WORTH MORE: Dealers taken for a ride
As hundreds of car dealerships try to move on from the end of Holden sales in Australia, Labor is calling for more protections for small businesses against the power of multinational corporations.
It comes as dealers, including Ingham's Devietti Holden, say they were not compensated sufficiently in the closure of the brand by US giant General Motors.
But Ingham's Devietti Holden decided to take the package that was offered and move on.
"We know ourselves our business is valued much more highly than the compensation package (we received) but at the end of the day it makes sense to take it and move on," the Ingham dealership's business partner, Michael Devietti, said.
"General Motors have a lot more money than we have."
NSW Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill was in Townsville yesterday campaigning for changes to the Franchising Code of Conduct to prevent small businesses from being bullied by large multinationals.
Speaking outside the former Tony Ireland Holden dealership which closed last year, Senator O'Neill said Holden dealerships had been "left in the lurch" by the government.
"When push came to shove the government did not act to help the Holden dealers and chose corporates overseas over Australian businesses," she said. "That opened the gate and other companies have followed."
In a private senator's bill, Senator O'Neill is proposing changes to the Franchising Code, giving the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman the power to refer disputes to arbitration. She also wants maximum fines for breaches of the code by franchisors increased to $10m.
"The moment for compensation for dealers has well and truly passed," Senator O'Neill said.
"General Motors won because the government didn't do the work that needed to be done to provide a sufficiently level playing field for these businesses."
But a spokesman for Small and Family Business Minister Michaelia Cash said the government had provided significant transitional assistance to the industry and was implementing reforms to franchising to make the system fairer.
The spokesman said the government continued to enforce fairer end-of-term obligations, capital expenditure arrangements, and dispute resolution in all new automotive dealership agreements.
It was also continuing to toughen penalties for breaching the Franchising Code, provide regulatory relief to allow automotive dealers to negotiate as a group with their franchisors and strengthen protections from unfair contract terms.
The spokesman said the government would observe the impact of these reforms and consider further measures to support dealers if necessary.
Originally published as WORTH MORE: Dealers taken for a ride