Sparesbox Blog

Australian Import Laws Set To Change on December 10: So What?

By Mitch Babbs

Fri Nov 08 2019

After many years of deliberation, the Road Vehicle Standards Act (RVSA) finally passed both houses of parliament on November 27th 2018, reaching assent soon after on December 10. With the act set to come into law a year later on December 10th, let’s have a look at what changes are on their way in and what those changes will mean for the industry at large.

The RSVA will be replacing the Motor Vehicle Standards Act of 1989 (MSVA) as Australia’s primary legislation concerning motor vehicles, but will additionally comprehensively cover vehicle components, unlike its predecessor. While the law is set to come into effect on December 10th, it will be rolled out partially and in small steps at a time, so as to avoid needless interruption to Australian businesses.The latest that we can expect the law to be completely enforced will be July 1, 2021.

According to the Parliament of Australia’s website, it’s ‘the most important most important and most extensive set of changes to the Government’s regulation of road vehicles in almost three decades’ and will ‘affect every aspect of existing practice. So what are the big-ticket items?

  • Creates a national standard for both cars and their components, evaluated by their environmental, safety, and anti-theft standards
  • Establishes a framework for recalling unsafe and/or non-compliant road vehicles or components 
  • Creates a new register, the Register of Approved Vehicles (RAV), which cars (generally) must be entered into in order to enter the Australian market

These are simple enough changes at a top-level, but their impacts will be widely felt for virtually anyone that drives, or will be driving in the future.

Firstly, the national standard for cars and their components looks set to portend a shift into a more environmentally responsible car industry. Expect to see more fuel-efficient petrol vehicles, hybrid vehicles, or those ever-burgeoning electric vehicles that currently creep silently around Australia’s cities. 

It also means Australian drivers and passengers will be safer than in previous years, with more stringent standards around occupant protection than what was present in the Motor Vehicle Standards Act. 

Here’s a quick (not-so-fun) fact: did you know that cars built before 2001 account for 20% of accidents in NSW and yet are responsible for 36% of fatalities? Contrast that with vehicles built between 2012 & 2017 that account for 31% of accidents—resulting in only 12% of fatalities—and you can see the sense in the recent changes. Protecting lives on the road is a no-brainer.

While restrictions do apply when importing cars that are available in Australia (ie. if it’s available here, you need to buy it from within the country—no ifs, ands, or buts) there is significant wiggle room to allow a much wider range of vehicles into the country. This list shows the vehicles already approved, and the list will only grow larger in time. 

The Register of Approved Vehicles (RAV) is where things get interesting. In previous years, for each vehicle being imported that didn’t already have crash safety data in the system, it was necessary to import two vehicles: one for the crash tests (which would naturally be destroyed in the process) and the other vehicle to actually be used. Under the new system, that same safety data can be collected from anywhere in the world, meaning no need to destroy vehicles.

Compliance costs should be expected to decrease for importers as well, as once a vehicle is on the register, there’s no need for continued testing of any kind. Compliance for components should also be cheaper, easier and more consistent, with catalytic converters, new tyres, and emissions testing no longer being required under new pre-approved Government Model Reports.

Finally, there’s an interesting wrinkle in this new system that’s worth taking a look at: the 25 Year Law. In essence, the 25 Year Law states that any vehicle manufactured over 25 years ago can be imported without meeting the conditions of the national standards being brought in, an appeal to classic car lovers the country over — seemingly in contrast to the desired outcomes of environmental, safety, and anti-theft improvements inherent in the RVSA (but that’s an issue for another day).

For those of you living in NSW, this 25 Year Law might cause a distant bell to begin ringing somewhere in your brain. The NSW Historic Vehicle Scheme allows for a conditional registration for vehicles older than 30 years old (plus plenty of other conditions) at the low, low price of $100 a year, if you’re successful in obtaining one. 

While the majority of the market will focus on newer, safer, more environmentally-friendly cars, there will certainly be a minority seeking to take financial advantage of the changes. Only time will tell, as with all laws, exactly how it all shakes out in practice.