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Thursday, 16 May 1985
Page: 2072

Senator BOLKUS —Is the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of international consumer protection guidelines recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and aimed at protecting Third World consumers from exploitation by multinational companies? Is so, can the Minister indicate what measures are being taken within Australia to ensure that Australian companies operating in Third World countries conform to these guidelines?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is the case that on 9 April this year the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus resolution 39/248 incorporating guidelines for protection of consumers in all countries, particularly those in developing countries. Australia participated in the negotiation of the text and supports the adoption of international standards for consumer protection within the context of national laws and socio-economic systems. The guidelines aim to extend to consumers in developing countries the same protection afforded to consumers in developed countries, including protection from practices such as dumping. We welcome the progress that the guidelines represent in extending acceptable standards of consumer welfare to the Third World.

As to the measures being taken to ensure that Australian companies operating in Third World countries conform to the guidelines, I point out that the guidelines are hortatory rather than mandatory in nature. Nevertheless, the Government is taking steps to publicise the guidelines with a view to bringing them to the attention of those responsible for bringing goods and services to the market. My colleague the Attorney-General has responsibility for consumer affairs matters and is looking at a variety of measures for bringing the guidelines to the attention of consumer bodies and other relevant groups in the community, industry and government.