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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2341


Mr HAMMOND (Perth) (19:30): I was really struck by the government's announcements, both two days ago in relation to the new ministry and, more importantly, in relation to the reshuffle that occurred in December last year, because something appears to have dropped off the radar of almost anyone on the government side—well, one of two things may have happened. Either it dropped off the radar or it was just a convenient omission. I should take this opportunity to say that it was not all bad news, particularly in December. We saw, for instance, the most appropriate recognition of the hard work that the honourable member for Durack has been doing for so many years; her ascension to the front bench was entirely appropriate. But that might be a silver lining to what is otherwise a very dark cloud, and it's a very dark cloud because of this: a funny thing happened on the way to the drafting office, because there is no longer a minister for consumer affairs. I have many failings, and one of them is not paying attention to detail sometimes. But I looked at the list three, four, five times. It's gone, vanished like Houdini: no minister for consumer affairs. Now, that means either the government don't care about vulnerable consumers or they just find them to be an inconvenience—so much so that, if they just pretend they don't exist, the problem might go away.

I'm really proud to be part of a Labor team that not only championed reforms for vulnerable consumers through the introduction of the Trade Practices Act but improved those reforms with the introduction of the Competition and Consumer Act, annexing of course the Australian Consumer Law. All of those things were done by Labor governments for the benefit of vulnerable consumers. But it is not just us who are working for vulnerable consumers. I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all the incredible hard work that the groups who champion the cause of vulnerable consumers do. In no particular order, they are CHOICE, who do a terrific job all around the country; the Consumer Action Law Centre, who do a great job, particularly in the financial space; my local team, Consumer Credit Legal Services, on Adelaide Terrace in Perth, which many, many moons ago I was once a member of; and all the other not-for-profit groups who stick up for and champion the rights of consumers every day of the week.

What is the result of the government's omission? The result is telling and completely clear when you look at the litany of dropping the ball it has done in relation to vulnerable consumers. You may have heard me bang on ad nauseam about the way in which this government has pushed under the carpet reforms to protect consumers in the small-amount-credit-contract, rent-to-buy and payday-lending spaces. They just don't exist, as far as the government is concerned, notwithstanding the fact that it had legislation approved by its cabinet for introduction into this place—gone, absolutely gone. That does not happen on our watch. We have introduced such legislation.

What else do we see? Today is the latest example of what happens to vulnerable consumers when this mob is left in charge. Every single day, the risk of injury increases as a result of faulty Takata airbags in vehicles. It was only today that we saw this government finally do something about them, although it was abundantly clear if not years ago then certainly by 16 August last year, when the ACCC said on the record, in response to questions from the House Standing Committee on Economics:

… it's critical that the alpha airbags be replaced immediately.

That should have triggered alarm bells. It should have triggered the Competition and Consumer Act. The minister had the power to stop it; the minister did nothing. Vulnerable consumers are left wanting every step of the way under this government. (Time expired)