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Thursday, 15 August 1974
Page: 975

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - Senator Everett has an impressive knowledge of the subject of which he speaks. I find it very helpful to listen to his contribution as one who knows a lot less about this subject than he does. Whilst I know a lot less about technical details than Senator Everett or Senator Greenwood I have witnessed the growth of consumer protection as a member of a State parliament. In fact, I was the first one to personally bring into an Australian parliament a piece of legislation which contained a provision for a cooling-off period. That legislation was called the Book Purchasers Protection Act and it had a specific- experimental at that time- cooling-off period involved in it. I will not bore honourable senators with the fight that it took to get that legislation through not only the lower house against my own political leader, but also the upper house, the members of which did not like the legislation at all. After that Bill was brought in against, seemingly, very great opposition, it was adopted by most of those who had opposed it as being a very good Bill. That legislation has subsequently been amended twice to strengthen it. I do not think it has been incorporated in any other protective legislation. I think it still stands as an Act in its own right.

At a time when most State parliaments are beginning to think seriously about this matter all of us have witnessed the growth of legislation relating to consumer protection, credit laws, packaging and so on. We have also witnessed the more comprehensive laws that have been referred to in relation to Victoria. I think that Senator Greenwood has made out a very good case for this legislation because surely it is a protection to industry to have a uniform standard across Australia. I think that all State members of parliament have run into particular instances where they have been unable to proceed with what has been a desirable move in their particular State because it did not fit the general restrictions of the Australian Constitution or interstate trade. In some cases it would have raised the price of goods in a particular State by requiring a manufacturer to market goods in an isolated fashion.

There must be very many instances which would substantiate a case for a uniform standard across Australia. Whilst I could not quite agree with Senator Everett that industry across the board wants a uniform standard my contact with industry in a general sense, allowing for obvious exceptions, indicates that it does not mind this. Reputable manufacturers have asked the question: 'How do you do this? What have we got to fear? We are honest operators.' If a person is an honest operator, what does he have to fear from the consumer protection provisions of this Bill?

The Opposition does not appear to be of one mind on this Bill. I believe that the honourable member for Lowe, Mr McMahon, appeared on television this morning. I would not care to use his remarks in support of this clause because it is not proper to use just a section of a person's remarks to support your case when he might disagree with it in other respects. However, I believe that this morning Mr McMahon said that these provisions belonged in this Bill. I do not think that that is a misconstruction of what he clearly said on this morning's television program. As I say, I mention that only in passing because he certainly said other things which would not bolster my case in other directions. Nevertheless he said that quite clearly, and it is a matter of interest that the Opposition apparently is not of one mind on this question.

I certainly support this proposal not only because of representations made by many consumer organisations, by people who are in a position properly to present a case, which I think all honourable senators have had very well detailed. It would only bore the Committee to repeat it here when everyone has it on his personal file. I support the legislation, believing in the need for it, in the belief that it will help industry and not harm it, and in the knowledge that the very growth of State protective legislation requires a common standard throughout Australia.

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