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ALP Member discusses proposed changes to the Do Not Call Register.

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774 ABC Melbourne

Thursday, 31 May 2007



JON FAINE: A million Australian’s have decided that they want to join the Do Not Call Register, already. It’s less than a month since it’s even been open. That shows you how much interest there is and how much demand there was pent up for people to say to the telemarketers: just get out of my life.


Well the latest announcement from the regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, is that the Do Not Call Register is—well these are my words now, not theirs—to be basically undermined. They’re going to allow you to be rung up on a Sunday for research purposes but not for telemarketing.


Anna Burke is the federal Member of Parliament for the seat of Chisholm. She’s a Labor Party member and it was she that introduced the Private Member’s Bill from which the Do Not Call Register emerged.


Anna Burke good morning.


ANNA BURKE: Good morning Jon.


JON FAINE: What’s the point of having a Do Not Call Register if you’re going to allow people to get calls on Sundays for research purposes?


ANNA BURKE: I’m totally with you on this one. It just completely undermines the whole premise of giving back your sanity in your own home. I mean the driving force behind this Bill, this movement, was consumers saying: enough’s enough. You know, I’m sick of my home not being my castle but a telemarketer’s paradise. Now it’s going to become a researcher’s paradise.


JON FAINE: Can you define research compared to marketing?


ANNA BURKE: Well this is going to be one of the blurry issues. Now this is about social research and polling but a lot of people out there know that some of this ‘research’—in inverted commas—will verge on marketing research. And I’m not sure who’s going to be monitoring or listening in to see that this call doesn’t actually end up in a: oh by the way, now that you’ve helped out we might just do a tag on and do you want some fries with that?


So I’m very concerned that, you know that Sunday’s sanctity is going to be taken away. And I mean this flies in the face of what ACMA, the regulator, had previously put out as industry standards. It said: no calls on Sunday, two minutes later the Minister has overturned it and now we can have research calls on Sunday.


JON FAINE: So they’re giving back to the telemarketers what they took away.


ANNA BURKE: Well that’s my reading of it. I think that we put in some protections to say that there should be some exemptions for people at their calling: for charities; for politicians—you know I’ll cop that one—and for the like, to be able to still call on behalf of charities seeking donations. I think those exemptions were valid.


But now when you’re going to say: it’s open slather on Sundays, well why bother saying: hey look, I don’t want these calls anymore.


JON FAINE: We put in calls to Senator Helen Coonan, the Minister responsible, she’s apparently in an aeroplane at the moment—flying—and may speak to us once the plane lands and she can get to a telephone. So we may get to ask her some of these questions too.


But Anna Burke, I would expect—as soon as this news has come out—even the Indian call centres could convert their telemarketing to market research with the slightest little adjustments to the way they address their questions.


ANNA BURKE: Yeah and I think that’s the concern. Already I’ve been saying: look, Do Not Call Register starts today, fantastic as you say a million people. First day, two hundred thousand people called in, first day it opened. So many registrations was going over the website, it crashed in the first morning it was operating. People are desperate to stop these calls coming into their home. We needed to monitor to see if the exemptions had gone too far. But now we know, well we’ve opened the door and it’s only half-baked.


Helen Coonan never allowed debate on my original Bill. She said at the time: I introduced it, it wasn’t appropriate, it could never fly. Consumer demand drove them introducing this legislation and now they’re already back-flipping on the day it starts.


JON FAINE: I’ve got a text message here saying: it’s now a Claytons register.


ANNA BURKE: (laughs)


JON FAINE: So I think we can come up with all sorts of tags for it.


Just finally Anna Burke, who do you think would have been lobbying for this? Is this the power of the advertising lobby?


ANNA BURKE: Look, I think the advertising lobby and direct marketers are very concerned about how this will impact their business. And, you know, that is a reasonable concern for them to have. For the American experience, when they introduced their register was that: no, there wasn’t actually a loss in the industry, they just turned their focus to other means of marketing …


JON FAINE: Yep, instead of driving us mad at home. So even if you’re on the Do Not Call Register, according to these new rules you will still get calls, it’s just they’ll call it research.


ANNA BURKE: They’ll call it research, on Sunday!


JON FAINE: Thank you, I’m glad you put the icing on the cake.


We will see if we get the chance to speak to the Senator later this morning once she’s off her plane. Thank you.


ANNA BURKE: Thanks Jon.


JON FAINE: Anna Burke, Labor Party member of federal Parliament for the seat of Chisholm who’s Private Member’s Bill triggered the Do Not Call Register in its current incarnation.