Thursday 13 October 2005
SAFETY LEVY) BILL 2005 No. 46)

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, no-one can disagree with the intention of this bill. The facts are stark and startling. Last year seven motorcycle riders were killed on Tasmanian roads, comprising 12 per cent of the road toll, among only 2 per cent of registered vehicle owners.

The Tasmanian motorcycle safety strategy has been carefully worked out by dedicated and well?intentioned people. It is obvious to all of us in this House that the high rate of death and serious injury shows how vulnerable motorcyclists are on Tasmanian roads. The accident rate is unacceptable. You only have to view the results of one serious motorcycle accident, Mr President, to support all reasonable strategies to stop those awful injuries and disproportional death rates. You and I, Mr President, only have to think back to the death of Johnny Rettas - a person known to both of us - in a motorcycle accident and how tragic that has been for the family.

The general manager, Land Transport Safety, David Spence, has written most sincerely, and I quote from his letter to members of this House:

'The strategy focuses on four key objectives: Tasmanians working together, safer roads, safer motorcycles and safer riders and includes specific initiative designed to meet all of these objectives. The Government is committed to improving safety outcomes for motorcycle riders and will work in partnership with the motorcycle community in the implementation of the strategy.'

No-one can disagree with that, Mr President, although I would add to safer roads, safer motorcycles and safer riders, safer other road users because of the dangerous lack of understanding about motorcycles among other road users. Drivers who are comfortable and insulated in their modern motor vehicles have very little understanding of motorbike riders. They seem to think that motorbikes can stop quickly in the wet, for example, with only two tiny patches of rubber in contact with a wet and slippery road surface. Unfortunately, car drivers have an attitude of superiority through size towards two?wheel riders.

Perhaps it could be argued that other road users should take some responsibility for the high rate of death and injury among two?wheel riders and perhaps it could be argued that motorcycle safety is the responsibility of all road users. So why is it that this bill imposes a safety levy only on licensed motorcyclists? Admittedly, a $15 levy each year for five years is not a great deal of money, but if you spread that cost among all registered vehicle owners it would be almost negligible.

Most motorcycle users are young people, many of whom are struggling financially. That is probably why they have decided to ride a bike rather than drive a car. It is already expensive enough to register and insure two-wheeled vehicles - we heard the figures yesterday and they are quite alarming - despite the fact that these vehicles are much more fuel efficient and cause less road wear than other vehicles. Present fuel costs and environmental considerations would justify greater incentives to encourage more people onto two wheels at a time when high petrol prices are forcing people to look at cheaper transport alternatives. Sales of small two-wheelers such as motor scooters are booming in the big cities and are likely to become more common in Tasmania. There is evidence that this is already happening. As we heard in the briefing yesterday - which I thank the Leader for; it was very comprehensive - motorcycle registrations rose from 9 000 at the end of June last year to more than 9 500 at June this year. That is an increase of more than 5 per cent. We should be encouraging that trend rather than imposing extra levies for safety strategies.

Mr President, I would support any safety strategy funded fairly by all registered road vehicle users, but this bill in its present form is not fair. It is indisputable that we need a motorcycle safety strategy and this is a praiseworthy attempt, but the cost must be spread fairly among as wide a community as possible. However, the question must be asked: does the Government really need to raise extra revenue for motorcycle safety? Total motor registration receipts for the past financial year are reported to be $10 million above budget, which would seem to leave sufficient funds for this safety strategy. According to the Tasmanian Motorcycle Council, the Motor Accidents Insurance Board has already committed a further $500 000 for motorcycle-specific safety programs. It would seem to me that this bill to introduce a levy on motorcyclists is not needed.