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Wednesday, 23 May 1973
Page: 2560

Mr BERINSON (Perth) - I have had a complaint from a migrant family which I believe should be conveyed to the House in order to draw attention to a highly undesirable practice. The complaint is based on an advertisement which appeared in the 'Situation Vacant' column of a local newspaper which sought a man of specified age to do what was called 'supervisory work' and whose qualifications were to include a European language in addition to English. The response to the advertisement was to be directed to a post office number. Sure enough, this turned out to be a small variation on an old theme and two of my constituents - husband and wife - .ended up at a group meeting of a pyramid selling organisation. What happened next is best described in the wife's own words. She stated:

He started telling us (until my head was spinning) how we could start making part time $50 to $100 a month to begin with and rise to $4,000 a month.

Apparently this latter figure is the amount that would be received on becoming what is called a 'general', because she goes on to say:

Of course, you could not just rise to be a general. After you went higher and higher, to become a general you gave them $2,500 and in return they gave you $4,000 worth of goods. Not only were you making $1,500 profit right away, you made 60 per cent profit on all the goods sold. He went on and on and then they showed us a 10-minute film of the 3 men in the United States who started it all and even had ex-Vice President Humphrey on screen going mad about their product.

I refrain at this stage from using the name either of the product or of the group involved because further inquiries are necessary. However, 2 things are clear enough to warrant some public cautioning even at this early stage. Firstly, the impression was obviously given and intended to be given that an employment opportunity existed when in fact no employment opportunity existed. Secondly, the reference to a European language was obviously intended to attract migrants to the scheme and it achieved its purpose because, as well as my own constituents, two other foreign language speaking migrant couples were present at the meeting.

The hard sell associated with pyramid selling is bad enough at any time. It is all the worse when directed against migrants who may not be so proficient in English as to understand the implications of the scheme they are being invited to join or who may not be as aware as the population generally of the previous warnings which have been given against this form of selling. I hope that these comments, brief as they are, can be brought in particular to the attention of the foreign language Press and migrant groups and that they in turn will be prepared to bring them to the urgent attention of their readers and members. I think I should add that I have taken the opportunity of contacting the Perth migrant task force recently set up by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) so that this matter can be listed for their consideration and for their assistance in due course in bringing appropriate warnings to the attention of migrant groups in my State. 1 am quite sure, however, that ours is not an isolated case. I invite the attention of honourable members to it in the hope that they will raise this matter in similar avenues in their own areas. I should perhaps add that the constituents I mentioned at the beginning of my speech did not get involved in the scheme that they are complaining of and to that extent they are impartial observers and have no axe to grind. Their concern is for the position of others who have been dragged in, to use their term, and I believe that concern should be shared by all of us.

Finally, while I want to focus attention on the specific migrant implications of this scheme I hope that no one will be left with the impression that the other improper aspect of it - that is the advertising of non-existent job opportunities - is any less serious. Only today I received a complaint of an unsolicited visit to a private home by a canvasser who, in the absence of the parents, questioned a 14- year old daughter of the family on her parents' work and income. This was again followed by what appeared to be a job offer and the appearance of this employment opportunity was bolstered by the very name of the organisation offering it, namely, Poins and Associates, employment consultants. When I rang this organisation this afternoon to check whether it was in fact an employment agency I was told that it was not exactly an employment agency but it was involved in what it called employment survey and staff planning. I suspect that what that adds up to is another system of eventually appointing generals.

I have had a third case, again only in recent weeks and following the same line, of a woman dragged into a scheme while looking for work following a nervous breakdown during which time she was on an invalid pension for over 6 months. Her condition must have been known to the people she was dealing with at the time she was enrolled. Again I refrain from mentioning the firm and the persons involved in this case because there are very serious implications and I do not want to prejudice the manner in which I intend to pursue her position. I believe, that these matters are serious for all sorts of reasons, but not the least because they are directed against people who are least able or least equipped to defend themselves against the blandishments offered. I hope that by raising this matter in the House and outside of it, which I intend to do at every appropriate opportunity, I will be at least adding to the warnings which have already been given against these schemes in so many ways and in so many forums, but still apparently without success in providing the cover which we should be giving.

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