The "right to repair" is an important issue for Australian agriculture, and it is necessary to hear the views of all industry stakeholders.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Productivity Commission recently held inquiries into the issue, and these have been a chance for a range of views to be presented.
The Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia (TMA), which represents agricultural machinery companies across the country, welcomed the chance to be part of this process.
There have been some misleading comments in the media about the operations and practices of agricultural machinery companies in Australia.
TMA members are committed to meeting the needs of customers by having the best products available and offering the highest standard of service.
We are in no way trying to protect "the river of gold" that National Farmers' Federation chief economist and trade general manager, Ash Salardini, asserted in a recent article.
Manufacturers and dealers are only interested in keeping farm machines in the paddocks where they belong, by providing expert and timely servicing schedules.
We agree with Mr Salardini that farmers can not afford lengthy delays from machinery repairs during peak times of activity.
Our members and their dealers appreciate the urgency related to machine breakdowns at these times, and we work hard to ensure farm operators are back up-and-running as quickly as possible.
The availability of parts has, at times, proved challenging in the past 12 months for a variety of reasons outside anyone's control, including COVID-19-related delays.
The industry is exploring every opportunity to try to ensure a sufficient supply of parts are readily available in Australia - now and in the future.
TMA members do not oppose information-sharing in principle.
But the priority is to preserve the integrity of the machinery from a safety and performance aspect.
First and foremost, we are concerned that safety may be compromised by the recommendations of the recent inquiries.
We are also concerned that if the recommendations are implemented in their current form, repairs will be made by people who do not have the required training - and may result in machines not being fixed correctly the first time.
That can, in turn, lead to increased downtime and other breakdowns - which creates knock-on effects that can be expensive to rectify.
Modern agricultural machinery is often complex, and has a raft of technology features.
These have helped farmers yield untold efficiency, productivity and performance benefits.
With that in mind, machinery and associated systems need to be maintained and repaired by people with the necessary level of training and experience.
At the same time, it should be appreciated that inadequate repairs or modification of the machine introduces serious risks on and off the road - to the driver and members of the public.
The recent inquiries into this issue outlined a range of challenges around the "right to repair".
The inquiries provide an opportunity for further investigation and discussion to ensure the response is one that takes into account all views, and presents the best way forward for farmers, machinery dealers and agriculture as a whole.
- Gary Northover is the executive director of the Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia.
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