Senator Ricky Muir makes his maiden speech before the senate, saying he will fight unfair legislation targeting motorists
SENATE wildcard Ricky Muir has made his maiden speech to his peers, calling on government to focus its efforts on the idiots behind the wheel rather than legislate enthusiast drivers out of existence.
Looking a little uncomfortable and reading from notes, the Victorian Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator said he represented a number of voices wanting to make a stand against “unfair stereotyping and media sensationalism that motoring enthusiasts are all too often caught up in”.
“It is unfair to judge a whole community of people because of the actions of a few,” he told the chamber.
“The focus needs to move away from the vehicle and onto the behaviour. After all, cars do not hoon, it is the idiot behind the wheel.”
He said the motoring community was not made up of “environmental vandals tearing up the bitumen or destroying our bushland”.
“We are responsible, law-abiding citizens who loves our cars, our families and our culture, and it is offensive to a whole community of people to be tarred with the same brush as those who engage in antisocial behaviour on our roads or the minority who disrespect our national parks,” Senator Muir said.
“Most importantly, we came together to get a voice to stop unfair legislation being brought in with little or no consultation with our community — legislation that potentially could see our culture legislated out of existence.”
Senator Muir said it was no accident that the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party was represented at “an important time in our history” as local car manufacturing winds down, highlighting an urgent need to rebuild the motoring industry.
“The Australian automotive aftermarket industry alone is an $11 billion industry that employs some 30,000 people,” he said.
“It is an industry that is responsible for things from wiper blades to four-wheel-drive accessories, suspension components, tyres, brakes and replacement brake components, parking sensors, reverse cameras, tools, coolants, lubricants, testing equipment and so much more.
“The primary manufacturing base of the aftermarket industry is four-wheel-drive parts and accessories, with four-wheel-drive parts and accessories being a $2 billion industry, comprising $1.25 billion in parts and accessories and $750 million in tyres.
“They export to over 100 countries and are recognized as global leaders in design and manufacturing of four-wheel-drive parts and accessories.
"That, Mike Willesee, is what the aftermarket industry is.”
The reference to media heavyweight Mike Willesee relates to a damaging interview with Senator Muir that made headlines Australia-wide when he failed to answer several questions about his role in government, aspects of the car industry he said he supported, and his plans for the next six years.
“Since winning my seat, I have been offered a wealth of advice—say this, do this, don't do that and so on — but the most important thing I have learnt, and indeed have also had encouragement to do, is to simply be myself,” he said.
“Sure, I came up pretty bad in a debut interview with Mike Willesee, but I was never going to let that bring me down.
“It became a point of reference for me to look back to at later stages of my life. I knew they had the footage, and I presumed they would use it, so I would like to pass on a thank you to Mike Willesee because he contributed to teaching me a valuable lesson, and that was really just to be myself.”
Senator Muir also went in to bat for motor sport, and particularly its benefit for regional communities.
“Recently, Ernst & Young prepared a report for the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport that reported four-wheel motorsport contributes $2.7 billion to the economy and creates 16,181 jobs,” he said.
Senator Muir’s maiden speech is not the first time the self-confessed struggling father of five has voiced his opinion before the chamber.
Earlier this week, while speaking on road safety, he said the nation was better off training its drivers to avoid crashes than relying on “our punishment-based system of driver compliance”.
“A vehicle is generally not autonomous in its operation,” he said. “It does not move without a driver, yet little credibility is placed on the value of driver education as a way to improve road safety and reduce trauma.
“It has been disappointing to see whenever this subject of better driver education is raised, it is instantly dismissed by many in the road safety sector.
“It would appear this thinking has its roots in statements such as 'even the most competent driver will still make mistakes'.
“So the focus has been on a lessening of driver-interaction, through the introduction of ever-smarter vehicles in an effort to reduce the risk.”
Senator Muir said that while all drivers could make mistakes, educated or aware drivers had the ability to manage and correct those mistakes, and often anticipate the mistakes of other drivers.
“Creating better drivers by implementing systems based on driver competence rather than on our punishment-based system of driver compliance will lead to a better road experience that is safer for us all,” he said.
“While vehicle technology, road design and road conditions have improved in leaps and bounds over the last 40 years, and speed limits have continued to be reduced, little has been achieved in promoting the concept of driver training to prevent crashes from occurring.”
Since joining parliament last year, Senator Muir has tagged onto a senate inquiry looking at road safety.