Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Trade Practices Amendment (Australian Consumer Law) Bill 2009
I have two observations of a personal nature to make on this amendment of Senator Xenophon’s. I remember the fight about demanding that people pay wages in cash and losing that argument as time moved on. At the time, we lost a lot of security guards, who used to escort the payrolls. There were other issues for people, but I will not go into those issues.
The other thing—and I have to declare my interest—is that I have been encouraging my department to give discounts for people who apply for visas online, a discount for immigration department charges as a means of encouraging people to apply over the internet for visas and reduce some of the traffic in some of our offices. But I digress.
The bill as drafted would allow for such terms to be challenged as being unfair. The government does not support Senator Xenophon’s proposal on the basis that it does not take into account the full implications of the suggested prohibited term and imposes potentially significant cost implications for businesses, which we think need to be understood. Indeed, in some circumstances such a clause would not be considered unfair on the basis that it would be impractical or uneconomic to ban the practice of differential pricing in certain circumstances.
The government has amended the bill to remove the regulatory power to prohibit terms. However, this will not preclude the prohibition of particular terms on the face of the legislation at a later time subject to two key issues being addressed: firstly, the existence of a robust regulatory impact assessment of the proposed prohibition which explores the full implications of such a step; and, secondly, the agreement of the states and territories as required by the Intergovernmental Agreement for the Australian Consumer Law. The prohibition of terms is not to be undertaken lightly and the full implications of such a step must be undertaken with appropriate care and consideration for any wider implications. So on that basis, because of those concerns, the government will not be supporting Senator Xenophon’s amendment.