What does Senator Ricky Muir believe in and what has he achieved? We asked, he answered…

Ricky Muir was elected to the Senate in 2014 for six years on record low primary vote of about half a percent, and less than two years later he voted himself out of a job by refusing to back down on government legislation.
The political commentariat was initially sceptical of the blue-collar worker from Gippsland, instantly leaping to the mainstream media conclusion that anyone who liked V8s, 4WDs and guns would probably stammer semi-coherent support for right-wing policies. But Ricky has proved them wrong, quickly building a reputation for being his own man and thinking through the issues. 
The first time we interviewed Senator Muir he suggested we meet at a local autocross event…in which we both competed, and used my Toyota 86 as the interview studio. This time we grabbed a different set of keys, met in the little town of Walhalla, then from there we went offroading in the Victorian High Country, and used my Ranger as the interview studio. 
A Ford Ranger makes a handy interview studio.
What’s it like to be a Senator on a day-to-day basis?
Ricky said there’s three main things that occupy his day; bills, listening to groups, getting out and about, and “in a word, busy.”
There are plenty of “bills to read, decide which way you’d vote”. Sometimes these are very lengthy, so he has the assistance of staff to help analyse them. Then there’s the lobby groups, “always someone in your ear”, but his favourite part is “getting out and seeing how the decisions of parliament affect the wider population”.
Every senator has a small amount of funds to spend in their constituency, and Ricky chose to fund these signs as one of his projects.

What’s Ricky Muir’s views on…?

There’s several hot-topic issues in Australia at any given time. We picked a few so you can see where this senator stands:
The economy and debt
“A bit of debt in moderation is not a bad thing. But if we’re going to have governments spending money we don’t have that’s not a good thing. The economy has to be moving, able to operate. There’s no point having an economy where businesses can’t operate.”
Negative gearing
“There is scope to have a really serious conversation about negative gearing. You don’t want to turn off investors, but maybe we should look at a cap  [ number of properties ]. Some developers have 10, 20, 30, 40 properties.”
Climate change
“Such an emotional issue! If there’s a cleaner way to do things, we should. I stand by that principle. I’m pro looking at ways to create a cleaner economy.”
Renewables vs Coal
“I come from the La Trobe Valley. There is so much [ coal based ] employment in the area…when you have special interest groups saying you just need to turn it off right now, that’s blind ideology, you can’t do that yet. We don’t have the baseload technology, there will be a progressive move away from coal. An instant off is impossible. You have one side of government saying we’re going to change everything right now, the other side saying hang on let’s look after people and transition. That sets up a three year cycle of people not knowing what’s going on…if the conversation was more level-headed, more sensible, every job lost is another gained, there would be more certainty.”
“Definitely moving towards a more online society. Whether it’s NBN or some other infrastructure, we need it. In general I’m pretty supportive of the concept of the NBN.”
Gay marriage
“I believe that if someone wants to marry they can marry, it’s not going to make the sky fall down, same-sex relationships should be able to marry.
“The debate is clouded by fear. We should not base policy on fear, we need to show a lot of compassion. Why are people coming here? It’s for refuge. We have a responsibility to look after those genuinely in need. Do we need to change our humanitarian intake? Maybe. We can definitely have a discussion about it. We have a process which has at least slowed the people coming in. If we can reduce the amount of time in detention that would be a positive thing.”
Foreign ownership
“Not had too much of a chance to investigate that area. I think there is a relatively strong case to be careful about how much land we sell to who, especially large parts of the land. Is it in Australia’s best interest? Should we lease rather than sell?”
Great Forest National Park [ Victorian state issue ]
“Federally, I can’t have much of an influence. I do have a great deal of concern. From everywhere I stand, it’s something to be pretty concerned about. A lot of the rural towns hadn’t even been discussed in relation to this. A lot of the economics…recreational trail riding, 4WD…there’s some kind of proposal in there but it’s very very minute.”
“Because I came out in support of law abiding firearm owners and pointed the facts out people think I want to scrap firearm laws. I will fight skin and bones for no changes. What the government and anti-firearm groups were trying to say was false. I don’t agree with dealing with fear in relation to refugees and immigration or the environment, so why would I allow people to have an argument about fear with relation to firearms that isn’t factual? Australia’s gun laws do not need any strengthening whatsoever.”
“I have a very strong view that preventative health care is the best form of health care, and having the funds there to help people when they have become ill, no matter the cause.”
Ricky’s newly bought Toyota 80 Series on its first offroad run.

Automotive matters

Ricky is a member of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, and this website is about motoring, so let’s dive into some more specific motoring matters:
Grey imports
This is the proposal to permit near-new vehicle imports, mooted for when local car manufacturing ceases.
“A lot of people saying there will be eight-year-old vehicles, run down, unsafe, wound back odometers [ false mileage ]…if you paid any attention to the proposal it’s only for new vehicles, only for near-new old cars, up to 500km, only a couple of years old. There’s a pretty strong case to consider the personal import of vehicles here.” 
Who will protect the consumer when they import?
“You can have a broker. Consumer protection is an important thing. You do need checks and controls, ensure the cars are what they’re supposed to be. You’re reliant on the private industry, but the government has a role to regulate. It’s a great conversation, there’s reason to suspect personal imports might put downwards pressure on the price of new vehicles, but without having the review these ideas can’t be discussed in parliament anyway. If you speak about imports people think you’re about mass imports, but the rules really affect the high-end market. I think it was predicted about 30,000 vehicles tops, and considering we bought 1.1 million vehicles in a year…most people who are going to buy vehicles are going to go down to the local dealer and buy.”   
What about parts?
“You can struggle to get parts for local vehicles, and we live in a global market. I definitely think markets would adapt. Could be an industry that starts up.”
Genuine parts
This is the FCAI’s campaign to promote manufacturer-supplied parts over aftermarket, and especially counterfeit.
“Manufacturers generally don’t make the parts anyway. I can rattle off a brand of bearings, pay three times when genuine, exactly the same part. There’s a big difference between aftermarket and counterfeit. Vehicles as they come out of the factory are a compromise. We’re sitting in a vehicle that’s been built for a purpose…if you’re going to use it offroad like you do, you need aftermarket suspension to get that extra clearance, carry a little bit more weight, your vehicle can be modified to suit.”
Have you see the counterfeit problem?
“Not really. There has been an inquiry into the future of the automotive industry, but counterfeit I haven’t really heard all that much about. But counterfeit is dangerous.”
Lemon laws
This is the ability of a new car buyer to return a vehicle that has consistent and serious faults.
“When a consumer buys a brand new vehicle that’s the second biggest investment, outside of a house. You’ve done the right thing, gone to the dealer, got a factory warranty, made an investment. You do hear about problems a lot, recall after recall, a certain issue, owner’s gone in to get it fixed up, happened again and again.”
“I would support lemon laws. This has happened elsewhere in the world. You can understand the concern [ from the dealers ], someone coming back about a broken bonnet latch, but that doesn’t happen elsewhere. There are ways you can protect against that.”
Road toll
“There was a senate enquiry into road safety. We don’t do education – driving education. Cars are getting more and more complex, ABS and so on, people don’t know what these things are until they activate. We need to actually understand what the tech is and how to use it. Making drivers be aware of their surroundings. We’re taught how to pass a test, then you’re out on the roads. It’s really about making drivers competent from the word go.” 
Do you advocate defensive/risk based or car control/skidpan training?
“Definitely not ’90s style lose control/regain control. It’s about understanding the technology, risk based.”
Should we have different licenses for dirt roads, trailers, etc.?
“It’s a hard one to say politically, some people are going to get quite ticked off with the discussion. I’d be interested to explore this area a little more. There’s room to consider some kind of graduated licensing.”
Any other suggestions for the road toll?
“Proper data collection. Right now when there’s an incident it seems there’s a little checklist, ‘speed was factor’. And if someone is 1-2k over the limit we’ll hide a camera at the bottom of the hill and send them a little letter because that’s going to stop them speeding at the time, it’s becoming a revenue raising joke and people see it for what it is. Something that the inquiry into road safety highlighted is that we don’t collect enough data, and it’s only for fatal crashes.” 
“We also need more money for regional roads. Widening roads. Councils aren’t getting the money they need to maintain the roads. In recent years local councils had a reduction of their financial assistance grant which was the money they were using to maintain roads. You have ruts on a bitumen road you just aquaplane over…we need a consistent amount of money every year for roads. Public transport can reduce the number of vehicles on the road, if it is accessible, so that’s another area that needs to be looked at.”
Any more about public transport? What about cyclists, better rail links?
“Definitely a great point to be made about public transport, cyclist lanes, I think that’s something really important to look at as transport in general.”
What are some of the biggest challenges in the automotive industry?
“Stopping local vehicle manufacturing. We’re going to have a whole lot of people who have been making cars and who are going to be unemployed, and there aren’t too many government programmes in place to utilise their skills in being competitive in the global market.”
Do you think we can be competitive in the global market?
“We actually manufacture a lot more than people think. Bombardier are making trams, Tomcar are building a vehicle in Australia. Nissan makes casting for electric vehicles, done here in Australia.”
So you see us making niche products?
“Yes, absolutely, we have the skills and we can have make a lot of them. If we become a country of services we’re going to end up in trouble at some stage.”
Vehicle servicing
The debate about whether independent mechanics get the same access to servicing data and tools as car dealers.
“You own the vehicle, and the consumer needs a choice as to where they service the vehicle, there’s no way known the dealer networks could pick up the slack of 200,000 repairers across Australia anyway, and there are lots of rural repairers which service areas not covered by dealers. I was about to introduce a mandatory service and repair code just before parliament was dissolved [ this has now been done ], right now it’s an in-principle agreement nobody needs to comply to. Make the independent repairers pay a cost for it [ service data ], that’s fair enough, happens in other places in the world.”
Should there be rebates for fuel efficient vehicles?
“Encouragement, yeah definitely, not necessarily enforcement. You had old 4WDs, you could get a naturally aspirated [ non-turbo ] 4.2L last 1 million kays, now 2.2L diesels lasting 200,000km…while the emissions might be low you’re turning over engines a lot quicker, the vehicle isn’t lasting as long. I don’t think anyone’s done any study into the total life cycle of the vehicle.”
Every 4WDer has done this, the pre-drive track walk. We discussed the flatter line to the right which was wet rock and off-camber, or the steeper line to the left which had a few ledges.

What have you achieved over your 22 months in office?

“Having the senate inquiry around road safety, cracking the silence around driver education and training, getting other parliamentarians to look past ‘oh it makes people overconfident’ to ‘maybe we should be training people to be more aware and alert, smarter on the roads’.  Getting the evidence, we need to be collecting more crash data on injuries that have occurred, near misses, not focusing on speed so much. We’ve been working on it. That felt like a big win, but people don’t see it, it’s a committee process, it’s boring.”
“A consistent approach to modifications, clear, plausible and possible, easy to follow nationally consistent approaches.”
“At a local level, starting the conversation about recreational vehicles, the need for some sort of consistency at a federal level, so everybody in every state can get out and enjoy their recreation, and create economic stimulus from doing so.”
“Tried to prevent vehicles being stolen and shipped overseas, the government laughed at that, thought it was a joke. The fact is, there is no PPSR [ personal property security check ] check at our borders when a vehicle is put on a container, and we know it’s a problem.”
“Working with the government to get wood and biomass included in the renewal energy target, breaking down the fear that was put in the public, dealing in facts. We have a sustainable timber industry in Australia, not like the Greens screaming all the time about wood furnaces.”
“Sticking up for law abiding firearm owners. When the anti-firearm groups were trying to spread misinformation about certain actions of firearms, just being calm, level headed and putting the facts on the table.” 
Wet rock and out of departure angle. Would you believe this was at 4pm?

And if you are re-elected, what will you do?

“We’ve got recommendations for the senate of inquiry for driver training. Getting those recommendations, then pushing for them.”
“I’d push for the driver education code.” [ mentioned above ] 
“Service and repair data. That’s been floating around for a while.” [ since been launched with the AAAA ]
“The 2011 consumer law is being reviewed now, so look at lemon laws.”
“A good look at car personal importation without the fear.”
“Trying to look after the aftermarket industry, while we’re losing manufacturing.”
“Pushing for sensible, preventative healthcare. Got to start somewhere.”

What would you block or stand against?

“A few things. Deregulation of the university sector and so on. Universities are one of our biggest exports but we don’t need to be pricing local students out.”
“GP co-payments, that’s still floating around.”
“I asked the government about mobile blackspot funding and there was no funding for round 3…I used the example of Walhalla where there was a recent fatality, emergency services can’t communicate even with sat phones”.  [ the government just announced they would fund Walhalla’s phone coverage ]
And final words?
“Use your vote really wisely. Over the last couple of years the value of independents has been recognised.” 

Related links

Ricky Muir is a trailbike rider, autocrosser, burnout lover, fisher, shooter and 4WDer.

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  1. We need more sensible people like R Muir in Government. Unfortunately common sense, is not that common.

  2. It’s a shame he was unsuccessful this time around. The media didn’t necessarily help by always highlighting his entry in to the senate, but he was a politician with conviction, with the ability to talk fact, talk sense not emotion and really proved himself to those prepared to listen. I hope he ends up back in Parliament to keep the b@stards honest again.

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