MOTOR VEHICLES (MOTOR BIKE DRIVER LICENSING) AMENDMENT BILL

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:44): I rise in support of this legislation, the Motor Vehicles (Motor Bike Driver Licensing) Amendment Bill 2020. I want to note that we have had some great discussions on our side of the house with our ministers, our cabinet and our whole team in regard to this bill to get to some sensible outcomes. Certainly, something we need to reflect on—and I will get into some more detail in a moment—is the high accident and death rate amongst motorbike riders in this state.

Motorbike riding is a very enjoyable experience. At the farm, I have a Yamaha 660 quad, and I am a bit dismayed that quad bikes probably will not be imported after this year because of concerns of rollovers and accidents. The issue is that it might have a tangential effect on what people think are other safer vehicles for use on properties and stations, and there could be some issues around that. I do not discount that there have been some terrible injuries on quad bikes on farms, and I think the issue of rollovers and accidents needs more of a look at in regard to their use.

Certainly, in regard to the use of motorbikes on the road, I know there have been different schemes of graduated licensing, especially for learner riders. Years ago, a learner rider could buy as big a motorbike as they liked. Sometimes, sadly, they were dead very quickly on their first ride. At one stage, there was a limit of 250cc, but motorbike companies managed to get them powered up so that they could go pretty well. It came down to power to weight ratio, and there are some interesting dynamics on how that is measured.

Noting the schemes we have for car licensing, with there being basically four years before you can have a full car licence, it was critical that we got some reality for country riders, and my family is a case in point. My eldest son is 19, and he got his motorbike licence when he was 16. I was quite happy for him to do that. He wanted to put road wheels on it—he has a WR250F with trail bike-style tyres. He wanted to bring it to Adelaide and use it for going into university. I said, 'No, I think we will do something better than that.' At the time, he was 18, and he said, 'I can do what I like.' I said, 'You can do what you like, but I'm not going to bury my son. I have heard of too many stories of people who never get over burying a son or daughter who has had a tragic accident,' and you can understand why.

I said to Mack, 'It's not your riding skill I'm worried about,' because what I have seen him do off-road is incredible, 'it's just that people don't see you'. You are a very small object out there amongst a lot of cars, trucks and a lot of objects on the road that are a lot heavier than a motorbike. Anyway, three years down the track and I have another son about to get his licence. It was interesting that it was raised in question time. We had some changes around him getting his learner's licence. He has his learner's and he is only a couple of months away from getting his P1s, and that is a good thing.

Certainly, in regard to the motorbike licensing regime, both my boys have worked in the region as recently as this harvest. Mack was working for Viterra at Coonalpyn, just down the road from where we live at Coomandook, and Angus was working for the Weckert family, who lease our property, operating the chaser bin and other jobs over harvest. The simple fact was that the only way he could get to work was on his motorbike, or get picked up and dropped off, so it was far more convenient.

Even knowing this legislation had not been in place, he did the rider training course at Murray Bridge, and I fully commend the program for rider training. It has riders of varying skills from nil skill through to people like my boys who have learnt to ride for quite a few years on the farm. I could go on with a whole range of stories of various things about off-road riding but that is not what we are here for today.

I think the training at those preliminary learners' training weekends is absolutely fantastic and there is an advanced course to go on further. I think it is a must. For the very reason I said before, it is not so much about the skill level of the rider, and you have to have that, noting that there are quite a few people who go to those training days who may not even have sat on a motorbike before or not had much experience. The more we can do to train them, the better off it is.

Sadly, if you look at the whole picture of motorbike accidents—and they feature too heavily in crash statistics throughout the state—there are people in the older brackets of plus 40, plus 50, which sadly I am in, who are out on their bikes and too many of them feature in accidents as well, so it is not just the youth. Last year, I was at the Training Awards for apprentices and trainees at Murray Bridge and one of the lads who was talked about that night was an apprentice or trainee, I cannot remember which, who crashed into a tree and subsequently lost his life. I do not know how family could ever manage the grief. They would never get over it.

We had some work done through the University of Adelaide in 2018 at the Centre for Automotive Safety Research. They released a report which outlined the key elements of an improved graduated licensing scheme for motorbike riders. It was prompted by the number of motorcycle fatalities increasing from eight in 2016 to 24 in 2017.

As I have indicated, the licensing scheme is a staged approach to obtain a full licence, with learners commencing in relatively low-risk situations. As a novice rider grows in knowledge, skills and on-road experience, the restrictions are gradually lifted as they progress through to an intermediate stage and then on to a full licence.

I note the shadow minister in May 2019 and in March 2020 introduced to parliament a private member's bill which, amongst other provisions, raised the minimum age at which a person can be issued a motorcycle learner's permit from 16 years to 17 years. That private member's bill did not include any exemptions for young people living in regional South Australia. But in January 2020, the Marshall Liberal government committed to introducing in parliament balanced reforms to the Graduated Licensing Scheme for motorcyclists.

The Department for Infrastructure and Transport conducted a period of detailed stakeholder consultation on a draft amendment bill in June-July 2020. This bill gives effect to many of the recommendations and strengthens the motorcycle Graduated Licensing Scheme whilst providing those much needed exemptions for young people living in regional South Australia. As I spoke about earlier, there has been a form of graduated licensing in South Australia since 1989, with incremental improvements having been made over the past 30-odd years.

Primarily, the additional measures were focused on the Graduated Licensing Scheme for drivers rather than riders. The most recent improvements for the Graduated Licensing Scheme were introduced by the former Labor government back in 2014, with the exception of introducing night-time driving restrictions for learner motorcyclists under the age of 25 who do not hold a P2 or a full car licence. The improvements were targeted solely at novice riders.

Between 2015 and 2019, the trend in the young rider casualties, fatalities and serious injuries increased by an average of 12.5 per cent, whilst the trend in young driver casualties decreased by an average of 7.7 per cent. Recent research indicates that riders of motorcycles have a higher risk of injury and fatality than other road users and research also indicates that novice motorcyclists have a higher risk of crashing than experienced riders.

Crash statistics in this state obviously show that motorcyclists are over-represented in lives lost on our roads. Between 2015 and 2019, motorcycles on average accounted for 4 per cent of all registered vehicles; however (and this shows the link), motorcycle riders accounted for 15 per cent of all road fatalities and 19 per cent of serious injuries. The data also indicates that young riders in that young age group—the 16 to 19-year-old age group—are particularly over-represented. These young people account for approximately 5 per cent of the state's population yet accounted for 10.3 per cent of all the motorcyclist fatalities and serious injuries between 2015 and 2019.

A key component of keeping the good people of South Australia safe on the road is ensuring that road users have the necessary training and experience to be safe and responsible, so an improved Graduated Licensing Scheme for motorcycle riders will achieve this. The report I mentioned previously assessed studies from across the world to identify potential components for an improved motorcycle Graduated Licensing Scheme that had the greatest evidence of effectiveness.

CASR found that younger riders, whether new or fully licensed, have more crashes per distance travelled than older drivers. They also found that age, irrespective of experience, is an important factor in determining the risk of crash. At 16, South Australia currently has the equal lowest minimum age for motorcycle learner's permits in Australia, equal to the Northern Territory and Western Australia. It has therefore been recommended that the minimum age at which a person can obtain a motorcycle learner's permit be increased from 16 to 18 years of age. I just want to note that my youngest lad is still 16.

Currently, learner riders in South Australia are permitted to carry a pillion passenger who is a qualified supervising rider but, given the potential source of distraction that a pillion passenger can present and as the weight of any pillion passenger does increase the difficulty for a rider to remain balanced, it is also recommended that learner riders be prohibited from carrying any pillion passenger, including a qualified supervising rider.

At present, the law states that a learner rider aged under 25 who does not hold a driver's licence must hold a learner's permit for at least 12 months, whilst those over 25 must hold a learner's permit for at least six months. If a learner rider holds a driver's licence, it is recommended that they hold their learner's permit for a minimum of six months; however, this is not a requirement. A key component of the licensing scheme is to ensure that novice riders have the time to accumulate the necessary skills and experience to be safe riders. It is also recommended that the length of time taken to progress from a learner's permit to a full licence be three years.

Therefore, the minimum period a learner's permit must be held will be 12 months regardless of age or any other licences held. Accordingly, the minimum age at which a person can obtain an R-Date licence (provisional stage) will be 19 years; and an R-Date licence must then be held for a minimum of two years. As a result of these requirements, the minimum age a person can obtain a full R licence classification will be 21 years.

As I have outlined an example from my family, I would like to acknowledge the work that children and young people do in regional areas in South Australia. It does not have to be farm work; it might be getting to other work, whether it is in the fast food sector, a service station, or working in a range of roles such as a trainee in an electorate office. That might be the only way they have to get around, and I acknowledge that a vital part of this legislation is the exemption for regional riders because of the access they need, especially with the lack of public transport in country areas.

There was extensive stakeholder and community consultation in regard to this reform, and there was broad support for the majority of measures. Although community support for raising the minimum age to obtain a learner's permit to 18 years was lower than other measures, the exemptions included in this bill are likely to address much of the concern in the community. I think this will be a great measure not only for keeping people alive but also for getting young people on the road and able to get to work.

I did have the debate with my 18-year-old son at the time, young Mack, when he indicated that he was an adult and could do what he liked. I am just glad that now he has a '98 VS Holden Statesman, and he managed to get an exemption for that. It is a five-litre automatic, and it is fantastic, and he has far more steel around him than if he was riding a motorbike, and he is more than happy propelling that car around, whether it is in the city or taking it home to Coomandook.

I have heard too many stories from people who will never get over the grief of losing a young child to any accident, whether it be a motorbike accident or a car accident. I have certainly seen that in my local area at home. I do not think the pain and suffering would ever go away, so we must do everything we can to make people safer on the roads. A lot of people think it is a great imposition (and I have had this discussion with my boys around driver's licences and motorbike licences), but I say that it is the reality of being safe, of being able to get out and of not just surviving on the road but thriving.

It takes four years to get a full driver's licence, and it will now be several years to get a full motorbike licence, but at least you can ride on your own bike with a learner's permit and get an exemption as a 16 year old in a country area.

You might be a young bloke or a young lady riding between properties for your family or someone you work for, and it is vitally needed in those areas for access and for all the other roles I indicated earlier—just for the simple reason of getting around. The other side of it is that obviously you simply cannot do it on a learner's permit in a car because you need someone with you. It is especially vital for the 16-year-old to 17-year-old age group to have access for getting to work and for the commuting they need to do.

Again, I must commend riding courses and the great job they do for the various skills of the people who take them. They give a valuable grounding in motorbike control and operation. Sadly, over times past, some people got their licence, thought that was great and, back in the day, they would buy a 900 Kawasaki, go out onto the road and it was all over in about five minutes. We cannot have that; we just cannot have that.

We will never stop the accidents completely, but the more we can do within reason not only to keep people safe but give them the right access to be on the road, I think is a step in the right direction and I commend the bill.