Motorcycle helmet laws raised in Senate

The Australian Senate has been urged to amend the Australia Standard for motorcycle helmets to “reflect the current global market”.

Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir of Victoria has told parliament there are conflicts between some states which restrict helmets to the Australian Standard and other states such as Queensland and Victoria which accept international standards.

He says riders are therefore confused about what helmet to buy and where it is legal to use it.

He urges urge the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to work with the Australian Motorcycle Council to resolve the issue “in the interests of improving motorcycle safety”.

His speech in the Senate follows the appointment last week of long-time Australian Motorcycle Council chairman Shaun Lennard as his media adviser.

Shaun Lennard political
Shaun Lennard

Hopefully, this will be the first of many occasions that motorcyclists’ interests will be represented in Federal Parliament.

Here is the full text of his speech, or you can listen to his speech in the video above:

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. In 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’s 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’s 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 new riders looking to do the right thing would be confused, because it’s been impossible to purchase a complying motorcycle helmet for almost that entire decade.

The Consumer Product Safety Standard governing sale of motorcycle crash helmets is Consumer Protection Notice Number 9 that 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’s state and territory regulations that govern what is legal for use whilst riding. These state and territory regulations refer to the later standard – AS1698 of 2006. Since the introduction of the updated standard, no helmet sold in Australia has complied with Consumer Protection Notice Number 9. What kind of “consumer protection” law is this?

Following representations from rider organisations, the governments of Queensland, 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’s because 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 Number 9 needs to be revoked or amended to allow sale of ECE 22-05 helmets and to recognise the current Australian Standard – not one that was surpassed a decade ago. This then needs to go a step further – 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 to this

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.

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