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Wednesday, 12 May 2010
Page: 3259

Mr OAKESHOTT (1:29 PM) —I also rise in support of the Do Not Call Register Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 and to put a few thoughts on record about how it can be improved into the future. From my perspective this is a simple and practical move to allow individuals to have restrictions on who rings them or who gets in touch with them via fax machine. For something so simple and so practical to be so hard and to have such tangled outcomes says a lot about the broader political processes in Australia today and how it is at times so difficult to weave good policy out of the vested interests that get their claws into the process.

This register is certainly, from a consumer’s point of view, one that would be broadly agreed upon and supported. That is why, I suspect, the discussion paper in 2008 from a new government was undertaken following the actions of a previous government to introduce the very concept of a do-not-call register. I therefore assume—and I may be wrong—that there is general bipartisanship from both sides of this chamber about expanding the bill and seeing a continuation of the concept of the register. This bill is expanding the numbers that can be registered to include businesses and emergency numbers. I understand there have been some concerns in the emergency services sector that calls to 000 were in a sense wasting time that should be devoted to emergency calls. That is, therefore, an eminently sensible change to allow emergency numbers to be included on the register. Likewise, a common complaint from the very large small business sector on the mid-North Coast is as simple as the amount of fax paper that is used through telemarketing and fax marketing being a waste and a cost. When I talk about small business I talk about the genuine five-employees-or-fewer family based businesses where costs of ink cartridges matter and are watched on a daily basis with regard to how they are managed. It is an eminently sensible move to include small businesses and businesses generally in their ability to be on the Do Not Call Register.

I talk about the tangled web we weave, however. I did note the shadow minister’s comments with regard to the three years or the five years issue. I do find it a very strange outcome that we have legislation before this House which is not truly reflective of what the practical outcome will be in its implementation. The dispute of three years versus five years and the hot debate of the topic of the use of disallowable instruments versus presentation of the full legislative package before us I think are unfortunate.

Likewise I make mention of the exemptions. The irony will not be lost on anyone in community that feature pieces of the exemptions are political candidates and political parties. For members of parliament and for other members of political organisations there is hopefully a deep sense of irony about us all wanting to be the consumers’ friends by allowing people freedom of choice about who does or does not get in contact with them but wanting those involved in the political process to be allowed to annoy people as much as we want. I do see some irony there. I would have put up an amendment to the amendment. However, I do note there is still ongoing a review of the scheme looking at those exemptions for charities and political parties. The surveys clearly show that people are still frustrated by those phone calls that they receive even when they are on the Do Not Call Register.

As a local example, the night before the by-election in the seat of Lyne the entire electorate of Lyne received an American style campaigning answering machine message from the previous member, causing enormous confusion—and, if anything, assisting my campaign. However, it was seen as intrusive. It was, in an electorate with a high elderly demographic, the cause of confusion. It did lead to a great deal of frustration for many people who felt their privacy was being invaded by the political process. That is something for consideration, for the future actions of everyone involved in the political process. It would be nice if we could empower people in a formal sense through the Do Not Call Register to include political parties and political organisations so that people do have that choice of whether they do want answering machine messages played down their phones the night before elections or by-elections.

I certainly support this legislation. It is important. I would support the five-year expansion. I hope that disallowable instrument is brought in. I do raise one issue that may be dealt with in the detail of the legislation. That is the issue of the financial implications and the $4.7 million being allocated over four years, with $3.5 million of that to be recouped from telemarketing and fax marketing industry groups through the paying of fees to access the register. I would hope we have strict guidelines, controls and monitoring by ACMA and anyone else necessary over the use and potential misuse of those lists that are being accessed through the paying of a fee.

If there is a contract in place, where someone is buying something from government and buying a list which is a do-not-call register, I would hope there are very strict guidelines around the use of that list—for example the on-selling of that list for other purposes; or the use of that list for targeted mail, compared to the use of telephones or fax machines. I would welcome feedback from the minister or parliamentary secretary, or whoever is going to respond, on that question of how tight the rules and regulations are for the telemarketing and fax marketing companies who are actually purchasing, in a sense, a do-not-call register list, and what they can then do with that list once they have paid for and then have autonomy over the use and potential misuse of that list. I would hope the guidelines around that are strict and that there is a genuine commitment to privacy through the intent of this legislation and the creation and expansion of the Do Not Call Register.

Other than that, it is good legislation and I look forward to its implementation and a wide uptake from the community. It is a opt-in exercise, so people do have to commit to getting their own numbers on the list—and on the mid-north coast, I strongly encourage that. I know there has been uptake over the last couple of years, and the more people who feel empowered through that process, the better; and the better our democracy is as a consequence.