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THE Australian newspaper has revealed that the federal government’s parallel import plan may be dumped as Coalition members of parliament voice concerns about its impact on small business and regional communities.

The newspaper reported that MPs said a Coalition win in the July 2 election would lead the backbench committee to kill off the proposal before it is considered by the government’s joint party room.

Paul_fletcher_portrait

Paul Fletcher

The proposal, put forward by minister for territories Paul Fletcher in January, would allow private imports of new cars by individuals and is due to come into effect in 2018.

It has faced a backlash from new-car dealers who said it would put consumers at risk with cars that have no warranty and different specifications and components than a similar model sold by an Australian dealership.

GoAutoNews Premium recently reported that the price difference between buying a new car in Japan or the UK was generally more expensive than a similar car sold by an Australian dealer.

Using the benchmark of the price of a Big Mac hamburger in each country the Premium research showed that Australians pay much lower prices except where the luxury car tax is applied.

Warren Entsch

Warren Entsch

The Australian reported that Warren Entsch, MP for Leichhardt in Queensland, said of the proposal: “I think it is dead, that is my view. There are too many issues with it and too many risks both from a consumer and from a business point of view to take the gamble.

“I have raised this at the highest levels and I have been assured that it will go through the proper process and I welcome that opportunity.”

The newspaper said Tony Pasin, Liberal MP for the South Australian seat of Barker, echoed these concerns and said he had been assured by the relevant minister, Paul Fletcher, that the issue would return to the party room for deliberation.

“The sense I get among colleagues is that there is very little appetite for the proposal and I am confident that it will not survive a robust debate in the party room,” Mr Pasin said.

Tony Pasin

Tony Pasin

“But these matters are matters that will ultimately be determined by a future party room.”

Nationals senator John Williams said he was concerned that the profits of car dealerships would be reduced, a particular concern in regional areas, and that consumers would take unacceptable risks by importing cars not built for the Australian environment.

Senator Williams said a separate proposal to move to higher European standards for vehicle safety should be pursued.

“After the election, if I am re-elected and we are re-elected to government, then no doubt there will be more discussion about para­llel import of these vehicles,” Senator Williams said.

“I am concerned about the consumer making huge expensive errors; people may say, ‘Oh well, that is their fault if they are stupid enough to do that’. Well if that is the case, are we going to relax all regulations on protecting consumers? Of course not.”

The Australian said that another Liberal MP, who did not want to be named, said he had “grave doubts” about the proposal and could see no upside for the retail motor industry industry or for consumers.

However a government spokesman said the Coalition remained “committed to these reforms”.

“As we’ve consistently said, should we return to government we’ll be developing legislation consistent with our announcement and consulting further with industry and other stakeholders during that process,” the spokesman said.

The Labor Party and the Nick Xenophon Team have both expressed sympathy with the industry’s concerns and the policy could face defeat in the Senate even if it were endorsed by the Coalition party room.

Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber told The Australian that the industry was continuing to fight against the proposal, which was restricted to vehicles built in right-hand-drive markets that are less than 12 months old, with fewer than 500km on the odometer.

“We are committed to our fight to have this defeated,” Mr Weber told the national daily.

By Neil Dowling

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