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Let riders decide, says Lib Dem Senator

Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm sentence
Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm

Riders should decide their own levels of safety equipment and riding gear, says Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm

A Senator since 2014, he is also an avid rider. David addressed the first anti-VLAD protest in 2013, produced this video of his party’s motorcycle issues and drafted a motorcycle policy for the last election.

Now he’s issued a statement that cuts through the nanny state attitude that demonises and penalises riders, rather than acknowledging the benefits of motorcycling.

Rather than diluting his message by editing it, we have produced it here in its entirety with the Senator’s permission.

Pleasure and pain

It’s the pain and cost of a crash that should dictate safety wear for motorcyclists, not opinionated policemen.

I was mightily pissed off the other day when I heard a senior Victorian policeman interviewed on radio, telling listeners that it is time to legislate to make the wearing of gloves and protective footwear compulsory for motorcyclists.

There were two aspects that annoyed me.

First, wearing a uniform and badge, or even attending traffic accidents in which motorcyclists are involved, does not entitle anyone to tell riders what to wear. Indeed, it is not a qualification for anything except to enforce the law as it exists. The police do not legislate and are not responsible for determining public policy. As for giving safety advice, they have no greater right than our mothers.

Second, motorcyclists are seriously sick of being told they do not properly recognise the risks involved in riding a motorbike.

This involves the assumption that when we don’t wear protective gloves and boots it’s because we are stupid and irresponsible, leading to the conclusion that it should therefore be made compulsory.

Clearly this is utter bollocks. It would be rare to find a motorcyclist who is not acutely aware of the consequences of coming off their bike. Most of us have done it at least once, and remember perfectly well the pain involved.

The point is, we accept the risks.

Whenever we throw a leg over our bike, we know that it will hurt if we come off, particularly without protective clothing. It’s our choice, and because no one else is harmed, we should be left alone to pursue what we love.

I am no different from any other rider.

Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm
David and his Beemer

My bike, a BMW S1000R, is extraordinarily powerful and capable of getting me into extremely painful situations. And that’s an issue, because I don’t like pain. I am very much aware of what if s like to scrape my skin along the bitumen. I don’t even like the cold, and regard heated hand grips as the best invention since soft toilet paper.

Most of the time, I choose to wear protective gear. In the summer I prefer a lightweight jacket and gloves. And yet, there are times when the combination of hot weather and heat from the engine makes even that uncomfortable. In full knowledge of the risks, I strip down.

I sometimes hear it said that such an attitude is irresponsible because if I am injured, I will be a burden on my fellow taxpayers (which obviously rules out a lot of people who don’t pay tax) due to our socialised healthcare system.

The shared cost is not disputed, but should we modify our behaviour merely because we have a health system that discourages individual choice?

In my view, the health system needs to change. If we are reckless or irresponsible, we should bear the cost ourselves. If health insurers are legally permitted to take risk into consideration and regard motorcycling as risky, they will raise premiums.

More broadly, as a society we must stop trying to force other people to conform to our idea of what is safe, sensible or responsible. The only aspect that should concern us, and the law, is whether others are harmed.

Benefits of motorcycling

Senator Leyonhjelm address VLAD rally

Indeed, we should celebrate the benefits of motorcycling. Motorcycles ease congestion in cities, use less fuel, require fewer parking spaces, produce fewer emissions and cause less road wear than other vehicles.

And yet when it comes to public policy, we are barely an afterthought. In the 173-page National Road Safety Strategy Review, just two pages are devoted to motorcycling. The majority of politicians and policy makers are not motorcyclists and share the common view that we are all mad.

If we learn to speak with a louder voice, this will change. Our numbers are growing, with motorcycling more popular than ever.

In most states, motorbike registration has outstripped car registration on a percentage basis for the last five years.

In my next term, I intend to seek amendments to the National Road Safety Strategy that reflect respect for motorcycling. I would particularly like to see the best aspects from each state (such as lane filtering and footpath parking) incorporated into the national strategy.

And I will do my best to encourage opinionated police officers to stick to what they know.

(Originally published in the AFR on September 8, 2017.)

  1. What a complete load of rubbish. Whilst I accept that experienced riders may know what risks they face when it comes to what gear they wear, there is no evidence that someone new to biking has any real awareness. If a rider or pillion comes off on real bitumen or anywhere for that matter, and is not wearing protective gear they will suffer more serious injuries than someone wearing protective gear.

    In States where there is a no fault personal injury scheme this means that to repair a rider’s skin injuries with grafts and a broken leg is going to be more expensive than just a broken leg if the rider is wearing gear that protects them from abrasions. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what pressure that might put on CTP premiums.

    What is the first thing one puts out when one is falling, ones hands. What moron would ride a motorcycle and not wear gloves.

    Using the logic of the good Senator lets scrap helmet laws. Lets scrap seatbelt laws while we are at it. Obviously never been to a real life crash involving inadequately dressed riders.

    1. Sorry, disagree totally mate. This is the kind of mentality that has allowed Australia to become one of the most intrusive nanny states in the world! Yes, only a total moron would choose not to wear gloves while riding, but that should be up to them. Ditto any other protective gear. It’s about personal freedom and choice: you take a chance or make a dumb decision, you live with the consequences. Sure, we get annoyed when the cost of their folly is socialised, but they would not be alone would they? Think smokers, druggos, yachtsmen and ill-prepared bushwalkers that have to be rescued…they are all a burden on the rest of us. Sometimes freedom comes at a price. Personally, I wear all the gear – but I object strongly to some pencil-pusher telling me I have to wear it, and some copper fining me if I don’t!

    2. Terry, as adults we make our own decisions, whether that be to lead an unhealthy lifestyle by being grossly overweight, smoker or drinker, all of these activities are perfectly ‘legal’, and they pose far higher strains on the health system not to mention on tax payers.
      Where do you draw the line a very precise black line?

      As far as full gear is concerned, I can share you the list of injuries sustained by a rider, following all the road rules, wearing every bit of protective gear yet hit by a car running a red light. Five months in rehab and still not walking in aided.

      I can only deduce from your cretinous comments that you are not a motorcyclist.

  2. Common sense here, but that has no place in Australia 2017. Eg. if gloves were legislated, then anyone without them will be fined unmercifully.

    Of course anyone who does not wear gloves is an idiot. But this highlights the difference between different countries and their approach to law enforcement. Having ridden almost 200,000km in the US, and having highway patrolman friends there, I can vouch that there a minor breach will be reprimanded or warned. Serious breaches will be booked. Here, the culture is now totally different, it’s all about ‘gotcha’ and fines. So for that reason I am with the Senator on this – unfortunately.

  3. I call bullshit, this sounds like a political stance against healthcare and he is using ‘freedom’ to disguise it.

  4. The trouble is Leyonhjelm is such a d**khead in so many other respects that no-one will take any notice of him, although personally I don’t actually agree with much of what he has to say on this issue anyway.

  5. Leyonhjelm is such a d**k in so many other respects that anything he says is only like to work against any cause he stands for.

    1. Graeme/Robert, senator Leyonhjelm said people old enough to vote & old enough to go to war don’t need a policeman to tell them when to put their gloves on
      (if you do ask your mother)
      & you immediately started swearing at him. Your Mum wouldn’t like that either.
      Mate – anger management. btw, where do you work?

  6. Regardless of what we think of some of the details of the statement, can we all take a step back and rejoice that a politician is openly pro motorcycles and pro motorcyclists?

    What we should be doing is poking every other poli in the ribs and asking them “Are you for us like he is, or against us?”.

  7. (Quote) In my view, the health system needs to change. If we are reckless or irresponsible, we should bear the cost ourselves. (End Quote)

    Not a fan of this happening…where would the line be drawn?
    Who would determine what is reckless and/or irresponsible?
    Smoking and excessive drinking would be considered reckless etc by many, should they too pay for their own health care???

    Definitely opening a HUGE can of worms…

  8. I tend to agree with Senator Leyonhjelm as it becomes problematical as to what exactly constitutes “protective clothing” suitable for motorcycle riding, if it comes down to whether a policeman feels you are not riding with appropriate equipment, then no, it just will not work, I also don’t think legislation would work, education is a better option.
    Having said that I cringe when I see riders wearing thongs on their feet rather than suitable boots as I do have a good imagination and thinking about the injuries that could be inflicted by an accident does make me feel ill, that is why I always wear boots while riding.
    Do I always wear other protective gear? Well no, as sometimes I have removed my riding jacket when temperatures rise too high but you also have to be aware of sunburn and heatstroke.

  9. Protective gear is no guarantee that the type of injuries associated with no gear will not occur. They are just a lot less likely. But exhaustion caused by wearing gear in hot conditions is more likely to cause an accident than not wearing any gear. While someone wearing thongs shorts and a singlet on a sport bike and speeding should spend some time in care having their head examined they should not be the inspiration for a new regime of fines.
    While they could already be fined in some states for improper footwear in control of a motor vehicle. When ever the nannies get political support for any scheme of penalties for doing what we want to do it is never because it has any real safety benefits it usually because of the projected revenue.
    Beware the politicians of this country have a long history of offering poison chalices! And there is a very obvious one in the statement, some may agree that stupid people should pay the price for their own actions but with any minor change to health care rules to reflect that a lot of innocent and possibly not stupid people will be harmed and greatly disadvantaged. Any step away from the current socialist health care system puts us closer to the mess in the US where a minor health issue can see you bankrupt and out on the streets.
    The USA has the largest percentage of population in prison in the world all for mostly poverty crimes and drugs some people are in prison just so they can see a doctor. Weather you pay for health care or pay for prisons you’re going to pay anyway so don’t be stupid enough to fall for a politicans poison chalice!

  10. I agree completely with The Other Jeff from the beginning to end ‘This is the kind of mentality that has allowed Australia to become one of the most intrusive nanny states in the world!” Falling off anything & skinning parts of your body is a cause & effect method of learning, if you’re silly enough not to wear protective gear FULL STOP

  11. David Leyonhjelm’s the only pollie who sticks up for bikes. If you’re against him, you’re against every motorcyclist as well.

    I think you’ll find the comments bagging Leyonhjelm come from people who should be busy catching murderers & thieves who steal bikes instead of wasting work time on the internet.

  12. I assumed a senior Victorian policeman would be concerned about
    drug syndicates
    gangland murders
    calculating his super on retirement . . . . .
    but I was wrong.
    What keeps a senior Victorian policeman awake at night is
    worrying if I’m wearing gloves when I drop down to the shop on a hot summers day.

    What a busy life.

  13. I agree with Max. I do wear all the gear all the time but for those who choose not to that is their call, it is about time riders and everyone else including the plod get of the band wagon and let people make their own decisions. Now I may be wrong but don’t all new riders have to do at least one riding course to obtain their learners and license, that is where I would assume they are warned about riding without protection protection, they have been warned. As far as Leyonhjelm is concerned, good on him I think he makes sense and it is good to have a pollie on side.

  14. Next they’ll ban open-face helmets. Harley boys will be upset, cruiser sales will drop, Ulysses club will cease to exist.
    Safety nutters – be careful what you ask for.

  15. Helmets should be compulsory for all car drivers, many people have died in car accidents from head injuries. Gloves won’t save your life on a bike so you can forget that one.

  16. I am not one for the nanny state but am fully supportive of the idea if you don’t wear the gear you cover the cost of medical treatment, social security etc. Government has some level of responsibility to protect the tax payers from people’s stupidity and not wearing appropriate gear is, in my view, not very clever.

    As far as smoking, drinking etc these pastimes are taxed at very high rates and there is talk of a sugar tax also to help address the obesity issue. I don’t want to have to wear a higher motorcycle tax because you exercise your right to take greater and avoidable risks.

    Yes, you can get injured or killed when you wear the gear but it is about reducing the risk. If I fall off in shorts and thongs you can guarantee I will be injured, if I am luckyt a bit of gravel rash if I am not maybe I lose a foot. If I fall off in good gear the chance of injury is very much lower.

    And yes I am a rider, ride several days a week, still do track days on my Gixxer, have fallen off more than a few times and have been doing so for almost 50 years.

  17. Nice commentary about nanny state laws, but his politics is on the nose. Shame really. Lets hope its not a stunt to garner support from a misrepresented group so he can boost his chances in the next election. Just the cynic in me looking at a politician and cannot help thinking there is a hidden agenda.

  18. This Senator seems to be a typical civil libertarian demonising the police. He should know better than anyone….

    The police do not make the laws. They merely enforce the law, including several stupid ones made up by the likes of this Senator and his politician mates.

    However I do agree that people should take personal responsibility. I also think helmet laws and seat belt laws should be scrapped. We need a good old bit of Darwinism to cull the unsustainable population growth.

  19. Hi I was taught in school (many years ago ) that Govt, were supposed to provide for the general public these items,Education,Transport,Hospitals provided from our tax’s.
    My has the times changed.

  20. Terry, dear oh dear…ignorance always has an opinion. I have ridden on paddocks and dirt since the mid 60’s but only recently new to road riding. To obtain a motorcycle license, you need to complete a comprehensive course…(and its not cheap). There is as much emphasis on wearing protective gear, as there is in teaching you to ride safely. Nobody wants to get hurt and its probably a new rider’s biggest fear, so your comment is utter bullshit. I live in Qld, id love to ride in a t-shirt but there is no guarantee and id rather be sweating my arse off, than picking gravel out of it.

  21. A lot of comments on here bagging leyonhjlem, instead of making constructive comment to help motorcyclist’s . Do you people actually ride more than a couple of Sunday cruises a year?? Or ride at all??

    1. Does it matter how often you ride? Do you get more of a voice if you are hard core? What level of riding is sufficient to have an opinion about someone and their political leanings?

      I have already stated I am cynical about his motives, he is a politician after all, and just because he writes an article I agree with in content doesn’t mean I can excuse his politics and what he stands for.

        1. Learners, that was about 35 years ago, probably longer than you’ve been alive. That’s reality. I only bother with comments from people not ashamed to use their real name.

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