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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6305


Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (17:16): I'm really pleased to speak in support of this motion moved by the member for Fenner, and I wholeheartedly congratulate him on the excellent work that he's done in consulting with the independent repair industry and coming up with what is a credible policy and a clear alternative to the government position that does clearly support those small to medium-sized businesses that operate in the mechanical repair industry in Australia that are finding it difficult to access information from the larger repairers in repairing cars for the average Australian. Really, it comes down to: whose side are you on? Whose side are you going to support? Are you going to support those smaller businesses that are struggling to make ends meet, that exist on shoestring budgets and really are in it for the love of the industry and the trade and that are trying to access that information on behalf of their customers to repair their cars and are being given the run-around by some of the larger dealerships that withhold this information simply because they can, to make life difficult and draw people back to the dealerships to get their cars serviced?

We all know that modern cars are computers on wheels. They contain many different digital files and codes, which vary from car to car. Car manufacturers generally own and control that technical information and are the only source of that information when it comes to either updating the software or repairing the car and making sure that it's roadworthy into the future. Unfortunately, in the consultations that we've had with those who work in the industry—and I've consulted with a number of them in my local community—the independent repairers and mechanics working in the smaller workshops believe that the larger repairers and dealerships are unreasonably withholding information, making it more difficult, more time-consuming and, ultimately, more costly for individuals and families to service their cars and pushing up the cost of the average car service.

Most people get their cars repaired and regularly serviced through independent mechanics, of course. We all know that we want to go to our local mechanic. When you need to get your car serviced, you want to go to someone that you know and trust, someone that you can build up a relationship with, particularly when you're talking about something that the average Australian wouldn't have a clue about. I know that most Australians looking under the bonnet of a car and talking about detailed technical information wouldn't have a clue about how to repair some of the difficulties that we have with cars. With the computer information that's contained in most cars these days, it's become harder and harder. So those independent mechanics should be able to access that information on commercial terms to ensure that they can efficiently and effectively repair cars for their customers.

I've consulted many of those independent mechanics in Kingsford Smith, who have been calling for greater government action on this issue. I want to particularly thank Silvio from Alex's Auto Services in Botany and Angelo from Torrisi Automotive in Matraville, who have done a wonderful job in supplying me with the necessary information and background to make an informed decision about this and, indeed, to question the ACCC when they appeared before the Standing Committee on Economics on this issue.

The ACCC conducted an inquiry and handed down a report in December last year. The report indicated that the voluntary code that the government have implemented simply isn't working. Many of the large dealerships simply ignore it or make it difficult for some of the independent smaller repairers to access that important information. Labor has listened to those independent repairers who repair so many family cars and small business cars throughout the country, and we say to them: we will act on your behalf. The government aren't acting. They're refusing to listen to your concerns and do something about it. But Labor will act if we are elected.

We will require car manufacturers to share with independent mechanics technical information on commercially fair and reasonable terms. But, at the same time, we will ensure that we are protecting the environment and safety features of that information. A thorough consultation has been undertaken in respect of this. We've acted on the advice of ACCC, and the member for Fenner, as the shadow minister with responsibility for this issue, has travelled around the country hearing the advice of those mechanics and has put this policy in place. It's a policy that Labor is proud to take to the next election.