May 30, 2018

Hansard – Road Vehicle Standards Bill 2018, Road Vehicle Standards (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018, Road Vehicle Standards Charges (Imposition—General) Bill 2018, Road Vehicle Standards Charges (Imposition—Customs) Bill 2018, Road Vehicle Standards Charges (Imposition—Excise) Bill 2018: Second Reading – Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:35): There is no more important job for this parliament than making and maintaining laws relating to the safety of Australians. That’s why issues to do with national security, terrorism and law enforcement are taken seriously in this parliament and usually dealt with in a bipartisan way. This is as it should be. Labor takes the same constructive approach when it comes to the critical issue of motor vehicle safety standards in this country. Nearly 1.2 million new cars are sold in this country each year. Sadly, thanks to the very conscious policy and actions of this current government, Australia no longer builds cars. We must rely upon imports.

It is critical that this parliament keeps the standards applying to motor vehicle imports up to date and fit for purpose. This legislation is timely. It is 17 years since the Motor Vehicle Standards Act and its regulations were last reviewed. The package before us seeks to bring the regulatory regime forward and make it more streamlined. Indeed, the government argues these reforms will reduce compliance costs for industry by $68 million. The legislation creates an online register which will provide consumers with an easy way to check that vehicles they are considering buying comply with Australian design standards. Labor has some concerns about the fine detail of the bills, based upon stakeholder feedback, but we will support this package. We believe that the stakeholder concerns, which I will address shortly, should be taken into account in the rules and subsequent technical and administrative arrangements provided by these bills.

The road vehicle safety package will replace the old Motor Vehicle Standards Act, which regulates imported vehicles. It includes five piece of legislation: the Road Vehicle Standards Bill 2018, the Road Vehicle Standards (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018, the Road Vehicle Standards Charges (Imposition—General) Bill 2018, the Road Vehicle Standards Charges (Imposition—Customs) Bill 2018, and the Road Vehicle Standards Charges (Imposition—Excise) Bill 2018. Under existing rules, people demonstrate that a vehicle complies with safety standards using the physical attachment of a compliance plate, but this legislation replaces that system by creating a register of approved vehicles that comply with Australian standards. There’ll be two ways for a vehicle to make its way onto this register. The first, known as the type approval pathway, is for new vehicles being imported into this nation for sale. The vast majority of vehicles will enter the list via this route.

The second pathway, known as the concessional pathway, is aimed at a limited range of new and used vehicles which can be granted concessions on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis. This pathway will apply to specialist enthusiast vehicles, classic and vintage vehicles, and vehicles that have a special purpose that could not be fulfilled if they had to comply with Australian standards. This latter category might apply, for example, to emergency vehicles and cranes. The legislation creates a specialist and enthusiasts vehicles register to ensure that motor enthusiasts, seeking to import unusual vehicles, can do so without breaching Australian vehicle standards. That is a sensible way forward.

There are, indeed, motor enthusiasts who do import vehicles. Some, such as Lindsay Fox, have imported a large number of quite unique vehicles into Australia, not for driving but for public display in his museum in Melbourne as part of his contribution to philanthropy. Lindsay Fox is certainly a contributor to the nation, and that is just one of the ways in which he uses his private wealth for public good. Hence, this register will really assist that process in the future.

It establishes Road Vehicle Standard Rules to define vehicles:

… that better capture vehicles that are of a genuine specialist and enthusiast nature through needing to meet one of six criteria:

1. Performance – high-performance vehicles with specifications significantly superior to mainstream vehicles in Australia;

2. Environmental – vehicles that offer environmental performance significantly superior to mainstream vehicles in Australia;

3. Mobility – vehicles manufactured with special features to assist people with a disability;

4. Rarity – vehicles of which only small quantities have been produced;

5. Left-hand drive – vehicles originally manufactured as left-hand-drive, of which right-have – drive versions are not available in any other country; and

6. Campervans and motor homes – vehicles that have been originally manufactured as a campervan or motorhome.

The legislation also includes provisions allowing for the importation of vehicles other than for road use, such as for testing or racing. These vehicles will not be listed on the register. Relevant states and territories will decide whether such vehicles may be driven on the roads within their borders.

The proposed changes will serve the interests of consumers. Consumers will be able to search the online Register of Approved Vehicles using their vehicle identification number to confirm that vehicles they want to buy comply with these rules. The new legislation will also require manufacturers to introduce a secure identification marking requirement for all new vehicles. This provision is designed to provide a deterrent to vehicle theft and rebirthing. This is a sensible move.

The package also gives the minister for transport the ability to issue a recall notice on any road vehicle or road vehicle component, and lays out the framework for voluntary recalls. This is another important measure. When manufacturers discover faults in motor vehicles, it is critical that there is a process by which they can be recalled quickly if they represent a risk to public safety. There have been some major safety recalls in recent years involving major manufacturers. We need a simple system that allows for efficient handling of such issues. Administration of these new standards will be funded by industry participants on a cost-recovery basis. However, these bills do not outline the amounts to be charged. These will be prescribed in accompanying rules and regulations that will be subject to disallowance by this parliament.

Various industry groups have expressed concern over elements of the package. For example, the legislation allows some vehicles to be imported through a revised Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme which allows for the import of used specialist and enthusiast vehicles. It also creates a new, low-volume scheme which applies to new vehicles where fewer than 100 vehicles are to be imported. The Australian Automobile Aftermarket Association raised concerns about the inclusion of the NLVS under the so-called RAWS scheme. The AAAA argued that, under the existing system, vehicles imported under the new low-volume scheme do not need to be individually inspected. Its concern is that, under the new system, low-volume imports will have to be individually inspected and that this will add cost to the industry. The Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme Association suggested the new arrangements would therefore disadvantage small workshops and benefit big manufacturers. Concerns were also expressed regarding the effect of these legislation on companies that import vehicles from overseas and then convert them into campervans or motorhomes. Specifically, this legislation closes a loophole in the existing system that allowed some registered automotive workshops to import thousands of cars which they did not convert but simply on-sold at a profit. This legislation’s closure of that loophole has created concerns about the prospects of companies that do legitimately convert vehicles into campervans and motorhomes. Having considered these concerns, Labor has formed the view that the legislation as it stands serves the public interest, on balance. However, we do take these industry concerns seriously and we undertake to monitor the operation of the legislation and the operations of accompanying rules and subsequent technical and administrative arrangements, and if any adjustment is required then Labor will support that.

In conclusion, can I say that the administration of vehicle standards is a complex task. We do need a system that is simple but also allows people who want to import unusual and specialist vehicles an opportunity to do so. This legislation seeks to find that balance, and it also includes some important improvements in the cause of public safety and security, and I commend the package of legislation to the House.