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Safety the winner as government overhauls vehicle import laws

Industry bodies have welcomed new legislation that limits specialist car imports but lifts the bar for safety.
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist
GoAutoMedia

30 Nov 2018 • 4 min read

New government legislation will give Australians direct access to new vehicles with the same state-of-the-art safety technology as the rest of the world.

The Road Vehicles Standards Act (RSVA), initiated this week but to be gradually introduced over two years, puts safety first and signs the end of ‘grey’ imports that government and industry bodies feared would allow less-safe vehicles into the country.

The bill has been welcomed by car industry organisations including the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), which said safer vehicles would be available to Australian consumers in the same time frame as the rest of the world.

The Australian Automotive Dealer Association’s CEO, David Blackhall, said: “There are real concerns around provenance and safety of imported used car vehicles, which have been sharply highlighted recently by the Takata airbag recall.”

The chief executive of the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), James Goodwin, said the bill will be a boon for vehicle safety.
 
He said there were enormous changes in the car industry and it was important Australia’s regulations kept pace with new vehicles and future vehicles.

Mr Goodwin said he believed the new legislation will also assist with the early introduction of new, safer vehicle technologies.

The bill comes only two weeks after the NSW Centre for Road Safety Transport reported that cars built before 2001 were involved in 20 per cent of state accidents but were responsible for 36 per cent of fatalities.

By comparison, the centre said cars built between 2012 and 2017 were in 31 per cent of accidents, but these resulted in only 12 per cent of deaths.

The centre, part of the NSW government, is pushing for used-car buyers to buy the safest car possible - those with airbags, electronic stability control and pre-tension seatbelts - and for new-car buyers to choose features including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

The bill, which replaces the Motor Vehicle Standards Act (MVSA) of 1989 as Australia’s primary legislation for regulating road vehicles, does not completely prevent the importation of vehicles.

Under the Register of Approved Vehicles database, vehicles will be allowed to be imported if they comply with national road standards.

In addition, enthusiasts are still able to import low-volume, specialised vehicles under a Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVs) list.

Mr Goodwin said the Register of Approved Vehicles replaced the need for identification plates, which would improve the transparency and enforceability of the process for the supply of new and used vehicles.
 
“We also welcome the improved clarity provided for the recall and rectification of defective vehicles, which will improve the safety of road users throughout the life of the vehicle,” he said.

Previous proposals for the new bill included allowing parallel imports - new or near-new vehicles without Australian Design Rules compliance that could be sold alongside similar, manufacturer-imported vehicles - which was dismissed because of complexity.

The bill also prevents the importation of second-hand vehicles - called grey imports - despite heavy lobbying by used-car sales organisations.

Is the Road Vehicles Standards Act too restrictive for private importers? Tell us what you think in the comments below.