201411.18

Transcript – Interview with Alan Jones, 2GB

E&OE………………………………………………

Subjects: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries’ code of practice

ALAN JONES:

Bruce Billson is on the line, the Small Business Minister.

Minister, good morning.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good morning to you Alan, and your listeners.

ALAN JONES:

So…

MINISTER BILLSON:

A busy day, a slightly tense day I might suggest Alan.

ALAN JONES:

But you didn’t get anywhere.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Oh no, we did well. I was following up on the meeting we had about 18 days ago. That was the one relating to the press release that you mentioned that followed what was clearly a breakdown in the preparedness of the industry stakeholders to resolve this matter amongst themselves.

I thought it was crucial that motorists had the opportunity to get their car serviced and repaired wherever they chose to get value for money.

ALAN JONES:

You don’t have a deal Bruce.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well, I think we are pretty close Alan. Your spies are not quite informed there…

ALAN JONES:

I had someone in that meeting, I am very informed.

MINISTER BILLSON:

We had a draft revised agreement circulated last night, after three hours of negotiations, at times difficult conversations. The text has been circulated last night, we have given all the industry stakeholders an opportunity to look at that, to get back to us within a week if they have got any problems…

ALAN JONES:

Another week?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well, in fairness, we do not shirtfront anybody on these negotiations.

It was rather a strong exchange of views, with the consumer interest and people having the choice…

ALAN JONES:

Now you know at that meeting yesterday they struggled to explain – you were there – how Toyota in Europe provide the same service and repair information under law to independent repairers and even consumers if they want it, yet Toyota Australia are trying to argue that we shouldn’t have to do that here.

MINISTER BILLSON:

We were able to point to the European law that you are referring to, and there is also a law passed in the United States jurisdiction of New Hampshire, which has now provided the basis for similar information sharing and service information and technology exchange in the United States.

Our simple point Alan, was if it is good enough in the United States and in Europe, it is certainly good enough here.

So that was a very useful benchmark that enabled us to bring the parties to a shared view, and they have now got a revised draft, which we are very optimistic we will get agreed to.

ALAN JONES:

Very optimistic… I’ll tell you what they are doing Mr Billson.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes, Mr Jones?

ALAN JONES:

The car brands are acting like the major supermarkets have in the past years.

This has the potential to remove competition from the marketplace by putting the little bloke out of business and denying him the information that he needs to be able to do business.

Now, I was told yesterday in the exact words “Billson has been a good advocate for consumers and small business owners on this issue, but it’s clear…” these are the words out of that meeting, “that the car brands are pushing us as far as they can to have it their way. The brands are almost goading the Minister into threatening to impose legislation in this area”.

Now if there’s legislation in Europe which provides this same service and repair information to the little fellow, would you introduce legislation to make sure that happens here?

MINISTER BILLSON:

If we can’t get this deal done by collaboration, we are certainly prepared to intervene more decisively.

There are the models in the United States and the legislation in Europe, good solid ground to work from and I think that is what has enabled us to get the parties back around the table.

All protecting their own positions, as you have accurately characterised, but realistic that that is not in the consumer’s interest and that is why we have made good progress.

ALAN JONES:

When will the little fellow know?

MINISTER BILLSON:

We will know probably in a week whether the big guys have an on-going big problem with what we have negotiated, and we are looking for a sign off on all the parties within a fortnight.

ALAN JONES:

And if not? If not, you’re happy to legislate?

MINISTER BILLSON:

If not, we are happy to muscle-up even more than we have already.

ALAN JONES:

Alright, we’ll talk again in a week!

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yeah, I will report back Alan, to you and your listeners.

ALAN JONES:

Thank you so much.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Always good to speak with you.