Motor Vehicle Smash Repairs
Mr TONY STEWART: My question is addressed to the Premier. What is the latest information on a resolution to disputes within the motor vehicle repair industry and related matters?
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: I thank the honourable member for Bankstown for his work in this area. There have been longstanding tensions between smash repairers and the insurance industry.
Mr George Souris: Insurers!
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: The insurance industry. The honourable member for Upper Hunter should listen because this is a good decision for small business.
Mrs Jillian Skinner: Speak for yourself!
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: Does the honourable member for North Shore not support small business? Insurers want to minimise their repair expenses and maximise profitability, and repairers want to maximise their work and revenue. But consumers cannot be caught in the middle.
Mr John Turner: Point of order: The standing orders clearly state that a member cannot pre-empt debate on a bill before the House. Today the Minister for Fair Trading gave notice of a motion to bring in a bill to amend the Fair Trading Act 1987 in relation to a code of conduct for the motor vehicle and repair industries, and for other purposes. Clearly, the Minister is pre-empting debate on a bill before the House.
Mr Carl Scully: To the point of order: The honourable member for Myall Lakes well knows that any Minister, including the Premier, is entitled to be asked to give broad information about a subject matter that relates to a notice of motion for a bill.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the House is correct. There is ample precedent for the Premier's remarks. Although a notice of motion for a bill may have been given, any member is able to provide additional information on the bill, provided the detail of it is not debated. At this stage I have not heard the Premier mention the bill.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: That is why I told the House in May that the insurance industry and the Motor Traders Association needed to come up with a model that protected consumer choice, gave repairers a fair go and provided insurers with value for money. The Government said that if they did not work it out, then we would legislate to make it happen. I am pleased to say that a result has been achieved. All sides have made progress in this matter. This is the result of hard work on the part of honourable members of this House, including the honourable member for Bankstown—I place on record his work in this area—the honourable member for Blacktown, the honourable member for Northern Tablelands and the Minister, who have actively facilitated negotiations between the NRMA and the Motor Traders Association.
The negotiations have delivered the NRMA's agreement to suspend penalties for underquoting to obtain a competitive advantage. The insurer then worked with the MTA in the development of a new process, which both parties agree is fair, to prevent this. The NRMA has agreed to offer its customers the freedom to choose a repairer at no extra cost. Web-based repair management will be used only for superficial or non-structural damage, and the NRMA will base its criteria on quality, not just price. The Government is continuing to take proactive measures to ensure that we have a sustainable and fair industry, and one where consumers can have faith in the system. To do that, our voluntary codes will also become enforceable.
My only reference is that the voluntary codes will become enforceable, and that is a good thing. Members opposite may not agree, but we think it is a good measure. This dispute was in nobody's interests, but the Government insisted that the insurers needed to take heed of consumer need, and we embarked on this direction to ensure that there was a fair and balanced outcome for all parties. James McCall from the MTA told ABC Radio this morning:
I think everybody has won out of this situation.
As I said, a number of honourable members and the Minister worked hard to achieve the balanced approach that Mr McCall endorsed on radio this morning. The smash repair industry negotiations that resulted in this agreement are yet another example of the Government's commitment to small business—a commitment that is sadly lacking in members opposite, who repeatedly refuse to stand up for small business. The only thing our hardworking small business owners and operators can expect from members opposite is negativity and arrogance at every turn—the kind of negativity and arrogance towards small business shown by the honourable member for Coffs Harbour during his recent visit to Cooma. The Cooma Monaro Express of 22 August gave an account of the honourable member for Coffs Harbour's visit to Cooma. At least one individual was not over the moon about the visit. The account referred to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chair, Cath McGraw, and read in part:
I thought that someone who is Shadow Minister for Small Business really didn't have a lot to say about small business …
Mrs McGraw … believes that his announcements … were only aimed at winning votes ahead of the next election.
Mr Barry O'Farrell: What's on your mind, Morris?
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: Good policy. The account continued:
It's just that what he was saying was all motherhood stuff. He could have talked a bit more about what he was planning on doing for small business.
Of course he did not. Why? Because the Opposition has no credible plans. Just like all the other policy announcements on the run there is no detail, no credibility, let alone any idea how it is ever going to pay for any of the $20 billion-plus commitments it makes. That was an opportunity lost in Cooma for the shadow Minister to outline a coherent plan to support small business. That is in stark contrast to what the Government is doing—getting on with job, standing up for small business, standing against Canberra's petrol prices and interest rate rises, and delivering workers compensation premium cuts, tax cuts. The arrangement with the NRMA on the motor vehicle smash repair industry, is the latest example of how the Government is standing up and delivering for small business, which is in stark contrast to the Opposition.