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Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Page: 113

Ms PRICE (Durack) (19:15): Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough, I wish you a happy new year. I am pleased to rise in the House for the first time this year to speak on the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Payment Surcharges) Bill 2015. This bill will ban what can be incredibly unfair, excessive surcharges on processed payments, such as processing fees, banks' merchant service fees, fees for the rental of card terminals and fixed monthly and annual fees. Importantly, in the future when a consumer uses a credit card to pay for a meal, a hotel room or even a set of new tyres or to buy goods online no longer will the business owner that they are transacting with be entitled to charge a surcharge that does not reflect the actual cost of the credit card transaction.

It is very easy for me to support the introduction of this bill that we are debating today given my electorate of Durack covers over 1.6 million square kilometres and consists of more than 300 towns and communities, with the vast majority being rural and remote. People in regional Western Australia live in some of the most remote places in the world, where opportunities and money are harder to come by. Companies making large profits from excessive surcharges at the expense of the honest people in very rural and remote towns is simply not on. Often in rural and remote locations there is little choice of products or service providers, which only increases the chance of regional customers being ripped off. We are now going to stop that practice. It is not right, and the Turnbull government is rectifying the situation to make it right. Those sitting on this side of the chamber understand that, and that is why the government is acting to stamp out unscrupulous practice. Although I do not agree with those opposite on many things, I am very pleased to hear that they appear to be supporting this bill. We know that this is yet another common sense measure by the Turnbull government.

This bill will enable the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to be the primary enforcement agency to ban those unfair excessive charges. In the future, those excessive charges will come under the watchful eye of the ACCC. The reality is that many merchants absorb the processing costs in their usual trade without having to surcharge. Well done to them, I say. Disappointingly, though, some merchants impose surcharges well above the cost of processing a card payment, more than 10 per cent in some cases. Unfortunately, while thousands of good Australian businesses do the right thing by the customer, there are always a handful who give a bad name to the rest of them. In the future, those merchants who break the rules will be hit hard, with listed corporations fined up to $108,000, other corporations stung to the tune of $10,800 and unincorporated entities penalised by just over $2,000.

The Reserve Bank of Australia regulates most commonly used cards, such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express, and it will be within the discretion of the RBA or the government to extend the operation of the ban to other payment cards or methods. Under this bill, the RBA will generally be responsible for setting the permitted costs that merchants can recover.

This measure is yet another example of the smart, effective and efficient government we have been delivering since we were elected over two years ago. It is no accident that last year there were more new jobs created than have been since 2006. This government presided over the creation of 301,300 new jobs in 2015, and we achieved that by backing innovation and small business. We are the same government which are reviewing the system to unleash Australia's full economic potential and support improved living standards and continued prosperity for all Australians.

We are also the same government that have developed new employment initiatives, such as jobactive, the Transition to Work service, the What's Next website, the National Work Experience Program and the Empowering YOUth Initiatives—all of which played a role in last year's record employment level, which included a record high 8,228,700 in full-time employment. Most pleasing to me is that youth unemployment is now at its lowest level since July 2013, with youth job participation having increased to 68.1 per cent. Also we have more women in the workplace, which pleases me very much as well.

The mental health package, the science and innovation package, the domestic violence package and the national ice strategy are four key reforms which the government announced before Christmas. They have all been warmly received in my electorate of Durack.

A key to the success of this government has been our consultative nature, and stakeholders approved the framework we are discussing in this bill today for the ban on excessive credit card surcharging. Banks, along with card schemes, were supportive, as were consumer representatives.

As I said at the start of this speech, the Turnbull government are committed to achieving a more efficient system. A more efficient system will go a long way in my regional electorate, especially for rural and remote towns in Durack. Residents of the bush cannot continue to fund record profits with this ongoing unfair practice. We are determined to ensure a fairer outcome for all Australian consumers. I commend this bill to the House.