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Wednesday, 13 October 1971
Page: 2315


Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory) (12:16 PM) - I wish to direct the attention of the House and particularly the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) to a development that is taking place in the Australian Capital Territory which concerns the attempts of certain trading stamp companies to introduce their style of business into the Australian Capital Territory. I think the best way that I can explain this situation is to describe it as it happened to me. Some months ago I was approached by a service station proprietor in Canberra. I shall not mention the name of the oil company that owns his service' station. He expressed concern that considerable pressure was being put on him and other service station proprietors in Canberra, who also market the particular brand of petrol that he markets, to buy trading stamps from a particular company.

Two trading companies are doing this sort of business. One operates under the name of Gold Seal and the other as Tiki Green Stamps. However, pressure was being put on him by the oil company of whom he is a lessee, and so he obviously is vulnerable. It was said that other service station proprietors also would take these stamps. However, they do not take them free; they have to buy them. He expressed the opinion that if he bought them it would add to his overhead a sum of perhaps $9,000 a year and that, in some way, he would either have to detract from the service that he offered to the people of Canberra or, possibly, it would have to be reflected in the price of petrol. Of course, honourable members know that petrol prices are not flexible and cannot reflect changes of this sort. But he said that there was widespread opposition among the service station proprietors in Canberra to the move. They were against it and a meeting was to be held. Initially it was thought that it would be a public meeting and it was hoped that I would be able to attend. I was asked later not to attend because of the possible effects this might have on the oil company concerned. I did not attend, but I was told that there was unanimous opposition to the move by the oil companies to introduce trading stamp operations in Canberra through these companies. I was told that these trading stamp companies have some kind of arrangement with the oil companies.

I made some inquiries of my own and was told by other service station proprietors with whom I am on reasonable terms that they, too, were being put under pressure - persuasion might be a better word, although it has been described as standover tactics by at least one man to whom I spoke. Others have called it persuasion and have said: 'You cannot talk back because they are the big guns and we, too, will have to take the stamps'. The last proprietor I spoke with said that he had taken the stamps, installed the system and put all the signs out because it was put to him: This is a form of advertising and if you do not go on with it, other people will and then you will be the one to suffer, so you must get in on the act'. So, the whole thing grows like a snowball running downhill and getting out of control.

I have been told that BP Australia Limited, which is associated in some way with Tiki Green Stamps, is actually subsidising its proprietors to the tune of SO per cent. In other words, the proprietors buy the stamps from the Tiki Green Stamp Company and BP says: 'You will not have to pay the whole bill. The company will weigh in with 50 per cent of what it costs you. It is advertising from your point of view and of course it is advertising from our point of view but you really have no choice.' Of course the upshot of it all is passed on to the consumer.

The Australian Capital Territory, as we all know, is an island surrounded by New South Wales. To my understanding New South Wales is the only State in Australia where this practice is not banned, is not illegal in one way or another. The question as to whether it should be banned did come up for consideration in New South Wales early this year but it was not banned, although a limited reform was introduced to insist that these trading stamp companies, which are essentially parasitical, at least do give a cash value for the stamps so that the person who takes the stamps can redeem them if he wants to. All the inquiries I have made have indicated, however, that no-one ever exercises this right. They just get caught up in the system.

In the other States, particularly Victoria, this practice has been banned, made illegal in essence, for the best part of 60 years. The last debate that I am familiar with was in the Victorian Parliament in about 1964 and dealt with closing a particular loophole that had been discovered in the law down there. I think the best 1 can do is to indicate the concern that was felt in Victoria, the concern I feel and the concern that I hope the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) will feel when I urge him to do something about this practice by means of an ordinance, and do it quickly. The Victorian Minister who handled the legislation was the Hon. R. J. Hamer who was then Minister for Immigration. At page 3804 of the Victorian Hansard, Mr Hamer said:

More than 50 years ago, the Parliament of this State decided, in effect, that it would have nothing whatever to do wilh trading stamps . . .

Later on he described the practice of these companies, of how they approach retailers and say: 'If you will buy these sheets of trading stamps from us, we will organise the whole thing for you; you will get extra customers; you will give a stamp with each purchase of goods, and we will take over the whole of the responsibility.' He went on to say:

.   . experience in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, where these trading stamp schemes are at present in full blast, is that it adds something between 2 per cent and 4 per cent to the price of goods in the long run . . .

That might not apply in the case of petrol - I appreciate that - because of the peculiar situation that exists in the petrol industry; but in other cases it certainly would apply.

The Honourable J. M. Walton replied and moved an amendment, which was subsequently adopted with expressions of general agreement by the Minister, and described the practice as obnoxious and parasitical. At page 3959 of Victorian Hansard he quoted from a United Kingdom report. He said that the report stated:

That the customer of a stamp trading shop is misled by the inducements held out into believing he is getting something for nothing, whereas in fact he may be paying very heavily for his purchase. . . . That the retailer is frequently unable to escape from the trading stamp system even though he may wish to do so.

Mr Waltonalso said:

Once a retailer participates in it, he cannot 'get out from under' because his customers require a continuity of stamps, and if they cannot get them from him they will go somewhere else where they can obtain them. The trader fears that, if he ceases to issue the stamps, he will lose customers.

Then Mr Hamer interjected and said:

It is a case of the trader having a tiger by the tail.

Mr Waltonwent on to say: . . trading stamp companies are essentially parasitic, providing no useful service to the community in return for the profit which they make.

.   . That the system offers special temptations to fraud by ephemeral trading stamp companies.

In conclusion, I earnestly hope that the Minister will take this matter under consideration because it is in its infancy in Canberra at the moment. It seems to have been inspired by the practice of the Mobil company in making use of one of the stamp companies in the price war it engaged in in Melbourne recently and which inspired the other 2 principal companies here in Canberra to embark on a similar campaign. If something is done soon the matter may be settled quickly. If this scheme is allowed to be established it may be too late to do anything because of the continuous nature of the scheme.







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