TERRY KEATING: GOVERNMENT NAIVE ON PERSONAL VEHICLE IMPORT ISSUE

I am amazed at the naiveté of the Federal Government’s decision to allow the parallel importation of motor vehicles by individuals.

For a start, a Federal Government Minister has put out an implied promise that buyers will save money by opting to purchase overseas. This is highly misleading, as the facts suggest that anyone with a budget up to $100,000 would be seriously out of pocket on the purchase price alone, without factoring in all the other problems they would face. Even where the transaction price is much higher, it would in most cases be line ball or worse to opt for an offshore purchase.
None of this takes into account the many other potential problems a buyer would encounter. For example, luxury vehicles made to United Kingdom specifications have engines calibrated to run on low sulphur content fuel. That quality of fuel is not available in Australia. The end result of using sub-optimal fuel is loss of performance and possible (that may well be probable) engine degradation. Any such problem would not be warrantable, as the owner’s handbook stipulates the type of fuel to be used.

Servicing in Australia could also be an issue. Australian Dealers will gladly service any car where they can, but if a vehicle requires diagnostic equipment unique to that model and not available in Australia, where to then?

You will all be aware of other issues, such as lack of recall notices, limited warranty (international warranty is usually two years), inappropriate cooling systems and, of course, very questionable resale value.

If this policy is to survive it is incumbent on the minister to ensure potential buyers are fully informed, otherwise this government has put out false hope and hidden the fine print.

It is also amazing that the Minister defines a new car as less than one year old and with less than 500km on the speedo. The average Australian has a very clear definition of ‘new’, as do we. Cars of that age and mileage are secondhand. This, of course, then opens up the opportunity for organised crime to steal cars to order. If it is under one year old the mileage is irrelevant. They will simply ‘give it a haircut’ and, bingo – 500km. That also opens the possibility that some unsuspecting buyer who got a great bargain has no title to the goods. And I could go on.

I am staggered when we read daily that Treasurer, Scott Morrison, is having enormous problems with balancing his budget. The deficits are scary. Yet this same administration says it will happily ship offshore a raft of government revenue to either the UK or Japan.

If our federal masters were genuinely serious about making new cars more affordable in this country, they should look at the tax take on every vehicle sold. Minister, do the public a real favour. Get rid of the Luxury Car Tax. Take a look at the stamp duty and registration costs. Have a think about how much new car Dealers in this country pay to state and federal authorities in income tax, payroll tax, land tax, workers compensation fees and the super guarantee levy.

I’m not suggesting some of these imposts should not be there, but they are costs we incur because our employees want and are entitled to a decent standard of living.

Finally, I have had many calls and emails from Dealers right around Australia. We should all contact our local member and make sure he or she fully understands the fallout. If a buyer of a personal import has major problems, we will probably not be able to help them. Nor will Consumer Affairs. Nor, I suspect, will a lawyer. Their only redress will be their local member.

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