The Future of the MRA(Vic) will be decided by membership vote.
The Future of the MRA(Vic) will be decided by membership vote.
Where to now for the MRA(Vic)?
A characteristic of a successful business is to continuously evaluate its performance. For the last three years many conversations held at board level have been around how the MRA(Vic) is performing with relevance to the goals for which it was originally created.
* ROAD SAFETY
* FAIR & SENSIBLE LAWS
* A BETTER IMAGE FOR MOTORCYCLISTS
The executive is proud to report that through several changes including a new face as President and reduced membership fees, the membership decline over the last twelve years was arrested and we have had a period marked by increased membership and exposure. However upon reflection we ask ourselves if what has been achieved is enough to make a difference to the core reasons for the MRA(Vic) to exist and can it be extrapolated to find that mark of success held in previous decades? After all, our task is not to maintain a status quo as there are still many areas of road rules and continuously evolving attitudes of authorities that do not consider the motorcyclist’s perspective.
So what has been achieved in the last year?
2010 began with a shocking increase in motorcyclist fatalities. Riders were still smarting from the outrageously anti-motorcycle campaign run by the Government in late 2009 yet the tragedy of the rising toll played a noisy background to any efforts to bring perspective to the sentiments being made in the media. MRA(Vic) board members arranged multiple meetings with government authorities and bridged a gap in communication. We can report that a working relationship is in place with senior members of the Transport Accident Commission and Victoria Police.
The tension over the rising toll reached a boiling point when a campaign by a certain radio shock jock to vilify and demonise all motorcycle riders was supported by the then Deputy Commissioner for Traffic for Victoria Police. The board was inundated with riders and members looking to the MRA(Vic) to be representative of their outrage at being labelled a “hoon” (and the dangerous legislation hanging over those labeled as such) just because they choose to ride a motorcycle. At very short notice an “Awareness” rally took place in the city (accompanied by some embarrassing hiccups) which resulted in more notice of the MRA(Vic) being taken by government departments. However with only 150 participants out of 300,000 license holders in Victoria it could be taken as an example of the lack of support we appear to have.
By the end of 2010, 48 Victorian riders and pillions had been killed. Although this is close to the average for the last ten years, it was a 29% increase over 2009 - a fact stated many times by the authorities and one now being used to beat us over the head with more restrictions. The subtle point not made to the community is that between 2002 to 2010, the number of motorcycle licenses increased 36% and registrations 58% making it self evident that we are actually doing better than ever. 2009 was the second best year since 1987. Other than sending out media releases and trying to get a word in on radio and TV, it’s difficult to compete with the million dollar budgets of our tax money the authorities use to spin their side of the story. The sort of leverage to get articles, opinions and “catchy slogans” in the media that advertising money can buy is amazing, but not hard to see clearly for what it is.
“Separation” issues, bus lanes use, legalised filtering and advance stop zones are still no further along the path of realisation. Wire Rope Barriers are more prolific now than ever before. We still have the unfair “Safety” levy indexed to rise each year and more road space is being handed to the extremely well run and funded bicycle lobby group, often at the expense and safety of motorcyclists. Review of exhaust noise levels is a pipe dream and now stricter enforcement of ridiculous ADRs (like rear fenders) is putting more and more bikes off the roads and money into the government coffers. A plethora of “safety initiatives” such as enforcing ABS and airbags on new bikes and mandating protective clothing is also being drawn up. Our single redeeming win with footpath parking is seeing more and more attempts to have it withdrawn.
Any article on what the MRA(Vic) has been doing cannot be complete without mentioning the work done to promote a better image for motorcyclists. Members of the board have been flat out with helping various charity events such as Ride for the Hills, Eureka Run, Docklands Community Safety Day, Fatality Free Friday and many more. We’ve also participated in the Myer Christmas Parade, the Cranbourne Oz GP Run and the list goes on. And don’t forget the enormous effort put in for our own Toyrun. The tireless efforts of a small crew of supporters and members of the board are often overlooked as an assumption is often made that with a membership base of six hundred or so paid members we should have an army of volunteers to help out for each event. The truth is that it’s the same group of seven to ten people doing all the work on the events and less than eight doing the work involved in the lobbying effort. These volunteers and those that assist at events have our proudest, warmest and most sincere thanks but again the question must be asked, is the effort put in towards achieving the aims we set out for working, or are we flogging a dead horse over and over again? A legion of burnt out ex-volunteers would probably lean towards the latter.
The lobby effort
The silent and often misunderstood aspect of the lobbying effort is the tedious and thankless task of sitting on the various Road Safety Committees, Councils and related stakeholder groups. This also involves an incredible amount of reading, research and writing submissions which usually falls to only three or four members of the board and it must be stressed that the work these people do is exceptional considering the lack of resources. Notwithstanding their efforts, this alone cannot be the only mechanism to promote the motorcyclist’s perspective to those that make decisions for our entire community. Funding, sponsorship of media campaigns and awareness advertising must also be part of the tool chest and this is seriously lacking in our current organisation. The final area we’ll call “civic action” to grab the attention of the community is yet another aspect that has a place but is again something that a lack of active support makes almost impossible. So the question on our minds is whether the MRA(Vic) is the best vehicle to represent riders moving forward or is there a better way? How do we compare to other “like purpose” organisations and how is the landscape of the future looking? Never to let a conceited view cloud our introspective, there is a strong consensus that the MRA(Vic) has had its day in its present form and to move forward we have to recognise the need to change.
Numbers. The single item any government looks at with lobby groups is the numbers. If they cannot affect a difference in the voting choice of the community, then that group doesn’t matter. In the late seventies when the MRA was founded there was not the plethora of social riding clubs there are today. The MRA ranks rapidly swelled and expanded into other states but since the nineties the membership has dwindled as other alternatives became more attractive and the MRA imploded in scandal. Today the single membership structure works against a broad representation and the sort of numbers required to be taken seriously.
Representation. Our membership is made up of predominantly on-road riders. The focus on road related issues precludes off road and sport riders which are actually the majority of license holders! Organisations for trail bikes, scooters and motor sport enthusiasts have memberships far above the MRA(Vic) already yet there is not a cohesive body in effect to maximise the potential by joining these groups in a united lobby effort in Victoria. You may have read in our August 2010 report the attempt at involving the clubs but we found that clubs were reluctant to associate with the MRA(Vic).
Nationalisation of road rules. The Federal and State governments are following a paradigm of standardising the rules across the nation. Within a few years all road rules will be nationally based. State only based lobbying will become ineffective.
Inward focus. We cannot disassociate the negativity, baggage and inward focus involving unsavoury incidents with certain members of past executives. There was even an unsuccessful push to create a new organisation in 2003 for the very same reasons. The respect of many years of good work by the MRA has been irrevocably undermined by this contemptible behaviour evident over the last decade. How has this benefited the cause for rider rights for Victorian riders?
Sponsorship. Over the last year we have tried to garner support from the industry and other motorcycle stakeholders and have found we cannot attract any support because of the history of inward focus described above. Modern lobbying is expensive. The days of chook raffles are mere chicken feed compared to the millions of dollars required to be effective in raising awareness in the community to drive political will to change anything.
Simply re-badging the MRA(Vic) is a problem more than a solution. The situation is the proverbial “chicken and egg” problem; the MRA(Vic) needs to formally step aside before a new organisation can be built around industry and rider support. Otherwise confusion on what is happening and distrust will spoil the effort. It would be remiss to say our intention is to cease having a representative lobby group and for the members to simply agree to this. The intent is to facilitate the arena for a new group to be formed backed by the motorcycle industry and community that does not hold any formal ties to the MRA(Vic) and there are many players willing to participate. How this new organisation is structured could be modelled like a council of clubs such as the MCC of NSW which has many advantages and a burgeoning membership of 50,000 members, but at this early stage the first step is to restructure the lobbying effort to the Victorian Motorcycle Council with a clean slate. Who knows, perhaps we will end up with a registered political party to vote for at the next election!
It will be an exciting and rejuvenating time for riders in Victoria with opportunity for all to become involved. The new organisation is a branch of a national collective and many discussions have already taken place at this level. Currently the futures committee of the AMC is working on its future and this could also include restructuring that body to incorporate the changes proposed in other states and Victoria.
The motion for a special resolution to be put to the members at the 2011 AGM on March 18th.
The MRA(Vic) is to be formally wound up and all assets including intellectual property be packaged and transferred to the Victorian Motorcycle Council to carry on protecting and promoting rider’s rights.
We behove all MRA(Vic) members to encourage riders to support the Victorian Motorcycle Council (VMC) and spread the word in the motorcycle community. The VMC holds positions at the VMAC and is associated with the Australian Motorcycle Council. The current Road Safety and VMAC positions held by current members as representative of the MRA(Vic) will remain until the VMC appoints their representatives.
The motion passed at the MRA(Vic) QGM3 last year was for the board to work towards having a final membership vote on this at the 2011 AGM. Therefore the membership Renewal date will be shifted to the 2011 AGM so that memberships will be valid to the last moment to hold the vote. If the vote on this motion is carried then the board members will begin the process with the Bayston Group law firm already engaged. If the vote is against then it will be necessary to find someone else to carry it on as the majority of the current board are not renominating.
Make no mistake, the MRA(Vic) is at a crossroads. The executive has recognised the impasse we have now reached and the daunting task that would be required to try and lift the MRA(Vic) as it is to be an effective lobby group. But this time a way forward to improve the representation for riders is actually on the cards and we hope the opportunity is not missed.
But I just paid for a membership?
The current 2010 financial memberships expire at the 2011 AGM. Any member that has paid for a further membership through 2011 has the right to a refund if the vote is carried. It will be up to each individual member to decide whether to let those funds be included in the assets handed to the VMC or contact the membership secretary to arrange a refund upon presentation of their receipt.
What about the MRA Cranbourne GP run?
For many years the City of Casey has funded and run the MRA Cranbourne GP Run with the MRA(Vic) providing marshals for the event. We propose to formally hand this over to the City of Casey to continue the traditional event.
What about the Toyrun?
The majority of Toy runs are organised by the Ulysses Club branches or local clubs. The Melbourne Toyrun committee will be seeking the interest of clubs to take on this legacy as well as taking care of the Toyrun website.
What about the 4Bs?
Alois Zimmer is still the chairman for the 4BS and he is looking at options to merge with other funded support groups.
What about the website?
The Websites and domain names are part of the intellectual property of the MRA(Vic) and will be transferred to the VMC. The host service will be available to the VMC to formalize the changeover if they choose to do so. The board acknowledges the tireless efforts of Gavin Stilgoe in maintaining this service.
This article appears in the February 2011 Riders Advocate Edition 08 being delivered now as official notification to members prior to the AGM2011.
The Road Less Travelled