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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 143

Mrs GASH (9:56 AM) —It was hardly a surprise to read recent media reports that the newly introduced Do Not Call Register was inundated on its opening day. Unchecked telemarketing has every potential to develop into the latest road-rage type syndrome. It seems the predictable telephone calls from New Delhi or Cairo around dinner time triggered the reaction that I suspected they would create—a counterproductive effect for the marketeer. The matter incensed people from all walks of life, and many reacted by calling my office to do something. No amount of explaining that these calls emanated from overseas convinced people that we had little influence in stopping this intrusive and annoying practice. I had had a few of those calls myself, so I could fully appreciate people’s frustrations. Often the phone calls were relentless. Because the marketeers followed a systematic prescription of cold calling, albeit to randomly selected telephone numbers, just replying to the caller immediately marked you for a follow-up call. Little wonder the new government registration website was swamped.

Few people knew that the Australian Direct Marketing Association maintained their own voluntary do not call register but that it was entirely discretionary. I applauded the ADMA for their responsible behaviour when I first spoke to the House on the subject in 2005. They themselves admitted that it was not a foolproof system. Unscrupulous marketeers were under no obligation to respect any registration, so the Do Not Call Register legislation will go a very long way in reducing the amount of nuisance calls received from marketeers. If an Australia based marketeer calls a registered number, it can be prosecuted for a breach of the act. It will not stop foreign owned marketeers from outside Australia, but I am confident that the advent of this government-supported register has ushered in a new era of responsible and considerate targeting of residents.

What I suspect will now happen in the face of this level of animosity towards unwelcome telephone soliciting is that the direct marketing industry will come up with new strategies. I have no idea what form these will take, but the government must stand ready to intercede on behalf of residents, as it has for the nuisance phone calls that this register seeks to regulate. The nature of business is such that marketing companies are constantly exploring new horizons for opportunities. This is their prerogative, but any new sales pitch should not cross the line into an unwelcome intrusion. This is tantamount to trespass and, whilst business has the right to advertise and promote its product, the consumer must also have the right to say, ‘No thanks, not today,’ and have their decision to decline the offer respected. I applaud the government for this initiative and hope that this legislation will serve as an example to those organisations that may be contemplating similar intrusive and offensive strategies. I, for one, will certainly be signing up.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—In accordance with standing order 193, the time for members’ statements has concluded.