Opinion Piece: Strength in Numbers (Street Commodores Editorial Columns)

21 Aug

This is the 13th in a regular series of editorial pieces we’ll be posting here on the blog, originally written by Hosking Industries’ Ben Hosking for Street Commodores magazine and other magazines he’s completed opinion pieces for. This column appeared in issue 179 of Street Commodores:

Strength in Numbers (Written November 15, 2010)

If the modified car enthusiast ever wants to attain some level of rights in the community, it’s all about numbers.

It’s a problem that has plagued the many various modified car scenes since people began chopping, changing and cruising their cars even before WWII: that is, being looked down upon and marginalised by ‘the man’. Car fanatics have always been unfairly targeted by the authorities, had liberties stripped from them or had legislation imposed that would restrict the modifications possible – all under the banner of being safer for the community.

Sadly, more often than not it is the stupid acts of the tiny minority – and the knee-jerk reaction of officials to the resultant public outcry – that bring about ever-tightening laws and restrictions for the majority. It doesn’t matter that our hobby is worth billions to the economy. It doesn’t matter that larger car shows can bring millions in additional revenue to the communities that give them a home. It doesn’t matter that most of the more modified cars on the streets boast a higher level of engineering and specification than the factory ever offered.

You know why? Because all levels of government know that there’s no significant, united body of people ready to stand up and represent the responsible modified car owner. As such, that makes us vulnerable and as is proven by every new piece of unchallenged legislature, an easy target.

There’s only one way to properly tackle this problem and that is to take the fight to the government: fight fire with fire. We can only do that with the power of numbers. By that, I mean to create and manage a proper politically-motivated representative body that’s got a spine and is willing to bruise a few egos to get what it needs.

As such, we don’t have that here in Australia. What we’ve got has proven ineffectual at best. In the USA there’s SEMA, a behemoth of an organisation that’s worth millions, employs a huge staff of professional, experienced people and has the support of pretty much the entire North American industry. As a result, they usually get what they want and most of the nonsense law changes get knocked back when SEMA rallies against them.

Sadly, there’s plenty you can achieve when you have a population of more than 200 million people and the industry you’re protecting and promoting is just as big. Little old Australia, out in the middle of nowhere and we don’t have anywhere near as many aftermarket companies to financially stand behind any organisation created to protect them.

Perhaps Australia could create something different: something where it isn’t just business that supports and finances this hypothetical organisation. Perhaps an Australian model should include the power and support of the massive modified car owner population prevalent in every state of the country.

Think about it: if it were possible to create a representative body that had the support and financial backing of not only the majority of Aussie aftermarket manufacturers and retailers, but also a good percentage of the country’s modified car owners (like annual car club fees or belonging to a union), it could be possible to create a body of significant power and influence.

Just like employers love it when employees can quantify a problem or solution, it is also important to be able to prove the sheer size and strength of our combined car scenes to show different levels of government just how big we are and how our votes count come election time. What do you think?

Could it be done? Is it feasible? Would it have the desired result? Email us or head online to our discussion forums and let’s get have a chat.

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