Ride operators stage spectacular strike as insurance crisis talks collapse

The rides are one of the biggest assets of regional shows, but ride owners say their future is uncertain due to rising insurance costs.

Operators staged a 15-minute strike at trade shows in the New South Wales and Queensland region to highlight the issue.

After a weekend stop at the Hawkesbury Show, Australia’s biggest regional show, organizers said they hoped to raise awareness of the “liability crisis” facing the industry.

Amusement Services Australia director Amanda McPherson said the rising cost of insurance had “crippled” the industry.

“Premiums soared, our own business was shut down for 18 months because we couldn’t get cover,” Ms McPherson said.

To operate on Crown land, third party liability is a legal requirement for ride owners to ensure the safety of participants.

“A kick in the guts”

On the eve of an election, talks with the federal government and leading industry bodies broke down last week.

A solution recommended by Australia’s Small Business and Family Business Ombudsman has been rejected.

Australian Amusement, Leisure and Recreation Association (AALARA) chairman Shane McGrath said it felt like a “kick in the gut” for the industry.

“We were told support would come if we went through the process, yet this was not included in the recent budget and last week we received an official rejection of our solution,” he said. .

The Laughing Clowns game in the show aisle.
No laughing matter: the industry says that the rejection of a proposed solution was like a “kick in the gut”.(ABC Mid North Coast: Emma Siossian)

A discretionary mutual fund proposed to provide insurance-like protection to traders has been rejected by the federal government.

In a statement to Radio National Breakfast earlier this week, a Deputy Treasury spokesman Michael Sukkar said the government was “considering recommendations from the Small Business Ombudsman on the most appropriate mechanism to support the industry”.

“Our insurance costs have gone up 300% in just 12 months, which is completely unmanageable for our members,” said McGrath.

David Allen stands in his food van.David Allen stands in his food van.
David Allan says he hopes stopping the ride will draw attention to the industry’s predicament. (ABC Coffs Coast: Indiana Hansen)

Showmen’s Guild of Australasia delegate David Allan said the 300 per cent increase was unsustainable for many ride operators.

“We don’t want to annoy people, they’ve paid a lot of money to come here, it’s only 15 minutes to make people aware of our plight,” he told the Coffs Harbor Show on Saturday morning, before stopping the journey. .

“We should be applauded…those here are paying to the teeth for insurance. »

The future of country shows

Coffs Harbor is one of nine regional NSW and Queensland fairs that took part in the walk.

Show Society President Christopher Pearson said many operators have been significantly affected by insurance hikes over the past two years.

“The protest won’t have as much of an impact on spectators as the fees will go up,” he said.

“There are two rides on Coffs Harbor Fairgrounds alone that are just sitting there unable to operate because they can’t find the appropriate $20 million insurance. »

A man in a suit stands in the side aisle.A man in a suit stands in the side aisle.
Christopher Pearson has been heavily involved with the Coffs Harbor Show for many years.(ABC Coffs Coast: Indiana Hansen)

With a rich 200-year history and more than 500 regional shows across the country, rides have become part of Australian culture.

Other shows that participated in the walk-off were shows from Bingara, Bourke, Orange, Yeoval, Gympie, Ipswich, Charleville and Brookfield.

Two men dressed in red and white shirts stand in front of a show ring.Two men dressed in red and white shirts stand in front of a show ring.
Ride operators took part in the 15-minute strike at regional shows across NSW and Queensland. (ABC Coffs Coast: Indiana Hansen)

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