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Minister to meet consumer groups



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MINISTER TO MEET CONSUMER GROUPS

The Australian consumer movement will have an opportunity to put its views directly to the Commonwealth Government when the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr John Howard, in August commences a series of interstate meetings with representatives of consumer organisations.

The Minister said the meetings would he very important in communication between Government and the consumer on all consumer affairs matters and would be a valuable supplement to the regular contact he had with national bodies such as the Australian Federation of Consumer Organisations.

Mr Howard also outlined other initiatives being taken by the Government in this area.

These cover consumer education, improved and more accurate packaging and labelling, and further consideration of the establishment of a National Consumer Affairs Advisory Council.

In announcing the other initiatives Mr Howard said that consumer education, particularly for migrants, was a most important element in the Government's consumer affairs and trade practices policy.

He said that so the Commonwealth could best co-operate with and assist State Government in consumer education he had directed the Trade Practices Commission pursuant to Section 29 of the Trade Practices Act to research this whole area.

He had asked the Chairman of the Commission, Mr R.M. Bannerman, to complete the research and furnish a report within four months.

Any initiatives flowing from the report would be aimed particularly at low income earners who could least afford any losses to their purchasing power.

The study would give considerable emphasis to how existing Commonwealth facilities and resources could be used to assist and complement the efforts in consumer education being made by the States.

The Minister said that in his planned meetings with consumer organisations discussions would cover all consumer affairs matters within the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.

The first two meetings would be held, in Sydney and Adelaide in the first two weeks of August and invitations had already been issued for these.

Discussions in other States would take place later in the year and possibly early next year with invitations being sent out closer to the meeting times. The extended period over which the discussions were to be held was due to Parliament's Budget Session Sittings.

Mr Howard said that he expected to talk to representatives from nearly 50 voluntary consumer organisations. In the discussions he would emphasise that present consumer affairs action had to be considered in the context of the Government's overall fight against inflation and its current expenditure restraints.

_________________________________________ _____________________ -Jl ______J V FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: MR. Win McNAMARA - Teleohone 73 3716 or 72 4513 (Office): or 86 3037 (After Hours)

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He expected to come away from the meetings with a moire informed picture of areas of concern to consumers as well as suggestions for further Government action.

Mr Howard also referred to the Commission questions of Government action on packaging and labelling of goods and has asked the Commission to critically examine and report bn the relevant laws in force in .Australia.

This report would have particular reference to :

. date marking of goods

. unit pricing of goods

. standardisation of packaging of pre-packed homogeneous consumer products

. deceptive packaging of goods (or ’ slackĀ·fill1).

He said that in an area such as this it was essential that Commonwealth and State action be coordinated to avoid wasteful duplication and promote greater uniformity. The Commission’s report will assist in realising these objectives as it will fully inform the Government on the present position throughout Australia.

The Minister said that the establishment of a national Consumer Affairs Advisory Council foreshadowed in the coalition parties’pre-election policy was -under consideration and the exact role and structure of this body would be one of the subjects for discussion with consumer groups. ' .

CANBERRA

2? June 1976