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Thursday, 15 August 1974
Page: 977

Senator GUILFOYLE (Victoria) - I want to be brief also but I want to refer to some of the things that Senator Everett mentioned. We have to say again and again that we take exception to the suggestion that we have some motivation behind the attitudes that we are enunciating. Senator Everett questioned our motivation and then said that we have no foundation for the points of view we are expressing. I am expressing a personal point of view of concern about the confusion which could arise as a result of this added legislation proposed by the Government, particularly as it will be able to deal with corporations. Confusion will arise in the minds of consumers if they are dealing with traders and are tending to come into conflict with State and Commonwealth legislation. Undoubtedly difficulties could arise. The small claims tribunals which have been offered to consumers in many States have been helpful in the pursuit of consumer protection. For this reason I must stress again that it is in the interests of consumer protection and to avoid confusion and excessive litigation that we have been pressing our point of view that the State Acts should be available for use by the people.

For instance, I question clauses 62 and 63 which relate to safety standards and product information standards. Would those clauses be enforceable against retailers? It has been found necessary, particularly in New South Wales for instance, for the States to enable retailers to have some form of guarantee from manufacturers and suppliers. From reading those clauses it seems unlikely that a retailer would be able to give these guarantees on product safety standards and product information standards. Those are the sorts of questions that arise as a result of our attitude to the Bill and the fact that State legislation has progressively been able to deal with many of the problems that have arisen.

For all these reasons- not working against the interests of consumers but rather in support of them- we of the Opposition are expressing our disquiet about this additional legislation. Referring, finally, to the points made by Senator Everett about the reference of powers from the States to the Commonwealth, I would like the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to advise us whether a reference of powers has been sought. As Senator Everett stressed the necessity of this for the smooth operation of the Commonwealth legislation to cover all aspects of consumer protection, I would like the Minister to clarify that point in his response.

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