SUNDAY, 13 MAY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for a fairer car mechanics industry; Jane Prentice and the lack of women in the Coalition; Turnbull’s unfair Budget for the big end of town.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well thanks everyone for coming along to JAX Tyres today. Can I thank Angelo for hosting us here, acknowledge Stuart and Lesley from the AAAA, and wish a happy birthday for yesterday to Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.
Conventional wisdom in Australian politics is that the Prime Minister is in the driver's seat and the Opposition are the backseat drivers but under Labor, in recent years we've seen that position reverse. From the Royal Commission to tax reform, it has been Labor that has been taking the wheel. And with today's announcement, Labor again takes the wheel on a critical issue for small business and Australian consumers.
In 2014, a voluntary code was put in place to require car manufacturers to share with independent mechanics, the data they need to fix the cars. Modern cars are computers on wheels and if mechanics don't have the data, they can't do the upgrades. But we've seen that voluntary code not working. So around a year ago, Labor called on the Government to act. We had an ACCC report come down in draft form in the middle of last year and in final form at the end of last year - and that backed Labor's position that it is important to have a mandatory data-sharing code.
We have organisations calling aplenty upon the Government to act and provide independent mechanics with the information they need to do their jobs. Consumer groups, independent mechanics groups, the insurance industry and automotive clubs such as the NRMA, the RACQ and the RACV, have urged the Turnbull Government to act and provide the data to independent mechanics that they need.
In Australia now, there's around 23,000 independent mechanics compared to only about 3,500 dealers. Most Australians get their car serviced in an independent mechanic. But those independent mechanics will go to the wall if they don't get the data they need in order to fix your car. It is your car, it should be your choice. In the European Union, in the United States, this information is already shared with independent mechanics.
We know if you're a consumer in a regional area, that you need that information, your mechanic needs that information otherwise you're forced to drive potentially hundreds of kilometres in order to find the manufacturer to fix your car.
Labor will always be the party of small business, the party of consumers, the party that wants to keep cost down and maintain choice. It's your car, it should be your choice. Australians deserve more than this P-plate Prime Minister has given them on this issue. Labor will ensure that Australian motorists have access to independent mechanics, will keep independent mechanics alive, make it cheaper for people to fix their cars and to ensure that a vital sector of the small business is able to continue.
It is my pleasure now to get Labor leader and local member, Bill Shorten, to say a few words.
BILL SHORTEN: Thanks Andrew and happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers of Australia. And this is also good news for all car drivers today and I want to acknowledge the work Andrew Leigh has done here. It's great to be at an independent mechanic, a family business, in the heart of my own electorate in Essendon.
Today, Labor is announcing good news for car owners, good news for the independent mechanics of Australia and good news, also for keeping the price of car repair down. Labor is telling the big car companies of the world that if you want to sell your cars in Australia - which is good - we want you to share the knowledge with our local car repair industry.
Labor couldn't stop the Liberals losing the car industry, car manufacturing, but Labor is going to draw a line in the sand, we are not going to see the independent family businesses, the small mechanic operations, disappear. And that is why our change we're proposing today, that there should be mandatory information-sharing from the foreign car companies with our local mechanics - this is good news. It's good news for the 150,000 jobs in our vehicle repair industry and it's good news for car owners. We want to make sure that you have a choice about where you go. We don't want to see your small mechanic operator as a thing of the past. We want to see local residents able to go to their local mechanic and get the quality service they know and want. So what we're proposing today is going to keep the price pressure downwards on car repair. It's going to also keep hundreds of thousands of jobs in Australia. It means we're going to look after the mechanical trades and see more of it and more young people move into it. We're going to look after family small businesses. This is very good news for car owners and for mechanics of Australia and Labor is going to keep pushing so that we save the independent car repair industry in this country.
I'd now like to ask Stuart, representing the Mechanics of Australia, to talk a bit further about this good news.
STUART CHARITY, AUSTRALIAN AUTOMOTIVE AFTERMARKET ASSOCIATION: Thank you, Bill, and thank you, Andrew.
On behalf of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association, but more importantly the 23,000 independent mechanical repair businesses right around this country, we would like to thank the ALP for making this policy pledge this morning.
This is an absolute game-changer, both for our industry, but more importantly for the 17 million Australian car owners. What this policy will do is ensure that those 23,000 small businesses, independently owned small businesses, can continue to survive and compete on a level playing field with the multinational car companies and their dealerships. This is about giving them the access to tools and equipment they need to work on modern vehicles. What that will do is ensure that Australian car owners maintain their ability to choose who repair their cars and what parts are fitted on them.
Thank you very much on behalf of a very grateful independent aftermarket industry.
SHORTEN: That's great, thanks Stuart. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: What do you fear would happen to the independents if this doesn't go ahead?
SHORTEN: I might get Stuart to supplement but as I understand it, because we no longer have a domestic car making industry, what we do is we've got big car companies around the world selling their cars into Australia, and that's most welcomed, but if they can control the aftersales servicing, it's going to wipe out 23,000 small businesses. What they're doing is they're keeping some of their intellectual property and some of their secrets to just themselves. And in the meantime, it means that the suburban or country mechanic operator is eventually going to not be able to provide the service people require.
Once you take 23,000 small businesses out of the game, then what happens is those car companies, they have you essentially hostage and can force up the aftersales service price.
All too often we talk to car owners who say, they feel they're getting billed for repairs they don't understand, were they necessary? But when you have got local businesses like JAX Tyres here in Essendon and all across country and city Australia, Aussies have got a choice. So this is good for 17 million car owners, it's great for 150,000 to 200,000 people who work in the industry and it's good for the family budget.
But, maybe Stuart, you can talk about the challenges.
CHARITY: Thanks, Bill. The modern motor-vehicle is just basically a computer on wheels. Even simple things like changing a tyre, changing a component on that vehicle, checking the oil level and what have you is all now computerised. And the car companies are controlling the computer gateway into and out of the vehicle and how you communicate with that vehicle. And at the moment, they're shutting independent local mechanics out.
It started off with intermittent issues on older vehicles, but as each model year has come out, the situation is getting more and more dire. Our industry are having to use workarounds sometimes it might take them four, five hours to find the information for an issue they should have got in 10-15 minutes. That's a loss of productivity and a loss of profitability. And if the issue is not resolved through policies like the one that is being announced this morning, then you'll just see slowly but surely those businesses won't be able to service modern vehicles and they'll go out of business. And Australian car owners will pay the price. They'll be left with the only option of a dealership; prices go up, service level goes down and that's bad for competition and it's bad for Australian car owners.
JOURNALIST: Is it at a point where some independents are having to turn car owners away because they just can't work on that particular car?
CHARITY: Yes, it is getting to that point now. Our industry, we're very resourceful and we have actually been able to leverage because this issue has been solved in the US, it's been solved in Europe and we have been able to find sort of workarounds, using the information that's available internationally, but those workarounds have been closed down, slowly but surely, and we are getting to a point where most workshops would see a car a day where they're having problems. And quite often they're having to send their customer back to the dealership. Sometimes cars have been towed back to the dealership to have a five digit, six digit pin code put in. It's just simple things like that. It doesn't make sense. We're trying to compete with the dealerships but we're being forced to use them in the process.
JOURNALIST: Bill, if this is happening in the States and in Europe, would you expect compliance from the manufacturers or do you expect them to push back?
SHORTEN: Well, the Australian dealers have come on board in recent times. If the Europeans can look after their local mechanics, if the Americans can look after their local mechanics, if the Labor Party is saying let's look after 23,000 mechanic businesses, the only people who haven't worked it out is the Turnbull Government.
I’ll make a Mother's Day gift to Mr Turnbull - you can borrow our policy, it just makes sense and that way downward pressure on the cost of repairing your car, hundreds of thousands of jobs - there's no losers in this policy. So Mr Turnbull, come on board, it's Mother's Day.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you about the Liberals disendorsing Jane Prentice?
SHORTEN: Whilst I haven't always seen eye-to-eye with Jane Prentice, she's a formidable representative for her party. She's a Minister in the Turnbull Government.
I think the problem here is that women politicians in the Government are becoming an endangered species. Under Mr Turnbull, the number of women in the Government have gone backwards even from Mr Abbott's time. A government, or a political party which can't represent half your population, they just don't get it.
I'm very pleased in Labor, we're up to 48 per cent of our Parliamentarians are women. I would encourage Mr Turnbull to intervene, to save a very capable minister. It's interesting that when it came to some of his male supporters, he stepped in to save them. I think it's now time to keep the reputation of the Government in terms of being pro-women, don't let a capable woman minister hit the fence because you're too weak.
I might make one brief proposition. I noticed that the Treasurer has been out there complaining about Labor's policies. I mean, first things first - I just say to the Government, you brought down your budget on Tuesday and you're already bored talking about your own propositions. The Government know they have made a mistake, a bad mistake, with their corporate tax cuts. They know that Australians don't want the policy and they know their policy won't work.
So having rolled the dice on an unpopular policy which doesn't work, the Government's now stopped the positive promotion of their own ideas and instead they have decided to give very negative about the opposition and myself. I just want to say to Australians - Labor is not distracted. The more the Government worry about Labor, the more we intend to worry about the Australian people and their needs.
Because Labor has made hard or sensible economic changes, sensible, rational and overdue changes to make sure our tax system works in the interest of ordinary Australians, that's why on Thursday night I was pleased to bring down an alternative budget. Our proposition is that under Labor, if you earn up to $125,000 a year, we'll be able to give nearly $1,000 back a year in many cases. So we're offering bigger, better and fairer taxes. And we can reverse the dreadful sneaky cuts hidden in the Government budget to our hospitals and to our schools and to our pensioners. And we can reduce more of the debt faster from the Government because we're making the tough calls.
What we're going to do is put workers, pensioners and small businesses first rather than putting big business, the banks and multinationals first. So no wonder the Government is feeling a bit embarrassed about their proposition.
All good? Thank you very much.