It is a great pleasure and a true honour to return to the Motor Trades Association of Queensland as Chief Executive Officer.

One of the tasks that the MTAQ Board has entrusted to me as CEO is to implement its 2016-18 Strategic Plan. This, coupled with the Objects of the MTA Queensland, will be my ‘light on the hill’ – the parameters within which I will work with the MTAQ team to achieve the outcomes for the Board and members.

I appreciate the warmth of the welcome from staff and members, and the friendly operational environment from which to work. Looking into the future, there will be challenges. Fast changing technology and innovations are pervasive, requiring us to be ‘nimble’ with our policies and strategic actions to ensure long-term relevancy in service delivery and as an advocate to all levels of Government.

Industry

Members are alerted to an increase in imports of counterfeit and pirated goods that includes fake car parts from Asia. The escalation in the trade in non-genuine parts means members of our Auto Collision Alliance must be vigilant. Investigations by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection over the past two years resulted in more than 6000 items being seized with an estimated value in excess of $550,000. The seized items were branded Ford, Holden and Toyota among many others.

Scams

As I prepare this From the CEO’s Desk, it is ‘National Consumer Fraud Week’. To coincide with it, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its Targeting Scams Report. ‘Scamming’, it appears, is emerging as a business and is one that genuine businesses must guard against. The ACCC reported that in 2015, Australians lost more than $229 million to scams. This comprised $85 million reported lost to the ACCC’s Scamwatch with 105,200 scam complaints; reports to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Networking revealed losses of more than $127 million from 25,600 complaints, while unreported scam activity was estimated at $17.1 million.

In addition, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand have advised that tax systems across the world are being targeted by sophisticated tax scammers. It is vital that there be vigilance. Increasingly, both citizens and enterprises are being asked to deal with government or undertake business transactions online, and it appears critical that there be on-going improvement in the methods of identity authentication.

Luxury Car Tax (LCT)

The Commissioner of Taxation has provided a public ruling for the LCT threshold and the fuel efficient car limit for the 2016-17 financial year. The LCT for the coming financial year is $64,132 whilst the fuel-efficient car limit is $75,526.

The MTAQ has consistently advocated the LCT be abolished. It is inequitable and discriminates against the automotive industry compared with other ‘luxury’ goods. In the words of the former Secretary to the Treasury Dr Ken Henry at the 2010 Tax Forum, ‘it is truly absurd.’ We agree.

Economy

The Reserve Bank Board’s (RBB) decision to cut the cash rate by 0.25 percentage points to the historic low of 1.75 per cent due to the unexpected lower inflation rate was a surprise. The RBB minutes reveal the decision was weighed between adjusting the policy immediately or awaiting further information before acting. The RBB was persuaded that ‘prospect for sustainable growth . . . would be improved’ with the immediate action to lower the cash rate.

The recently released ANZ Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Research indicated that, over the past four weeks, consumer confidence was increasing and above the long run average. Contributing factors included optimism around household finances, probably reflecting the RRB’s cut in the cash rate, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force report which showed the unemployment rate steady at 5.7 per cent (seasonally adjusted) – the lowest since September 2013.

On the other hand, consumer confidence in the economy was less optimistic for the next 12 months. An interesting observation from the analysis was that, at this point of time, the election had not dampened consumer confidence despite the fact the polls remain close.

The outlook for economic activity is gloomy. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Leading Index has been in ‘negative territory for the last 12 months and continues to point to below trend growth in the economy throughout 2016.’ Critical for the economy will be the election result with Australians having to choose from two different policy settings – the Coalition parties with an economic agenda for growth and productivity and the Australian Labor Party with a ‘putting people first’ agenda with significant investments that include education and health. In this long election campaign it is important when casting a vote to be informed on the different policies that drive the economy forward.

New Motor Vehicle Sales

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveal that new motor vehicle sales plummeted in April 2016 compared with the previous month and with the same month in 2015. The ABS data (seasonally adjusted) indicated there were 18,843 new motor vehicle sales across Queensland – a decrease of 1,568 or -7.7 per cent compared with March 2016. The decline was the highest of all Australian jurisdictions and almost three times the national decline.

Compared with April 2015, the decrease was 720 or -3.7 per cent when there were 19,563 new motor vehicle sales. Nationally an increase of +2.4 per cent was recorded.

The respected VFacts data is more upbeat. In April 2016, new motor vehicle sales were 17,753 which, when compared with April 2015 resulted in an improvement of 418 or +5.4 per cent in new motor vehicle sales. On a national basis, there was an increase of +7.2 per cent. On a year-to-date basis, 75,127 new vehicles were sold, an increase of 511 +0.7 per cent for the same period 2015. Nationally there was a rise of +3.8 per cent.

According to VFacts analysis, sales of passenger cars, SUV and commercial vehicles across Australia reached a new April record of 87,571, up 2.9 per cent.

The small passenger sector (up 6.9 per cent) and medium passenger sector (up 6.8 per cent) were both busy parts of the market at the expense of large cars (down 6.2 per cent) and upper large (down 23.2 per cent).

Business purchases of motor vehicles in April 2016 were strong, with passenger vehicles up 15.6 per cent, SUVs up 15.2 per cent and light commercials up 32.6 per cent compared with April 2015.  The measures announced in the Federal Budget will encourage business purchases of new motor vehicles.

The Queensland Government has indicated that from July 1, motor vehicle registration, including licence fees, will rise by 3.5 per cent, twice the CPI of 1.7 per cent. The cost of registering a four-cylinder vehicle will increase from $340.40 to $352.30; a five or six-cylinder vehicle will increase to $527.30 and a seven or eight-cylinder vehicle will rise to $717.50. The cost of a five-year licence will go from $159.40 to $165.00. In addition, incorporated into the Compulsory Third Party premium from July 1 will be $32 per vehicle per year for the national injury insurance scheme.