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Government lays out new vehicle laws

All change: Left-hand-drive cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette will be allowed to be imported by enthusiasts under new laws government road cars in Australia. The catch is that they will have to be converted to right-hand drive before they can be registered, just as they are now.

Biggest changes in three decades set to reshape Australian vehicle industry

General News logo14 Dec 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

SWEEPING changes to laws and rules governing new vehicles sold in Australia have been foreshadowed in draft legislation released by the federal government.

The changes would give the responsible government minister the power to order mandatory safety recalls for unsafe vehicles, while also providing severe penalties for breaches of the legislation, such as selling vehicles before compulsory safety recall repairs have been made.

The legislation rules out so-called parallel imports – the biggest fear of the established new-vehicle motor industry – but improves pathways for importing specialist and enthusiast vehicles, including performance, low-emissions and mobility access vehicles.

These enthusiast vehicles include left-hand-drive supercars unavailable in right-hand drive. However, they will still need to be converted to right-hand drive before they can be registered for road use.

Billed as the most important change to vehicle regulation in almost three decades, the proposed legislation will be debated in parliament next year before coming into effect in 2019.

The changes have been blasted by second-hand vehicle importers, who say the rules will cripple their industry, but welcomed by the motor industry peak body, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), which lobbied hard to shape the changes.

FCAI CEO Tony Weber said: “This new legislation has been a long time coming, but the automotive industry is pleased that the minister has taken the time to consider what is in the best interests of Australian consumers.

“It provides a framework to ensure Australians have access to world quality vehicles with the latest safety and environmental features.” The government has promised to consult the automotive industry and consumers before pressing ahead with the legislation.

Urban infrastructure minister Paul Fletcher said the Road Vehicle Standards Bills were designed to maintain and improve vehicle safety while expanding consumer choice and reducing red tape.

“This legislation will replace the existing Motor Vehicle Standards Act which has been in place for nearly 30 years and was written at a time when much of today’s vehicle technology was not available,” he said.

Mr Fletcher said the new legislation would be be responsive to emerging technologies, and would save businesses more than $68 million a year in regulatory compliance costs that currently stand at $250 million a year.

“It will provide increased consumer choice through expanding and improving the pathways for importing specialist and enthusiast vehicles – including performance, low emissions, and mobility access vehicles,” he said.

Instead of the current voluntary safety recall regime, the minister will have “strong powers” to order recalls “if serious safety issues arise”.

The bills will be introduced and debated in federal parliament in the new year.

Stakeholders will be asked to provide feedback on the “exposure drafts” of the bills and the rules by mid-February.

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