YOUR CAR, YOUR CHOICE
Federation Chamber, 20 June 2018
Over a year ago, Labor called on the government to act on the problem that's facing independent mechanics who aren't getting access to the software updates they need to fix modern cars. Modern cars are computers on wheels, with 20 to 50 onboard computers. Without access to those data, independent mechanics can't fix cars. Independent mechanics account for about four in five mechanics in Australia.
Over the course of last year, Labor's call for a mandatory code of conduct - not the ineffective voluntary code of conduct, but a mandatory code - has been backed by independent mechanics, automotive clubs, insurance firms and consumer groups. A mandatory code is the sort of approach that's worked in the United States and the European Union. It recognises that, if you're somebody who is in a remote or regional area, you may only have access to independent mechanics.
I was recently on Bribie Island with Susan Lamb, Labor's terrific candidate for Longman, and we were talking to an independent mechanic who made the point that some of the older residents on Bribie Island are reluctant to drive their cars off Bribie Island. They're getting on in years and, while they're comfortable driving on the island, they don't want to drive on the mainland. And yet there is not a single authorised dealer on Bribie Island. That means that, if someone buys a modern car that requires software updates or reinitialisation codes, the manufacturers' current reluctance to share those data with independent mechanics means that that resident of Bribie Island is faced with either not getting their car fixed or else taking a drive off the island that they regard as risky.
Labor's policy is pro-choice, pro-consumer and pro-independent mechanics. It will support jobs and apprenticeships in the independent mechanics sector. No-one tells you what car to buy, and no-one should tell you where to get it fixed. But the government has failed to follow Labor's lead. It has an ACCC report handed down at the end of last year that lays down a pathway as to what can be done. But, while Labor is committed to a mandatory data-sharing code, all we have is giggles from the minister opposite. Frankly, giggles aren't good enough for the independent mechanics who are going to the wall. Giggles aren't good enough for the independent mechanics who are currently struggling to fix modern cars. They know that Labor will support them with a mandatory data-sharing code.
We hope that the government will ultimately pick up this idea, as it has done with so many other good Labor ideas over the course of government, from the bond aggregator to closing superannuation loopholes. Once they've tried all the other options, sometimes the Liberals do the right thing.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra