Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Questions without Notice
I thank the honourable member for Deakin for his question. I wish him well in the forthcoming election as he battles another trade union official—an ETU official running for the Labor Party in Deakin.
Yesterday the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics tabled a report on home loan lending practices and the processes used to deal with people in financial difficulty. The report said that there should be better protection against inappropriate lending practices and guidance on lending obligations to borrowers facing financial hardship. This government would agree with this. We believe that this is an area where there should be better regulation. In fact, although consumer credit is the responsibility of the states, and the states run the law that governs how much money can be lent and the terms and conditions on which it can be lent, the Commonwealth has offered to take over from the states, on a reference, power in this area if it would help them to deal with the matters. But the states have declined and have set about putting their own improved legislation into place in this area.
This has been a long and tortuous process, however, and it has been going on at the state level for about 4½ years. It was in May 2003 that the states’ Standing Committee of Officials on Consumer Affairs first established a working group to work in this area. It was in August 2003 that they approved a work proposal. In November 2004 they released a regulation impact statement. In July 2005 they approved, in an out-of-session paper, that they would incorporate changes. In February 2006 they cleared the decision-making RIS and in September 2006 they asked the New South Wales government to draft a bill.
That has been going on since May 2003. So you can imagine my surprise this morning to hear the member for Lilley wander up to his doorstop and complain that the Commonwealth had been dilatory in relation to this matter. This has been in the hands of state governments since May 2003. Talk about the blame game! Here is the blame game: the Labor Party looks around for any failure of a state government and then tries to blame the Commonwealth for it. And when you are looking around for failures of state governments you do not have a shortage of material. You have the Queensland government, with its health scandals and water crisis; you have the New South Wales government, which cannot manage a public transport system; you have the Victorian government that has done nothing about water for years; and you have the South Australian government, which is dithering about its desalination plant. These all have one thing in common: they are all Labor governments.
If there is anybody in Australia who thinks that you could improve administration in Australia by taking incompetent Labor from a state level to incompetent Labor at a federal level, they need their head read. A bigger point here is—let me tell you—that state Labor, bad as it is, is the First XI of the Labor Party. Federal Labor are more incompetent. It would be hard to believe, but I think the member for Lilley would pale in competence beside such luminaries as Morris Iemma and Anna Bligh.
Can I say, regulation of insurance brokers is an important thing. Can I say, again, the Commonwealth stands ready to take the area over on a reference. If the state governments do not want to give the Commonwealth a reference in this area, they should get on with their regulation. This has now been going for 4½ years, and we would like to see some outcome.