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Thursday, 20 September 2007
Page: 146

Mr RANDALL (12:02 PM) —Unfortunately I have to report to the parliament again on an issue which I raised in this chamber several week ago, and that is my constituents’ dispute with Lenard’s chicken. The issue, which I raise in order that I represent my constituents, was that my constituents have had franchises with Lenard’s in Mirrabooka and Livingston. The allegation is that Lenard’s contributed to them going broke and going out of business.

I reported to the House previously that I was to arrange a meeting in my electorate office—which I did—between Mr Bruce Myers, the Chief Executive Officer of Lenard’s, and the affected constituents, plus another franchise holder, Elizabeth, who is in Forrestfield. This meeting was generally cordial. The two master franchisees from Dune Pty Ltd in Western Australia attended. I had no problem with the conduct of the meeting. Unfortunately, it did not go anywhere. People got it off their chests, but it did not go anywhere in terms of resolving this dispute. I have also, as I reported previously I believe, written to the ACCC about this matter and they have responded to me.

I was asked to wait at least three weeks so that some mediation could be arranged or just-terms settlement towards my constituents could be made. I could be taking on constituents on this issue all over Australia, but I have confined myself to the constituents in my electorate. I waited this period of time because I was asked to, to give it time to resolve itself, but nothing happened. So, on Friday 14 September, I wrote to Mr Lenard Poulter, rather than to Mr Myers, explaining to him that I had waited, on advice, and that I now would be forced to report to the parliament as to the personal and financial hardships inflicted on my constituents and that this had not been addressed. Whether or not he considers it morally or legally binding, the fact is that there is an issue. If they had not been Lenard’s franchisees, they would not be in this position.

I wrote what I thought was quite a civil letter. I have sought leave, previously, to table these letters at the end rather than read them out. I received on 17 September a letter from someone signing for Bruce Myers, probably from their company lawyers, which essentially set out to try and head me off. I will not be headed off on this issue, because I am trying to get justice and equity for my constituents, Rochelle Bailey and Brad Jarvis, and Leanne McCullagh and Justin Pearce. In this letter they say that they will not take my without prejudice letter to them as without prejudice. They have decided it will be an ‘open’ letter and that there is an inference about further action.

I have discussed this letter with the clerks. Should I be returned to the next parliament, if there is any further action in this regard I would consider it a contempt of the parliament. I would refer it as a matter of privilege if people are going to try and stop me doing my business as an elected representative on behalf of my constituents. I recall that the last two people jailed under privilege were people who did just that—they tried to stop a member doing their business in their electorate. They might want to take that on board.

In this letter it says, ‘I am instructed that a settlement has been reached in relation to this matter with Rochelle Bailey and Brad Jarvis.’ I spoke to Rochelle Bailey yesterday. She is a police officer in my electorate who has lost her home. She is now living in a demountable behind the Pinjarra police station because she is essentially broke. She told me there has been no such settlement and that mediation has not happened. I believe I have been misled by this letter from Lenard’s. Leanne McCullagh cannot afford to pay for her half of the mediation. The company lawyer, Mr Bates, said that to be involved in mediation they have to pay half the cost. I received advice yesterday that there are many cases where, in order to resolve these issues if the person is broke, the company pays the whole cost of mediation.

I am saying to both Mr Poulter and Mr Myers: do the right thing by these constituents; pay them just terms; do not pay them ‘nick off money’. They have lost their house and their entire savings. They deserve help. Do not allow Lenard’s reputation to go down the tube because you will not help two people in this case. As I said, there are many more whose names I can produce if required, but these people are desperate. I appeal to the executive and the owner of Lenard’s to hop in and make sure that these people do not do any more harm to themselves and their own personal wellbeing. In the interests of Lenard’s reputation you might help them in this matter.