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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11511

Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (17:23): I rise today to speak on this very important private member's motion that's been raised by the member for Oxley. I want to congratulate him for doing this, and I want to add my support to Labor's plan to implement an industry-specific auto dealership code that will finally deliver clear ground rules for manufacturers and dealerships. It aims to make the industry fairer and to be of benefit to local businesses and consumers in general.

In 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission handed down a report on the new car retail industry which estimated that there were 1,500 new car dealers, 3,500 new car retail outlets and around 1.1 million cars sold in the year 2016-17 alone. One of the biggest purchases for families will be a new car. As the ACCC estimated, buying a car and its ongoing maintenance accounts for around five per cent of average annual household expenditure. The car retailing industry reportedly earned an estimated $64 billion in revenue during the same financial year of 2016-17. In Calwell alone, the electorate I represent, we had a turnover of nearly $558 million. However, the report also highlighted some serious issues regarding the imbalance of power in favour of the big manufacturers, which leaves the dealers and repairs powerless in assisting the consumers in the way that they would want to. This is a situation that also imperils the viability and the future of local car repairers and car dealers.

This year, I did get the opportunity to meet with many of the local dealers and car repairers in my electorate. In particular, I want to talk about Damien and Debbie Theuma of Active Motor Repairs in Craigieburn. They and other local business owners detailed to me the difficulties they were facing with the advent of car dealerships monopolising the repair and warranty market. The lack of data sharing, in particular, has affected their businesses and highlighted the importance of legislating a mandatory code for data sharing. Business owners like Damien and Debbie feel that the ACCC's report should be adopted in its entirety. This report concluded that vehicle manufacturers that sell into the Australian market limit access to service and repair information for independent repairers. The report also found that the 'predatory behaviour'—that is how Debbie described it—of the manufacturers created an artificial monopoly and allowed manufacturers to inflate the mark-ups on servicing and repairs. This was creating a problem for their business locally.

The ACCC's report also further concluded that independent repairers were experiencing issues in gaining access to the technical information needed to repair and service new cars. Access to technical information held by car manufacturers was becoming increasingly important as repairing and servicing new cars relies on access to electronic information and data produced by car manufacturers. If those local businesses don't have access to that information, they can't then do the business that they are set up for. That creates a whole series of other issues for them. Car manufacturers had previously committed to providing independent repairers with the same access to technical information as the manufacturers' authorised dealers on commercially fair and reasonable terms. However, the ACCC discovered problems with the level of detail that was being provided and timeliness of the technical information given, which further disadvantaged the smaller car repairers and dealers locally.

The ACCC considered that independent repairers having access to this technical information was important—and my local constituents have emphasised that—to ensure competition and, ultimately, to benefit consumers. The ACCC proposed a mandatory scheme for car manufacturers to share technical information. It is this mandatory code recommendation that is supported by Labor and all of the independent repairer associations; the consumer bodies; the auto associations, such as the NRMA and the RACQ; the insurance industry; the Australian Automotive Dealer Association; and all of the major auto repair chains, including Kmart Tyre and Auto Service, Repco Authorised Service and Bridgestone.

There is a large network of dealers and repairers who are crying out for this code. I'm very pleased to be supporting the member for Oxley today in this private member's motion and in highlighting the need for the government to move on this issue. I have written to the Treasurer, and I still await a commitment.