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Tuesday, 10 April 1973
Page: 1285

Mr KERIN (Macarthur) - I wish to raise a matter which is affecting more and more people in my electorate and, I am sure, in all electorates. I will be speaking about the problems of consumers, particularly with respect to the purchase of motor vehicles and so-called warranties. To do this, I will bring to the attention of honourable members one specific case which is typical of many complaints that 1 and State Australian Labor Party members in Macarthur are receiving. On 1st September 1972, a constituent from Shellharbour purchased a Datsun 1200 utility for $2,087, phis registration and insurance. Although the vehicle was sold to him as new on a 6 months or 6,000-mile warranty, it was later learned that the vehicle was a 1971 model. There was no obvious evidence of rust in the vehicle at that time, but after 3 weeks when the utility was put in for servicing if was discovered that there was rust in the panels of the car. Soon after, the paint work began to fade on some panels and the car, instead of being a uniform blue, started to resemble a patchwork of fading panels which could not be restored by rubbing back as it subsequently was learned that the undercoat used was of a gloss base on some panels.

The owner paid $100 in service costs during the 6 months warranty period to preserve the guarantee. He started to suspect that he had been sold a demonstrator model which had been involved in an accident or a second hand vehicle which had been involved in an accident. Neither of these suspicions could be proved. However, his suspicions could well have been true because from then on the vehicle began steadily to deteriorate although, other than a tail shaft wobble that prevented the vehicle being driven above 40 miles an hour, its mechanical condition was not too bad. But the vehicle had become a first grade 'lemon' in the United States vernacular.

From this time on this poor owner engaged in argument between himself and the company from which he bought the car and, eventually, the New South Wales agent, Capitol Motors Ltd. He wrote to the Nissan company in Japan and to the Consumer Affairs Bureau. He went through every process possibly available to him. The list of jobs that eventually the company agreed to do included the following: The bonnet had to be resprayed, the upper outer corners of the windscreen sealing rubber had to be resealed - to no avail, eventually - the corners were sticking out from the bodywork and there were buff marks on the right hand side of the turret. The list goes on for pages and pages. After all this work was done, he again decided, the National Roads and Motorists Association decided after a subsequent inspection and Capitol Motors decided after another inspection that there was still a large amount of work to be done on the car. The front bonnet had to be resprayed again - the rust was showing - the tailgate had to be resprayed, the undercarriage had to be treated with rust prevention material and repainted, windscreen rubbers had to be replaced, the car leaked, there was a whining noise in the differential, there was vibration in the vehicle and it had an erratic fuel gauge. Again, the list goes on. The Japanese company, NissanDatsun, expressed great and prompt concern for this man and his troubles with his vehicle and stated that it considered that the New South Wales State distributor, Capitol Motors, should work to overcome his problems.

As I stated at the outset, this is not an isolated case and there is a general requirement for overall remedial action from both consumer and safety points of view. These eventually will involve governmental action, and the sooner the better, in my opinion. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) referred last week to the Government's plans with respect to road safety. It is about time that Australia paid much more attention to safety problems caused by vehicle defects. I refer honourable members to an article in the "National Times' of 5th March 1973, in which many of these consumer problems are outlined. The 3 major United States car manufacturers in Australia and the United Kingdom firm British Leylond enjoyed different conditions from those pertaining to their parent companies. But now Leyland has set out to emulate the buyer protection scheme introduced by American motors which resulted in their lifting sales by 20 per cent. It is to be hoped that the same reward will accrue to Leyland in Australia in its pace setting endeavour. The article states:

The Australian consumer should know about American conditions in order to judge whether things need to be changed in Australia.

In Australia motor vehicle safety is on an advisory State level and is dependent upon the voluntary cooperation of the auto industry. In the US the Federal Government controls motor vehicle safety standards and compliance by the auto industry, local and foreign, is mandatory. Federal control has: (a) made cars safer for Americans; (b) not cut back private enterprise; (c) has not interfered with commercial competition.

The assistance and protection afforded the prospective car buyer and the car owner In the US are detailed in the 1972 Annual Report from the US Department of Transportation which also:

Publishes comparative performance data sheets on all vehicles, both local and imported.

Publishes figures for tyre reserve loads and braking performances on a comparative basis for all vehicles available to the public.

Requires all manufacturers and dealers, local and foreign, to provide information performance sheets, including clear statements regarding the manufacturer's compliance with the US Federal Department's mandatory Federal Motor Vehicle Safety, Standards.

Requires all manufacturers and dealers to make this information available to all inquirers whether buyers or not, precisely for comparative shopping.

Publishes annually and makes available to the public in booklet form the Federal Motor Vehicle Standards.

Publishes fact sheets which deal with a variety of vehicles and traffic subjects in an easily understood way. . . .

Gives its Consumer Protection Bulletin the widest possible circulation through the news media. . . .

Uses the Public Advisory bodies to alert the public to dangers in general categories of vehicle equipment.

Believes the public has a right to a prompt and responsive hearing of individual complaints. . .

Earlier I referred to this constituent of mine. It is quite obvious that his complaints have not had a fair hearing at governmental or company level. The Australian Government must give similar protection to the Australian consumer by asking all United States car companies operating through subsidiaries in Australia, and all other subsidiaries which import vehicles, to meet the same safety and pollution control standards as well as notification of defects and recall programs as is the case in the United States of America.

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