​​​The Federal Government is poised to announce controversial changes to car import laws at the end of this week. 

“This is long overdue and very welcome for consumers who have long suffered in Australia with one of the worlds’ most expensive car markets,” says Tim Harcourt, from the UNSW Business School. 

He was an economic adviser to the Bracks Review of Australia’s Automotive Industry.

The plan is to allow private buyers to import new vehicles; however it will still leave Australia with one of the most restrictive markets in the world.

At the moment only drivers who have owned and used a car overseas for a year are permitted to import that vehicle. He says most other countries scrapped these rules years ago. “In Europe you can import second hand cars of any age for your personal use without an issue, however Australia still has rules that date back to the restrictive trade practices we had in the 1960s. The government may be scrapping rules on new cars, but it would be good to see second hand cars also included, as there is not a good market for second hand cars.”

The change would partly mirror New Zealand’s policy change which allowed imports, however Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs said the government is “not inclined” to remove the block on import for second-hand imports. 

The Federal Government says it wants to ensure there is competition in the car market, after Australia’s three remaining car manufacturers shut their factories by the end of 2017.

“In Australia the car industry is unique,” says Tim Harcourt. “It has unique Australian characteristics and capabilities. Its closure is a self-inflicted wound, however we must move on. If we no longer make cars here, we should remove the block on people being able to import goods for their own use.”  

“When I was on the Bracks Review, I made it clear the government could intervene with tariffs or support, but despite the options, changes in the global economy have had a huge impact Australian car industry,” he says. “One crucial issue was until recently was the very high Australian dollar which would have wiped out any impact of a tariff freeze, and the protectionist lobby would have only have had a pyrrhic victory of a few months if tariffs had been imposed.” 

For further comment call Tim Harcourt on 02 9385 3816 or 0408 485 479, 

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