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Opposition back-pedals into political car-crash

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The State Opposition’s back-pedalling on new cycling laws has put it into political conflict with one of its key strategists.

Mark Textor, managing director of strategic research supremos Crosby Textor, is chairman of the Amy Gillett Foundation.

Crosby Textor was reportedly hired by the SA Liberal Party for its internal research following a personal presentation by Textor.

This month, as chairman of the foundation, he welcomed the Weatherill Government’s move to change the road rules, enforcing a minimum metre’s distance be kept between cars and cyclists, allowing motorists to cross double lines to overtake bikes and letting cyclists ride on public footpaths.

Textor called it a “history-making initiative”, saying: “We now have the first state to put ‘a metre matters’ into law”.

“The foundation has spearheaded the national effort on this because it will help save lives.”

But the Liberals have put the “history-making initiative” on hold, moving to suspend the regulations pending a broader consultation.

Contacted by InDaily today, Textor said the foundation was “in discussion with (the Liberals) about it”.

“We’re trying to determine what the proposals are … we don’t have a position until we fully understand what their position,” he said.

But Amy Gillett Foundation spokesman David Culbert said any move to suspend the new laws “would make cycling less safe”.

“We’d like to see those laws remain,” he said.

“The new safe cycling laws are there to help make cycling safer … it would certainly be disappointing if this landmark move by SA is impacted.”

Textor refused to detail what work he had done for the SA Liberal Party since the 2014 state election, when the party infamously spurned the opportunity to secure Crosby Textor’s services.

“We’re not engaged by the SA Liberals,” he insisted, but declined to say whether he had done any work for them in the past 18 months.

“What I do with either hat on is a matter for me and my clients … what work we do with private commercial clients has got nothing to do with the matter at hand,” he said.

“The simple answer is we’re not engaged by the SA Liberals.”

But a spokesman for Liberal leader Steven Marshall said Crosby Textor had done research for the party.

“They’re not contracted to do work for the leader’s office or individual MPs, it’s done for the Liberal Party,” he said.

He said the company would not be involved in the consultation on the bike laws, which would be done by individual MPs within their electorates.

After being contacted by InDaily, Textor tweeted: “Nothing worse than a junior wood chuck reporter trying to infer a conspiracy where one doesn’t exist #muppetwatch”.

He later wrote: “We urge all SA lawmakers to take a bipartisan approach and support the one metre lawn changes, and help save lives.”

Mark Textor, a cycling advocate and a key adviser to conservative politicians across Australia. Photo: Facebook

Mark Textor, a cycling advocate and a key adviser to conservative politicians across Australia. Photo: Facebook

It’s understood there has been confusion among police officers about how the metre rule would be administered.

SA Police Association president Mark Carroll told InDaily “a good dose of common-sense will be required”.

Marshall told FIVEaa radio today the Opposition was not “blocking” the laws, but delaying them.

“We’re not blocking these, we’re not overturning these rules … what we’re doing is giving ourselves some time to do some proper consultation and some negotiation with the Government to try and clear up some of the confusion around the situation,” he said.

His transport spokesman Corey Wingard insisted there were elements of the laws the Liberals supported, and the late backflip – 10 months after the changes were flagged and two days after they came into effect – was necessary because “we just really feel the confusion that’s out there”.

Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan castigated the Opposition’s move.

“We’ve got cyclists out there who we’re trying to protect, trying to keep safe, trying to impose a greater passing distance to keep them safe, and what sort of message do they get from the other major party in this state? ‘Oh, we can’t make up our minds about whether it’s important to keep you safe or not’,” he told ABC891.

“It’s just ridiculous.”

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