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Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Page: 880


Mrs MOYLAN (9:48 AM) —As I was saying last night when interrupted in this debate, when the Labor Party first announced this proposal to introduce this legislation in their first year of government, the member for Higgins warned that there was a great need to be careful to make sure that when conduct passes from civil conduct to criminal conduct the lines of demarcation are quite clear. My concern in passing this bill through this place today is that we are giving to the ACCC very wide powers of discretion to determine when conduct actually becomes conduct deserving of criminal prosecution. I think we in this place have a duty of care to make sure that we set very clear boundaries so that these cases can proceed without protracted, costly legal interventions. The member for Higgins’s appreciation of the complexities of this legislation is a testament to his experience and his deep understanding of the need to be able to balance the rights of Australian consumers and the importance of not putting legislation into this place that deters legitimate business—and that is a concern that I do have.

The experience and appreciation of the member for Higgins stands in stark contrast to the populist and unrealistic approach that is being taken by the government on what I think was a fateful election promise. Their inexperience shows. We can see that they have delivered a long line of bungles, from the unlimited bank deposit guarantee, which has caused incredible hardship in the business community, to the national broadband network and now this rushed and poorly drafted anticartel legislation. The law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques recently published an alert on this bill on their website, stating that the bill will affect ‘all corporations that carry on business in Australia as well as their employees, directors and officers personally’.

Such far-reaching legislation does deserve a more considered approach and I have to say that, while the coalition supports the main intent of this bill—that is, to legislate to deter cartel conduct and to ensure that the punishment fits the crime—I nevertheless remain concerned, as I said, about the wide powers of discretion that we are giving to one agency, the ACCC, in determining the matter of criminalising and determining where behaviour warrants criminal action.

I hope that the government can put aside the desire to push this legislation through, take on board the recommendations that have been sensibly made and, perhaps more importantly, make sure that as it goes through that other place, the Senate, the house of review, they allow proper time for consideration of these matters. (Time expired)