Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, is arguably one of British history’s most flamboyant and charismatic figures. His famous victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo places him in the company of only a few other British leaders who, by their personal brilliance, secured the British Isles from probable disastrous invasions.1
1st Duke of Wellington
Following his illustrious military career, Wellington became Prime Minister of England. It is reported that when asked how his first Cabinet meeting went, he said…
“… an extraordinary affair. I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them…” 2
This remark neatly captures the difference between the action-focus of the military and business mind and the procrastination that often pervades political decision-making. It could be argued that we’re experiencing an overdose of the latter in Australia when one considers the difficulty governments of all persuasions have had over the last decade in dealing with the important contemporary issues facing our nation.
It seems this same mind-set can trickle down into the machinery of government.
As a case in point, consider the fact that we in the new car business continue to face on-going reviews of the operational effectiveness of the Industry Agreement on Access to Repair Information some four years after all relevant parties signed up to the Agreement. The fact is, the entire subject of data sharing has been on one work docket or another inside the Federal Government for almost seven years – long enough you would think to get it dealt with, and to get it right, which we believe the Agreement does.
This never-ending process reflects an appalling paucity of political resolve together with a certain level of naivety regarding the true motivations of those dedicated to accessing our proprietary information for low or no cost.
Recent developments have re-emphasised the need for us to renew our determination, together with our OEM partners, to resist any changes to the existing arrangements. Despite a misinformation program from our opposition using bottom-feeding journalism on YouTube and elsewhere, the facts are that the Agreement works. There is zero evidence of systemic failure – despite repeated requests for actual evidence to be provided.
Similar comments might apply to the recently completed CAANZ review of Australian Consumer Law. This costly, time consuming and wide-ranging process now faces a difficult-to-define timeline of political analysis and consideration at the state and federal levels. The likelihood of a practical outcome frankly seems remote given the many barriers that are likely to arise to prevent consensus. The net effect however is, again, a likely re-opening of the oft-had debate around so-called lemon laws and the effectiveness of the ACL.
Frankly, only the lawyers and bureaucrats think this process is more fun than a day at the beach.
These two examples of political stasis (out of a target-rich field) suggest we have a long way to go if we are to seriously improve the administration of laws and regulations governing the operations of the new car business. Repeated re-examination of the same issues in an endless search for incremental improvements (usually controversially and fuzzily defined) doesn’t have much to do with progress for the consumer or the business owner.
As we move towards new regulations on the sale of finance and insurance products in new car dealerships, one must wonder if any of our political leaders ever consider the consequences of these changes for the average wage or salary earner trying to buy a much-needed car to get the kids to school or to make the hour-long commute to work, or to acquire a tradie ute to run a small business.
As the rules around the sale of these products are progressively (and potentially unreasonably) rewritten in the name of preventing consumer harm, the likely political consequences are apparently lost on many of our politicians.
There will be plenty of unhappy voters out there. So…let’s have another review, right?
I think we’re entitled feel as frustrated with the political process as the Duke of Wellington was back in 1828.
As we commemorate the staggering valor and self-sacrifice of ANZAC Day and reflect on the futility of war, allow me to wish you all, as ever…
In the meantime, as always…
Good luck, and Good Selling!
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Automotive Dealer Association Ltd
1 Sir Francis Drake (Spanish Armada); Lord Nelson (Battle of Trafalgar); Duke of Wellington (Waterloo); Sir Winston Churchill (Battle of Britain. 2 As quoted in UK Government official website (https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/arthur-wellesley-1st-duke-of-wellington)