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Rider representation ends as group closes down

MRAQ Rider representative group closes down

Queensland riders now have no official representation to government after the Motorcycle Riders Association of Queensland has officially closed.

The motion to close was passed at a special meeting of five members on Wednesday night (15 January 2020).

The reason was given as a lack of members seeking election to the executive.

There is now no formal Queensland rider representation available for meetings with relevant ministers and government departments over issues affecting them.

Special meeting

I attended the MRAQ’s special meeting on Wednesday night as a non-member and observer and agreed — at president Chris Mearns’s request — not to publish anything from the special meeting.

Chris agreed to an interview, then demanded we postpone publication for a couple of weeks.

After we disagreed and I implored him of the need to publish immediately, the MRAQ decided to announce the decision on their Facebook page and official website.

The notice of closure follows inactivity on the website and Facebook page since September 2019, including no notice of Wednesday night’s meeting.

Here is the official MRAQ closure announcement:

It is with great regret that notice is herein given that the Motorcycle Riders Association of Queensland Inc. will no longer be in operation.
This situation has come about due to the Association being no longer been able to comply with its Rules Of Association and hence not being able to meet the requirements of the Queensland Fair Trading legislation.
The lack of ability to comply with these requirements is a direct result of insufficient persons being willing to offer their service to the Association.
The incumbent departing Executive Committee wishes to thank all of the members who over the almost 40 years of the Association existence worked to represent the interests of motorcyclists. Without
these people the world of motorcycling in Queensland would be a far less friendly place.
Actions in accordance with the relevant laws have been commenced to cease operation of the Association and are currently being implemented.

Rider apathy

Chris and secretary Steve Clancy spent several minutes after Wednesday’s special meeting complaining about the apathy of riders and the dramatic drop-off in membership.

He said they had spent eight-and-a-half years working hard for Queensland riders and listed their achievements as fighting against the Draconian VLAD anti-association laws and their work to secure lane filtering laws (including the only edge filtering rule in Australia) and more sensible laws on helmet certification and motorcycle controls.

Chris speaks to VLAD protestors in 2013

Motorbike Writer has covered all these issues as well as acknowledged the work the MRAQ has done to secure motorcycle parking in the Brisbane CBD.

The first AGM in September and another a couple of months later did not attract a quorum of seven members, so the special meeting was called.

There were only five members at Wednesday’s special meeting, but the business of winding up the MRAQ is still legal under Queensland association incorporation rules.

The MRAQ have about $7000 in funds and a box trailer which they will sell. All money will be given to the Royal Brisbane Hospital spinal care unit for their care of injured riders.

Collapse of rider representation

The collapse of the MRAQ is symptomatic of rider representation throughout the country.

There seems a general apathy among riders to get involved, yet a lot of vocal “keyboard warriors” quick to decry autocratic injustices and a lack of acknowledgement of their existence by authorities.

After the special meeting, Chris expressed concern about future rider representation and said younger riders needed to step up.

His initial reluctance to send out a timely official closure notice could also be symptomatic of an MRAQ that was out of touch with riders.

Could the MRAQ collapse simply be the tip of the iceberg?

  1. I wonder if it is part of the general hopelessness and disempowerment that most of the community is feeling over the total self interest and lack any response to community expression in areas by politicians elected to represent us who then go off and ignore even 100,000 people quietly demonstrating in the streets? Our political processes have become so corrupted by self-interested and non-transparent politicians that it is understandable that people get demotivated and feel there is no point in trying to get their interests taken seriously. In Victoria, for example, a long multistage process is under way to replace the ever less influential succession of advisory committees on motorcycling (once genuinely Ministerial Advisory Council) by a stakeholder engagement group where one of the key requirements is ‘what experience have you had in motorcycle lobbying?’ It’s clear that genuine independent expertise is not wanted … and we all know stakeholder engagement means zero consultation, it’s just to sell a predetermined decision. I’ve disengaged from several of these recently, so it’s no surprise that members of the MRAQ been disheartened. Even though MRAq has had real successes, it’s getting fresh blood in with hope and energy that is so hard when the political climate is so antipathetic to community real involvement. Getting volunteers to do these hard yards is getting harder in a range of areas, not just motorcycling. It’s the times, I am afraid.

    1. If the comments on motorcycling social media pages are anything to go by, not many people actually knew of the group, or if they did, had no idea of what was happening as communication from the group was rather limited. Seems a shame new blood wasn’t sought after, especially as it seems the last group were not keen to continue.

      1. The people claiming no knowledge of the MRAQ must live with their head in the sand. MRAQ had a stall at a large number of bike events (obviously it is possible to get to every single event), a facebook page and a website with substantial numbers of hits. There was also the constant stream of emails from riders with issues, seeking clarification of aspects of certain laws and those simply wanting to express their viewpoints.

        I can only assume they expected to get a gilded invite, hand delivered by a Knight’s squire, to all the events and meetings.

  2. I remember MRAQ was the in place in the 80’s. They had monthly rides half a dozen rallies at least. Then the harassment started rallies were shut down, riders chose their own club over an association due to the harassment. Then the harassment spread and basically everyone said stuff it. Sadly it all fell apart long before VLAD.

    1. Totally a member in the 80s MRAs motto was “Let those who ride decide” BTW A bike is a bike. Be it Jap/British /Yank/European or whatever! We ride together for friendship or safety. What about the Toy Run for Kids in Hospitals. I don’t see cars do this!

      1. Toy runs = mixed motives.
        Riders genuinely want to help and are motivated by compassion, true.
        But they also want a sense of camaraderie and entertainment from the run.
        Nobody is feeding any suggestions on words to be used by the local reporter on how it’s ALSO about motorcyclist rights, and not just for kids.
        Hence there is no feeling of reciprocity.
        Same rigmarole with the same people next year. They have something in their calendar to which to look forward, and the kids get a feeling that someone cares about them. Overall it’s a very nice thing in its own right but doesn’t help advance the organisation’s cause. Participants are not necessarily gelled into activists or given useful tasks, by this activity.

  3. Isn’t the RACQ etc for all motorists (i.e. including motorcyclists) ?
    How have they been doing in representing the interests of motorcyclists?

  4. As the former Chairman of the Australian Motorcycle Council and President of MRA Tas I can understand the frustration. The main problem with attracting members is the fact that as Incorporated entities we then be come liable for all actions of the association and this makes running social events( rides, rallies etc) without public liability insurance impossible. This type of insurance is exorbinate to say the least and puts too much monetary pressure on voluntary members and their membership fees which in turn restricts the numbers joining and it becomes a downhill spiral. The political side suffers with a lack of input along with a lack of a vibrant social side which attracts the majority members.
    It’s a sad fact the everyone expects something in return for their money and when you take the social side away the money and the volunteers disappear with it!!!

  5. There are always problems with rider’s rights groups like this. You get them filling up with people who ride very occasionally, people who belong to a minority group with a distinct non-mainstream culture (i.e. dressing a certain way, riding Harleys, doing up the odd custom/classic every now and then etc.) and they end up doing things like rideouts and parties. Nothing wrong with that, but the people you need on board in a riders’ rights organisation are the couriers and commuters – people who actually depend on a motorcycle for work. Otherwise you start with a small number of people, and that gets even smaller as the cliques contract and lose participants. Cliques are the bane of such organisations. I am utterly convinced that BBQs, heavy metal, club culture, etc. definitely have their place, but they do nothing to help further riders’ rights or political representation. Car associations are more effective, because just as it should be obvious that not everyone who is into cars is also into, say, 1980s New Wave and stamp collecting, so it should be obvious that not everyone who is into bikes is also into, say, camping in a field, classic rock/metal, beer, etc. Because there is NO CONNECTION between the vehicle and these other hobbies, so the interests of motorcycle riders’ rights are not advanced by them. It’s disappointing that this motorcycles rights organisation fell victim to being hijacked by the very people who don’t actually ride more than a handful of times a year, and who will be the first to kowtow to electric bikes (because bikes weren’t what they’re into in the first place). In fact, if the organisation had just waited a few more years before folding, these “motorcycle culture” types would have drifted into electric bikes or whatever, leaving only dedicated petrolhead motorcycle enthusiasts. This would have been viable. Just waiting them out.

    1. It would appear that you have had zero experience with MRAQ or anything they did. I can assure you 100% that the active members of MRAQ (committee members and regular attendees of meetings) were active riders and rode religiously.
      The problem with modern society is that no one wants to do anything while someone else is capable of doing it.

      1. You’re absolutely right – I have zero experience with MRAQ. However, I do have experience of trying to get involved and helping out with riders’ rights. It’s much more difficult than you might imagine – these groups are cliquey as hell in the UK, and I can’t imagine it would be much different in Queensland. In the UK, these groups never bother publishing details of to whom to write, to oppose oppressive and ill-considered new rules and regulations affecting all motorcyclists. They don’t tell you which council meetings to attend to have a say, etc. They just post details of their next party or run. Is MRAQ like that?

        When you say these riders ride religiously, I take your word for it. If it’s like in the UK, where most of the membership is drawn from the club world (or wannabes), then just about everyone would claim they rode religiously, but you’d only ever see them on annual runs, meets and events, so you would harbour doubts. The people you see over here who ride all the time tend to be commuters and delivery boys on scooters. I’m not saying it’s like that where you are – I’m just pointing out that sometimes there is a distinct culture within an motorcycle organisation which tends not to be representative of motorcyclists at large, and which seems very alien and offputting.

        To illustrate my point, I visited the personal blog of someone who posted in the comments here. In his blog, he claimed he started MRAQ at the request of the Hells Angels. You have to appreciate, we don’t support VLAD (we see the endgame for what it is), we don’t necessarily always support the police or whatever they’re saying, etc. but we don’t necessarily want to approach *that end of things* because we fully understand that a different set of rules and conventions apply. You enter that territory on certain terms, this is fully understood and most of the population opts out. I believe that it’s making riders’ rights groups as a whole unapproachable.

        1. “he claimed he started MRAQ at the request of the Hells Angels.” Are you sure that was the MRAQ and not the USMC? They are 2 very different groups, with 2 very different aims (The USMC exists for social clubs and their concerns – MRAQ was for all riders).
          MRAQ did not do parties or runs. There was one ride each year to raise funds – “The Freedom Ride” (which happened to have one of the highest attendance rates and was regularly televised via several news outlets).
          There are no “council meetings” to attend – there were government committees that the MRAQ was invited to sit on. The MRAQ did often urge people to contact the relevant government bodies to have their voices heard.
          As far as riding goes. Queensland is a very different place than the UK in terms of weather – we can ride all year round (it can go from uncomfortably hot, to uncomfortably cold – but rarely hot or cold enough to not ride). I know for a fact that several key members of the MRAQ would rather be riding than sitting in meetings – and more often than not would ride to these meetings (and not just for the ease of parking).

  6. Hello Chris
    Peter Con and myself (Grahame Martin) members 1&2 were responsible for getting the MRAQ incorporated in QLD after attending a meeting with Damien Cognotto at the Phillip Island races in the eighties. We were concerned that the MRA was not doing enough for motorcylists unless you were from Victoria. After we set up MRAQ it was functioning quite well and growing steadily, but as always apathy started to creep in and now after many years we are seeing it’s demise.
    Motorcycle riders are a funny bunch, as they prove time and again that as long as somebody at the top doing all of the work they just have to sit back and do nothing themselves to keep it going. They always amuse me that some of them only like to be seen riding with riders who own the same brand/type of motorcycle as the………for F… sake, it’s a motorcycle isn’t it, and the other guy is out there feeling the cold getting as wet as you, but he is out there at least. As they say “Its not about the destination, its about the journey………this should apply to the running of the MRAQ as well.
    I am sad to have read that all our good and hard work has come to this, but hey, shit happens as they say.
    Grahame Martin
    Ulysses Member 1358 (33 years)

  7. I’m sad to hear the MRA in Queensland closed. They did a lot for motorcycling over decades. Since the 1990s rider apathy is certainly a growing problem for motorcycle & scooter organisations particularly those involved in bike politics. That said, the original MRA in Victoria was closed some years back not so much because of apathy, although that was a factor, but because of “white anting”. The MRAV had real assets which were taken by another bike group. If MRAQ had any assets, I’d like to know what happened to them.

    1. Hi Damien,
      The MRAQ have about $7000 in funds and a box trailer which they will sell. All money will be given to the Royal Brisbane Hospital spinal care unit for their care of injured riders.

  8. From what I’m hearing within the motorcycling community, of which I am a part, is that while most of us knew that MRAQ existed and did some great advocacy work, no one was aware of when meetings were, that membership was available, that there were issues with getting a committee etc. If these things had been advertised I know of a number of people who would have been interested in stepping up. While there is always going to be a certain amount of apathy, no matter whether we’re talking about a sporting club, bike club, or P&C etc, it’s a bit rough to blame ‘younger riders’ or any other demographic when nothing was made public and riders of any age group didn’t know there was an issue.

    1. There has always been information in regards to meetings if people were interested. The problem is that people only want the MRAQ assistance when it suits them.

      1. Fairweather friends are all you get when you hold parties and events. People who need your help, on the other hand: “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. Which would you rather have? If you go to a pub or club and start buying rounds and making strangers feel good, sure, people will like you and you have lots of “friends”. But they won’t be the people who will stick around when you need them. They will be gone, nowhere to be found, when you are down on your luck. You’ll never hear from them ever again. Sorry to say, this fact isn’t recognised by riders’ rights organisations. If you help someone out who has a genuine problem, it creates a bond of obligation. Those people who got into cosplay and bought your hamburgers and beer will be shedding the Harleys and buying electric bikes as soon it becomes the new fashion. They don’t never really cared about lane-splitting laws, profiling, oppressive regulations or whatever. They just wanted status within a group. Any group – it could have been a knitting group. These people have always been VERY easy to spot – not sure why anyone would court them and then expect anything in return from them.

        1. @Nicole – Do you expect personalised invitations? Both the MRAQ website and facebook page stated when/where meetings were, AND had the option of joining. In regards to the committee, that sort of information is only available to members.
          All relevant public information was always available to the public.
          MRAQ was far to busy dealing with government bodies, ensuring all riders were represented to be standing on street corners waving signs advertising their meetings.

  9. As usual, Damien demonstrates his comprehension skills by asking a question already answered in the article. Then sprouts rubbish about what happened to the MRAVic. Damien’s faction ruined support for the MRAVic, it was closed due to this factional infighting and a lack of interest, even by Damien’s group of Independent white ants. It was replaced by the Victorian Motorcycle Council, the MRAVic funds went to the Alfred Foundation and the trailer was given to the VMC by vote of the members at a SPC that was advertised a month ahead.

    Damien now goes around misrepresenting himself as the MRA and daring anyone to challenge him about it. Any wonder riders think advocacy is for nutters and gives it a wide berth. Thank goodness for the crew of the VMC who work tirelessly for us and has had major wins for us.

    1. You comments are twisted Grant. You were the last President of the original MRA in Melbourne. You presided over the last general meeting of that MRA around 2008 as I recall. It was well attended, maybe 50 members. You lost the first ballot to close the MRAV by 1 (one) vote. The second ballot was held after a lot of people had gone home thinking their association was safe. At that time I had not been on an MRA committee for 10 years having stood down to care for my elderly parents. It was your committee that killed off the original MRA that Chris Swalwell, Mark Connor and I started on May 16, 1978. We met at the HA Broadford Rock Concert. The MRAQ was a Branch of the original MRA. It was started and run by genuine road riders who worked unpaid for decades and did more good for motorcycling than you will do if you live to be 10,000 years old. You are responsible for the end of a great organisation (MRAV). It was on your watch. Do not try to convince people that anyone else was to blame.

      1. Gosh Damien, how twisted are your comments?

        The AGM where the motion to close the MRAV and replace it with a council of clubs was in 2011. You lied to your mates that it was being closed with nothing to replace it and they all turned up after failing to attend a single meeting for more than a decade. No one bothered to stick around to help. Your faction ended up quitting and not renewing their memberships within a year and it ended in 2013 exactly the same way MRAQ has. No one wanted to continue the poison chalice you made.

        And knock off telling more lies about retiring to look after your inheritance. You got expelled in 2005 for bringing the association into disrepute. That’s on the public record.

        You and your IRG faction then spent the next 6 years denigrating every MRAV board on social media, forums and telling lies to the point that we had to make a drastic change which for the record, was the best thing to happen in Victorian Motorcycle Advocacy for 4 decades. No longer did we have to put up with someone profiting from members, speaking rubbish and denigrating authorities on behalf of riders and turning every part of government against us. Since we took that step, riders now have lane filtering, better helmet choice, access to bus lanes on the Eastern FWY, Hoddle St and Victoria Pde, and more coming, better co operation with authorities and they don’t have FNP. The VMC has had more success than you ever had in making it safer and better for riders because they’re in it for riders, not for themselves.

        You calling yourself the MRA now shows just how much contempt you have for riders and continues to put your delusional needs above what’s best for riders.

        You also fail to mention why MRAQ quit the national MRA. It was because of you Damien. Want to see all the correspondence?

        You killed the MRAV Damien, you told me to my face that if you could not control it you would destroy it. Job well done.

        Queensland riders should have a look at a council structure to better represent Queensland riders both in clubs and individuals. The MRA model no longer works.

  10. I attended a meeting of MRAQ a couple of years ago. As is not uncommon, my view was that the members were a clique of self important navel gazers and I had no interest in being part of it. Maybe they achieved something of significance, maybe not. However, the fact that it is now defunct would indicate that MRAQ held little appeal to motorcyclists. Therein lies the problem with these groups. Why would bikers sign up? We live in the age of narcissism and WIFM (what’s in it for me). They could have given support to FREE and our independent candidates when we stood 3 candidates in the toppling of the Newman government and the fight against the VLAD laws, but alas, they were invisible.

  11. I think some of the comment threads above demonstrate very clearly why the broader motorcycling population has little interest or faith in representation associations, even if they knew about them. QED.

  12. Yikes..
    Some serious issues here, some strong comments, some big ego issues.

    Don’t matter what you ride or what group your in. Be it motormotorcycling or other club orgaisation.

    There will always be a bearded guy with a lot to say, a overweight short female that is as tough as nails, that tries to round up the naughty boys. And lay down the rules. The offended and hard done my member constantly complaining. The lets, do an event type, who never turn up. It’s often true that people who have no purpose in life, will find purpose in club or small organisations. Most times these days it all turns to shit. and our supposed peak bodies, like RACV, are now so out of touch, so risk adverse, have become member paid, arms of the VicRoads, community engagement team.

    No simple solution. We as a people are, and have changed.

  13. So what do we do from here?
    I was not a member sorry to say but come on the site to join expecting to see some bike enthusiasts that want to get together and go for a ride and a coffee and to meet new people with a common interest namely motor biking.
    Sorry for my ignorance of the duty of the MRAQ but have never looked into it, maybe a bit late lol.
    It’s a shame from what I have read above to see who done what to who and who said what to the organization or what wasn’t done. Looks like to me that it just didn’t work out.
    A question; I live in the Caboolture and work as FIFO and would love to hook up for a ride to meet some new people and just to enjoy riding somewhere and maybe organize a BBQ at times
    does a riding association/get together have to be so complicated?
    I go for a ride to Torbal or Bribie Is, and usually end up have a yarn with some other biker enthusiast at either spot on the wekends I’m home, we are a friendly bunch and always up for a good ol chat.
    I go to Mokha’s cafe most weekends I’m home, I haven’t met the owner as yet but he is a bike enthusiast and has put in a loading bay just for the bikes to park and serves great coffee and great food. the guys I have met there are always up for a yarn and predominantly talk about bikes 🙂
    Anyway Guys, good luck in the future and happy days going for a scoot.
    If you are ever at the Mokha’s cafe and you see a Kwaka Vulcan 900 come and say hello my name is Boydo 🙂

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