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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 141


Mr DICK (Oxley) (17:06): Let's cut to the chase after all that gobbledegook we've heard from the government, all the excuses about round tables on round tables, committees on committees and reports into reports—I don't want to stand in this parliament one minute longer; I want to get to the real issue of what mechanics and the small businesses in Australia want. They want the government to take action. It's all very well to have lectures from the government saying: 'We've looked into this for a couple of years. We're going to make a determination. We're going to take a review.' Five years into government and they've done nothing. Go and talk to local mechanics in their electorates. They'll tell you what you've got to do. They know. So, instead of making excuses and trying to come up with some way to not make the decision, you need to go and listen to what the industry is saying: listen to the peak body, listen to the small businesses and actually listen to the mum-and-dad operators. That's what I've done as a local federal member.

I start today's debate by congratulating and acknowledging the member for Fenner and the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, for their advocacy and leadership in this area because we believe, Labor believes, that consumers should have choice about where they get their car serviced, and that's what they will get under Labor's Your Car, Your Choice policy.

As the cars, utes and vans of the 21st century become more sophisticated, particularly with motoring technology, we know that the role of a local mechanic and service centre is not what it once was. We know that this information is getting harder and harder to access—you don't have to be Einstein to work that out. Instead, more and more car and vehicle manufacturers are holding back the information from local service centres. Presently, car manufacturers generally own and control technical information, and in many cases are the only sources of re-initialisation codes and software upgrades. This means independent car repairers, who comprise the majority of Australian mechanics, are at a competitive disadvantage. I know this because I've met and spoken to them in my own electorate.

I also invited the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Treasurer to meet with small businesses in my own community. I was really proud that they both took up that opportunity and sat down with businesses and asked: 'What do you want government to do? How can we fix this problem?' That is what real leadership is about—not hiding behind reports, not hiding behind round tables and not hiding time and time again, which is just delaying.

I speak about people like Ian from Mr Spanner's Automotive in my own electorate at Sumner Park and Scott from Future Auto Sumner Park. I know how much this would mean for local businesses like them. Scott told me that not only would it allow his local business to better service local residents but it would also be a huge win for our local economy as he could employ more mechanics and more apprentices to apply their trade.

I'd also like to particularly acknowledge the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association for their leadership in this area. I know that they’ve been talking to members of the government. I know that they have been dragging them kicking and screaming. They just want to see some action. For all the talk about jobs and growth, we're not seeing any movement whatsoever in this sector. They’ve been at the forefront of this push, and I would like to thank particularly their executive director, Stuart Charity, and his colleagues, Lesley Yates and Nigel Bishop, who have been 100 per cent supportive of this change to look after our local mechanics, their employees and, perhaps most importantly, the local residents who have their cars serviced locally.

We know that the current system just isn't working. Motorists and local service centres are getting ripped off by the big players. This was clear from the ACCC inquiry into the car retailing industry, whose final report was released in December last year. It concluded that the industry's voluntary code has failed. It has failed to address the problem and as a result it is hurting small businesses. There are increases in prices for consumers, providing less choice, with the impact, interestingly, being felt most in regional areas. So there has been a comprehensive review of the industry and recommendations which would result in fairer competition and benefits for every Australian household and, more importantly, for every independent repairer.

They argue that this is already a voluntary code and it needs more time. However, the voluntary code is three years old, and the ACCC report found that many manufacturers refused outright to conform to the code, while others used loopholes to withhold information from independent repairers. So, today, I call on the government to adopt Labor's Your Choice, Your Car policy of mandatory information sharing, which could require car manufacturers to share technical information with independent mechanics, so the independent mechanics and mum-and-dad operators in my community will get a fair go and so that consumers will get a fair go, because they deserve choice and they simply aren't getting it from the Turnbull government.