ANDREW LEIGH, ACTING SHADOW TREASURER
MURRAY WATT, LABOR SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND
RUSSELL ROBERTSON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA
TUESDAY, 12 JUNE 2018
SUBJECT: Your Car, Your Choice.
RUSSELL ROBERTSON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA: Good morning everyone. My name is Russell Robertson, I'm the ALP candidate for Capricornia and we're here at The Mechanic Shop to talk about legislation in which the ALP is putting forward. I'm also joined here by Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh and Senator Murray Watt. This is another great initiative by the Labor Party and again to help out smaller businesses so an initiative to try and expose and get some information to keep these businesses viable. So again we've got the Labor Party right at the front looking after small and medium sized businesses and keeping the locals employed. I want to hand over now to Andrew and he'll talk more specifically on the pieces in which the Labor party are going to highlight.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Great. Thanks very much, Russell and great to be here talking about an important Labor initiative. Over a year ago, Labor pointed to the problem that independent mechanics don't have the data they need to fix modern cars. Modern cars are computers on wheels. They’ve got between 20 and 50 onboard computers and without those re-initalisation codes and software updates, independent mechanics are struggling to fix modern cars.
Here in Rockhampton there's around 70 independent mechanics, but less than 10 authorised dealers. So the majority of Rockhampton mechanics are independent mechanics. They need to get those software updates. Labor called for this over a year ago. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has since backed us in. We've now said that a Shorten Labor Government would put in place a mandatory data sharing policy. It simply says we should have a level playing field, that independent mechanics should get the same car data that the authorised dealers get.
No one tells you what car to buy, and no one should tell you where to get it fixed. Data sharing with independent mechanics is fundamentally about creating a level playing field, it's good for drivers, it's good for mechanics. I'll hand over now to Murray to say a few words about the regional impact of this policy.
MURRAY WATT, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Thanks Andrew and thanks Russell. I think one of the things that is really important about this particular policy is that not only will it benefit consumers and mechanics here in Rockhampton but it will have wider benefits right across central Queensland. Once you get outside Rockhampton, there are very few towns in central Queensland that have an authorised dealer so people who might buy a Ford or a Toyota or a Holden or a whatever kind of car, if it's a new one, they haven't got the option of getting that car serviced in their local town at their local independent mechanic. Instead, they've got to travel down to Rockhampton or travel to Emerald or one of the other bigger centres. So this will have a very big benefit to consumers and mechanics here in Rockhampton but an even bigger benefit once you get outside Rockhampton into some of the smaller towns in Central Queensland
Andrew has covered off the detail of this policy so I probably don't need to elaborate but the only other thing I wanted to say is that this policy will be a real win for both small business and for motorists here in central Queensland. For independent mechanics, small businesses like here at The Mechanic Shop, they will get access to the kind of information that is currently held tightly by authorised dealerships. What that means for small business is that they have the opportunity to get more custom, to grow their business and employ more local mechanics which is great for the local economy. But if you're a local motorist, the other benefit is it's going to give you more choice about where you can take your car to be serviced. We all know generally speaking that more choice drives prices down so this is going to be good for motorists as well.
So we'd really like to see Michelle Landry and the LNP get behind this policy. The LNP always make a lot of noise about caring about small business. Well here's a really great policy that they could pick up from Labor to deliver a big win to small business right here in central Queensland. If you're interested, we've got Mark here who is available to have a chat about what it means for the business or any questions?
JOURNALIST: I only had one, how does this compare to the Coalition's policy - do they have a similar one?
LEIGH: It compares pretty well because the Coalition doesn't have a policy on this. They've been talking a lot about wanting to maybe do something maybe down the track when they get around to it. But the fact is right now, independent mechanics across Australia are struggling to fix your cars. We’ve been talking to Peter and Leon and Mark about the challenges that they're having in Repco sites already, for example a recent difficulty with Volkswagens not being able to get the appropriate software codes. We need to do this, we need to do it now. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commissioners covered off on the details around safety, security and emissions. Europe's doing it, America's doing it. We need a mandatory data sharing policy, we need it immediately. The Coalition should just back Labor's policy. Any other questions? In that case, Mark would you like to say a few words?
JOURNALIST: Mark, are you the owner of the business?
MARK BILLINGSLEY: Yes I am. I'm here as a representative from the management team for this group. I look after from Gladstone up to the top of Australia in this independent network we have.
JOURNALIST: And what does it mean for independent mechanics?
BILLINGSLEY: Independent mechanical workshops make up the vast majority of workshops around the country. We employ the most amount of apprentices. Traditionally, it's the mum and dad type business, and that would be businesses like in the old days when at service stations there was a place you could actually go to and they'd look after your vehicle through the life of your car. In general, we had businesses that looked after the children's car later on so we're the normal face of the mechanical shop where you just drive in and we give you a service on the spot.
JOURNALIST: So have there been issues? Can you go into detail?
BILLINGSLEY: Yes. The technical problems we associate with cars today heavily computerised systems as was said a minute ago, vehicles now have up to 50 computers in cars which require special scan tools and some very detailed information about how to repair and service them. Most of that information we can access just from general enquiries and using our scan tools, but now there's a requirement for detailed information from the manufacturers of the vehicles and sometimes that's been withheld.
JOURNALIST: How would you be able to access this data?
BILLINGLSEY: Some dealers are letting us get access to the mainframe computer and downloading wiring diagrams and other associated flowcharts for diagnostics. But some of the computer updates where there might be an emissions patch or something like that will definitely be locked out for us. There are security issues, such as vehicle security and safety. Vehicles are rolling away because dealers are not supplying that to us, so they send it back away from lengthy processes for booking.
JOURNALIST: Do you think those higher prices from local competition is dissuading people from getting their car serviced and other safety concerns due to that?
BILLINGSLEY: Definitely. We’re finding that when we advise a customer than an expensive component is required for the vehicle, sometimes it’s an ABS brakes situation, and because of the high cost and failure rate, they choose to just not to drive or just drive around with a light on, which means that the vehicle is unsafe and unsuitable to be on the roads.
JOURNALIST: Do you feel there is also an adequate skill-level to be able to do these sorts of repairs with computerised methods?
BILLINGSLEY: To a degree we have independent trainers, such as MTAQ and also Repco has their own auto-tech training, so we’re generally up to speed with the latest vehicles. It’s just about getting the fine data to solve small problems, sometimes major ones and sometimes we need to just say sorry, you need to go back to the dealer.
JOURNALIST: Is there sort of ongoing study required for those mechanics because as the data is increasing, there is the knowledge to understand all that stuff?
BILLINGSLEY: Definitely. There is also new systems and some of the telematics that are coming in as well, where cars will start talking to satellites and directly back to dealers. That will tend to knock out the independent repairer.
LEIGH: Thanks everyone.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra