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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 959


Mr RONALD EDWARDS(10.30) —There are two matters to which I should like to draw the attention of the House tonight. The first concerns an organisation called Comp-u-Rent which is operating in Perth. Honourable members will be aware that the current rental market in Perth has a vacancy factor of less than one per cent, as a consequence of which many people are seeking appropriate rental accommodation. Comp-u-Rent set itself up recently. It is a more recent version of what was tried in the past, and I am sure that honourable members will be interested in the technique that is being used. Comp-u-Rent phones a number of estate agents and gets from them a list of their current rental vacancies. The organisation then proceeds to place in newspapers an advertisement indicating that it has on its books some 300 vacancies. However, the problem is that the organisation is not the particular vendor of the vacancy but is, as it were, a middle agent.

Comp-u-Rent asks the person who is seeking rental property for a contribution of $100 to $150 to cover its work. However, its work does not proceed beyond simply indicating that a particular vacancy exists with another estate agent. All that the organisation is doing is taking some of the business from legitimate estate agents whose business must be not only to search out vacancies but to carry those on behalf of the vendor. What one has in relation to the organisation called Comp-u-Rent is an ability to get around the particular requirements of the legislation. The legislation requires that people in order to operate as rental agents must have an ability to provide keys. So what many of these people are doing-this is so the case of Comp-u-Rent-is setting up an arrangement which says: `We provide keys'. That enables them to get round the provisions of the legislation.

Comp-u-Rent in a technical sense is not acting illegally, but in a specific sense in terms of dealing with the community the organisation is doing two things. Firstly, it is adding an extra cost burden on the individual who is seeking to get a rental property and, secondly, it is taking away business from estate agents who are bound by other requirements and other demands upon their services. In effect, it is not providing any particular service to the market because when it comes to the substantive position it cannot take anyone to a property that is available for rent because it does not have the authority to operate on that rental property. Clearly Comp-u-Rent is creaming off the market without providing any deliberate service to that market. That is the first matter I wish to draw to the attention of the House, and I believe that it should be addressed in the Western Australian community.

The second matter relates to workers compensation and to a particular concern involving a constituent. Many people are aware that there are many mesothelioma cases that relate to the mining of asbestos in Wittenoom in Western Australia. What has emerged is a tactic that I find deplorable. At the behest of insurance companies cases involving asbestos victims are being adjourned repeatedly. The fact is that many of the asbestos victims are dead before their case is heard. This applied to one family in my electorate and caused considerable distress. In effect, the rights under common law are voided by the fact that the person who is the injured party is no longer alive to contest the action. I know that it is a concern of the Asbestos Disease Society and the Trades and Labor Council and some cases are now pending. I wish to express my concern as a member of parliament that these tactics are being used not to try to find a proper solution to these cases but rather to prevent a solution. This is clearly against the best interests of injured workers and of justice in our society. I am pleased to commend both these matters to the attention of the House.