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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (23 March) . . Page.. 703 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

I know that over time the power and the capacity of bikes have changed; so, talking historically, a bike of 30 years ago is very different to a bike of modern vintage. When Victoria introduced a 250-cc limit for new riders in 1979, 20 years ago, their motorcycle crash rate fell by 30 per cent. I think that we have to ask why. I am sure that a lot of it has to do with the sheer physical size of the bike itself and the ability to handle it and the strength needed. These skills are things that you acquire through experience, through the slippery puddles and late at night, et cetera. And that is exactly - - -

Mr Kaine: It was also a result of a great fall-off in the number of motorcycles on the roads.

MR SMYTH: No, these are percentages, not numbers. New South Wales introduced capacity limits in the early 1980s and their power-to-weight limits in 1993. Again, there were big drops in the number of motorcycle accidents throughout the 1980s and the 1990s. But it is hard to tell the reason from the figures. It is actually a combination of things, Mr Speaker, and what we propose here is a combination. We will continue driver education and driver awareness and motorcycle awareness education to ensure that not just the motorcycle riders but also the other users of the road pay attention. In combination with that, the amendments here will increase safety, particularly for younger riders. It is important that we give them every chance to survive those first couple of years. I agree with Mr Kaine's earlier comments that, quite clearly, this is not going to stop all motorcycle accidents. As road users, we will all have to contribute to that.

I will just say a few other things. There is some division in the community over this issue. I have had some retailers tell me that they think it is a good idea that they should sell only smaller bikes to learner riders. Some are against that. It is not just, as Mr Hargreaves pointed out, to come in line with New South Wales. That is not a reason for doing it. But it is interesting to note that all the other States and the Northern Territory have some form of restriction like this. I think that is a worthy point to make.

Mr Hargreaves referred this morning to Professor Richardson not knowing enough about Canberra conditions. As Professor Richardson points out in this morning's paper, what he does know is enough about what happens inside the operating theatres of our trauma units as well as the orthopaedic wards in hospitals across Australia. He comes from Brisbane and has not been here long, that is true; but his knowledge is the knowledge of what happens after the police officers pick them up and help the ambulance drivers load them into the ambulances. People like Professor Richardson have devoted their lives to reducing trauma. Motorcycles contribute to one per cent of the accidents in the ACT, but contribute to 10 per cent of the trauma cases. If we can reduce that figure in some way that would be a good thing, and that would be a great outcome for the Bill. I would congratulate all the people involved in that chain - the officers that pick them up, the ambulance drivers, and the staff at the hospitals that do such a good job of rehabilitation.

The Government's position is clear. We would like both options to stay there. We believe that it is important to have both. If what happens today is that the power-to-weight ratio stays, we will look at that and assess over a period of time whether we need to come back with the 250-cc limit.

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