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Turnbull seen as pro-business

No bull: New Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has won praise from some sections of the local automotive industry.

Change in leader could see border control applied to parallel new-car imports

15 Sep 2015

MALCOLM Turnbull's ascension to prime ministership this week has been welcomed by sections of the automotive industry, both for what it could potentially bring and for what it might stop.

With prior experience in the business world, Mr Turnbull is expected to bring a more focused approach to the auto industry and its needs, rather than a philosophical approach that ignores the realities on the ground, according to Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) chief executive, Geoff Gwilym.

“I think a Turnbull government will bring a better focus on industry,” he said.

“We need a more balanced view on the industry, which has such a strong economic basis in employment and revenue.” Queensland dealer and director of the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) Ian Field praised both Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull as highly intelligent men, but highlighted their different leadership style.

“I think Mr Turnbull focuses on what’s possible and Mr Abbott focused too much on the negative.

“Leadership is a funny thing. It’s not about telling people what to do. It’s about finding consensus amongst clever people.”

Mr Gwilym said he would like to see the small business ministerial role continue in Mr Turnbull's new cabinet, and he endorsed the current minister, Bruce Billson, who he believed had engaged well with the industry.

The VACC particularly supported Mr Billson’s approach to Section 46 of the Trade Practices Act, which prohibits misuse of market power.

“Back in 2013, Mr Billson went on record as a fan of the effects test, saying that would make it easier for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to determine whether there had been misuse of market power,” Mr Gwilym said.

Mr Field said he was uncertain about the performance of the assistant minister for infrastructure and regional development Jamie Briggs and his handling of the vehicle importation rules.

“We still don’t know what his recommendations are, although he appears to have backed away from the importation of used cars,” Mr Field said.

“But he is fixated on parallel imports of new or 'near-new' cars as if somehow that will change the world.

“I’m still not sure what he has in mind, but circumventing a system that works because, theoretically, some people can buy cheaper cars? “Well, that’s fine, as long as you put in place all the rules and regulations for the individual importers as you do for the mainstream businesses.”

Mr Field said he supported the philosophical position that if someone wanted to buy a car in London, or another city or country, they should be able to.

“I should be able to do that, sure, absolutely, philosophically. But, at the same time, who’s going to monitor that that car coming in is what it is supposed to be?“Who is going to monitor it is not full of drugs, or has been stolen.”

Mr Field raised one of Mr Abbott’s strong political positions and then contrasted it with Mr Briggs’ apparent leaning towards an open-door approach to parallel imports of new and near-new cars.

“We talk about border control in reference to refugees. Bringing in goods is also about border control,” Mr Field said.

“If you open the door to big things like motor cars coming in with no determination at the border about whether it is what it is supposed to be – not a stolen car re-birthed, not full of drugs, it is what it is supposed to be – anything could come in.”

Mr Field said it would be safer if any parallel imports of new or near-new vehicles were limited to individuals and excluded company participation.

“We’re experts. I have six dealerships. I know how to do this and it would be a lot easier than for an individual. It is incredibly hard if you do it properly, but it is not if you circumvent the rules.”“If you can limit it to individuals, I doubt many would do it. The danger is, what if the criminal element gets involved and starts bringing cars in to order?“Someone in Australia says I want a Ferrari with this and this and then buys it in good faith from an Australian importer. But, overseas, it’s stolen to order.

Who’s going to make sure that is not happening?“My understanding is that there are ministers in the Cabinet who are horrified.

“The customs minister, he’s the one who is going to have to police it. He’s got eight ports of entry. Where’s the money going to come from to make sure it is done properly?”

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