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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7989

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) (9:12 PM) —I want to make a very brief comment. Victoria is slightly out of step with the rest of the Labor states in relation to the legislative responses to the matters we are debating tonight. I think it is very important to recognise that consumers in Victoria can still sue under the law of negligence but the constitutional underpinning requires, certainly from the point of view of the Trade Practices Act, that it is underpinned by the lowest threshold—or else you end up with regimes that are very much out of step. In my earlier contribution in response to Senators Ludwig and Murray, I was trying to convey the fact that the rights of consumers are still intact in each state.

What is most important with the Trade Practices Act, from a constitutional point of view, is that you do not have a different threshold so that a different range of rights apply in Victoria to those that might apply in New South Wales, using the Trade Practices Act as an aid. The need for complementarity is pretty well established. The intellectual point about whether or not Victoria should be followed as opposed to other states is not really for us. What the government is trying to do is accommodate a regime that will underpin the broad reforms that have been agreed with most states. It is important that we follow the broader approach rather than the narrower approach adopted in Victoria.