Car Manufacturers Sharing Technical Information

25 Jun 2018 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby) (17:11): There are so many wonderful small and family businesses in my electorate of Boothby, including cafes, retailers, hairdressers, florists, newsagents and so many more. These businesses are owned and run by hardworking individuals and families, and they are contributing to our community and to our local economy. I am proud to be part of the Turnbull government that supports small businesses to be more competitive, to grow and to employ hardworking Australians.

Under the Turnbull government, company tax has been cut to its lowest rate in 50 years for small businesses, at a rate of 27.5 per cent for businesses with a turnover of up to $25 million this financial year, extended to businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million in 2018-19. The Turnbull government has also provided an instant asset write-off for businesses with a turnover of less than $10 million. But, despite all this, there are still some small businesses in my electorate and across Australia that are subject to anticompetitive market behaviours, particularly in the automotive repair and servicing industries.

I recently visited local automotive repairer Blackwood Dyno Tune & Service in my electorate, where I met owners Ricky and Michelle Monserrat. They explained to me how a lack of data-sharing by the car industry is impacting their business and reducing competition in the sector. New car retailing is a significant part of the Australian economy. In 2016-17, approximately 1.1 million new vehicles were sold across the nation, at more than 1,500 new-car dealers. Data indicates that buying a car and its ongoing maintenance accounts for around five per cent of average annual household expenditure.

Car manufacturers generally own and control the technical information required to repair and service new cars— and so they should. They have invested the money and the effort in developing and building their vehicles at great cost; it is, therefore, only fair that they control their intellectual property. However, it is not fair that they deny access to this intellectual property if they're provided with fair and reasonable remuneration for the information. In December 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report into the car retailing industry concluded that independent repairers in the Australian market had 'limited access to service and repair information from vehicle manufacturers'.

The ACCC concluded that this had resulted in reduced competition and an artificial monopoly in the market. The ACCC also found that consumers were confused about warranty and servicing requirements and that this was compounded by statements made in manufacturers' logbooks and service manuals. This can result in consumers choosing not to use independent repairers to repair or service their cars due to the perception they'll be voiding the manufacturer's warranty. Ricky and Michelle from Blackwood Dyno Tune and Service, together with the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association, have expressed to me their support for the ACCC recommendations that Australia introduce a mandatory code for repair data and information sharing, similar to schemes adopted in the United States and Europe.

As part of a government that supports small businesses, competition and consumer choice, we have listened to these concerns, and we have acted. In early May, the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Sukkar, announced that the government is considering the design of a mandatory scheme and how it might operate here in Australia. I'd like to take this opportunity to commend and thank the assistant minister for his commitment to business owners like Ricky and Michelle in my electorate, whose livelihood is affected by these policy decisions. I'm delighted that the government is seeking to implement a scheme that sets clear expectations of industry and allows independent repairers to compete on a fair and equal playing field.

At the same time, though, we must get the balance right. Due consideration must be given to ensuring that commercially fair and reasonable terms for car manufacturers are included in the scheme. These terms should recognise the investment made by these companies in developing the technical information and the vehicles in the first place. We must also seek to protect vehicle security, environmental and safety information.

That's why the Turnbull government is undertaking extensive consultation with industry and stakeholders and looking to the international experience to ensure that we get the scheme right. That's responsible government. Those opposite don't seem to understand the meaning of that term. And it appears we are on the right track. Our proposed policy on access to service and repair information is so popular that it seems that those opposite are now seeking to introduce it for themselves. I just want to congratulate the assistant minister again on all the work he has done.