MP Darren Chester says cars deemed unsafe for public servants shouldn’t be sold

4 June 2013


AUSTRALIA should consider banning the sale of cars with poor safety records, federal parliament was told yesterday.

Shadow parliamentary secretary for roads and regional transport, Darren Chester, made the call to ban all strong-selling vehicles from Australia that do not have a three- or four-star crash safety rating in a speech before federal parliament.

He also asked for more to be done “to help reduce the enormous impact of road trauma on our nation”.

The National Party member for Gippsland said there were vehicles on sale in Australia that the federal government would “not let any public servant drive” because their crash safety fell outside the government’s compulsory five-star rating.

“It is my personal view that we should ban the importation of any vehicle sold in volume which does not achieve a minimum three- or, preferably, four-star ANCAP safety rating,” Mr Chester said.

“Right now, we have vehicles on sale in Australia that the federal government would not let any public servant drive but that we are allowing to be imported and driven on our roads.

“In safety terms, these are duds and they should not be on our roads. They may be cheap but they are potentially deadly, and there is no logical reason why we should import vehicles with comparatively low ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) safety ratings.”

Mr Chester’s call could result in passenger cars including the two-star Chery J11 compact SUV, and the three-star Chery J1 small hatchback, disappearing from the Australian automotive landscape – assuming, that is, they classify as strong-selling.

Mr Chester said banning poor-performing cars from sale would send a message to car-makers worldwide to make improvements in crash safety.

“We should be telling the international vehicle manufacturing market that we will not tolerate the importation of such vehicles in the future,” he said.

“We should give the manufacturers fair warning and ban the importation of these vehicles as soon as possible.

“Lives can be saved and serious injuries can be minimised by the swift uptake of new technology and by ensuring that more Australians are driving safer vehicles.

We should be banning the importation of any vehicle which does not achieve a minimum safety rating, because all vehicles manufactured in Australia already meet that high standard.

“It makes no sense to allow the importation of vehicles to compete with locally manufactured vehicles when we know they are not as safe and we know that any accidents will end up costing Australian taxpayers more in the longer term.”

Strong mainstream sellers that would face the four-star axe would include the Nissan Micra and Holden Barina Spark city hatchbacks.

However, even premium and luxury cars can sometimes fail to lift the bar in terms of safety. Four-star rated cars include the likes of Jaguar’s XF saloon, the Land Rover Evoque SUV, Mini’s Countryman five-door SUV, Volkswagen’s EOS convertible and even Audi’s Q7 SUV.

ANCAP said today that it welcomed the views expressed by Mr Chester.

“Mr Chester expressed a fear of complacency, acceptance and resignation that people will always die or be seriously injured on our roads,” the independent crash test authority sid in a release. “With the annual cost of road trauma in the order of $27 billion with 25 lives lost and 600 people being seriously injured each week, Mr Chester gave his support for a more holistic approach from governments adding that there is a compelling argument that road trauma should be regarded as the highest-ranked public health issue facing the country.”

ANCAP chairman Nicholas Clark said over the four-year period to 2011, Australian road deaths fell by 21 per cent.

“Some of this reduction inevitably will be due to safer cars,” Mr Clark said. “If we are to achieve another similar big reduction in road trauma then it is vital that Australia maintains pace with developments in new safety assist technology.

“These technologies are already demonstrating significant effectiveness in other countries.”