong.

Tom Connell:

And so if the RBA were really entertaining this, would you hope that there would be pretty close consultation with the Government about why they think that is the case in at least an opportunity to discuss whether it's needed.

Michael Sukkar:

Tom as I said we don't mandate what the RBA says or does in the end. Monetary policy was quite rightly placed with the RBA independently.

Again all I would say is that quantitative easing is a very unconventional measure and I haven't seen all of the comments in relation to it.

But we believe that the strength of the Australian economy based on all the things I spoke about earlier will hold us in good stead into the future.

Tom Connell:

Michael Sukkar appreciate your time today.

Michael Sukkar:

Thanks so much Tom.