Your Car, Your Choice - Speech, Federation Chamber


Federation Chamber, 25 June 2018

I move:

That this House:

(1) declares that:

(a) given new cars have multiple onboard computers, real time access to digital files and codes—which vary from car to car—are needed to complete many aspects of a repair or service;

(b) car manufacturers generally own and control this technical information and in many cases are the only sources of re-initialisation codes and software upgrades;

(c) independent car repairers—who comprise the vast majority of Australian mechanics—are at a competitive disadvantage, since most car manufacturers do not supply the same information to independent mechanics that they provide to authorised dealers;

(d) the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s report New car retailing industry market study (14 December 2017) concluded that the industry’s voluntary code has failed to address the problem; and

(e) failure to address this problem is hurting small businesses, increasing prices for consumers, and providing less choice, with the impact being most acute in regional areas; and

(2) calls on the Government to adopt Labor’s policy of mandatory information sharing, which would:

(a) require car manufacturers to share technical information with independent mechanics on commercially fair and reasonable terms;

(b) create safeguards that enable environmental, safety and security related technical information to be shared with the independent sector; and

(c) provide a level playing field, benefiting consumers and independent mechanics alike.

I was recently in Bongaree on Bribie Island with Labor's terrific candidate Susan Lamb. We were visiting Island Auto Repairs, an independent mechanic on Bribie Island. Kelly from Island Auto Repairs was telling us about the problem that many residents face. Bribie Island is an older community, and many residents don't feel comfortable driving off the island. They just drive their cars on the island itself. Yet Bribie Island doesn't contain a single authorised dealer, so as a result of authorised dealers not sharing technical information with independent mechanics, residents of Bribie Island face an invidious choice: either they don't get their car fixed or they take a journey that they regard as dangerous.

This is a problem replicated in independent mechanics dealerships across Australia. Independent mechanics make up at least four-fifths of Australian mechanics and yet, because our modern cars are computers on wheels containing some 20 to 50 computers, increasingly our independent mechanics are struggling to fix modern cars. That's why over a year ago I called on the government to do something about the fact that the voluntary code just isn't working for independent mechanics.

Since then the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has backed in Labor's call for mandatory data-sharing and, with Bill Shorten, I was pleased to stand up and announce that a Shorten government would put in place a mandatory code. Such a measure is supported by independent mechanics and auto clubs, by insurance firms and consumer groups. It's the approach that's taken in the United States and the European Union. It has benefits in regions, such as Bribie Island, but also in rural and regional parts of Australia. No-one tells you what car to buy, and no-one should tell you where to get it fixed. Labor's mandatory data-sharing policy is good for consumers, good for apprentices, good for jobs. It ensures that independent mechanics don't go to the wall as our cars become more computerised, and it gives consumers greater choice.

I'd would like to commend my many colleagues who have worked and spoken with independent mechanics in their electorates about this critical issue. Speaking on the motion itself, Anne Stanley and Milton Dick, but also Murray Watt, Lisa Chesters, Shayne Neumann, Matt Keogh, Susan Templeman, Catherine King, Cathy O'Toole, Ged Kearney, Jenny Macklin, Joanne Ryan, Josh Wilson and Peter Khalil are among Labor members who have spoken with their independent mechanics about Labor's support for this critical part of our small business sector. And we know that it can be done.

The critiques that were made originally by the car manufacturers over potential threats to safety, security or emissions are carefully addressed in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's report. That report lays down how it is possible to deal with these concerns while allowing mandatory data-sharing.

The independent mechanics aren't asking for the data for free. They're simply saying: 'We'd like to have the data that the authorised dealers get. If the authorised dealers get the reinitialisation codes, we'd like to get them, on commercially fair and reasonable terms.'

Many Australians will get their car fixed at a Kmart, a JAX, an Ultra Tune, a Bridgestone or a Pedders—or, indeed, at a non-chain mechanic such as Island Auto Repairs in Bongaree. This is why so many Australians are supporting Labor's policy. The question is why the coalition can't get out and get this done, why they've been so slow, since the ACCC's report came down in December, to act on behalf of Australian consumers and Australian mechanics. It's an existential threat for our mechanics. They will increasingly find themselves going to the wall, as our cars get more technical, if they don't get the data they need to fix modern cars. Labor backs independent mechanics. Labor backs the needs of drivers and the needs of workers in the industry. Labor will ensure that drivers get a better deal—your car, your choice. Labor will make sure that independent mechanics have the data they need to fix modern cars. Labor is standing on the side of consumers, as we've so often done. We say to the coalition: it's time you got in the car.

Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.