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Thursday, 17 September 1987
Page: 229


Mr JOHNS —My question is directed to the Minister for Consumer Affairs. In light of the Government's goal that by 1990 no Australian child need live in poverty, what action is being taken in the consumer affairs area towards this objective?


Mr STAPLES —I take this opportunity to welcome the honourable member for Petrie to the House.


Mr Tuckey —How many suits have you got?


Mr STAPLES —He is one of the many new Government members from Queensland; and one of many more to come. I thank him for the question.


Mr Tuckey —Is that a ministerial suit?


Madam SPEAKER —Order! I point out to the honourable member for O'Connor that he has interjected about 10 times. The Chair is giving the honourable member a certain degree of latitude. I assure him that it will not continue.


Mr STAPLES —As we all know, a wide range of factors contribute to the level of poverty in our society. These include family breakdown, indebtedness, low education levels and unemployment. Unfortunately, children are the most innocent victims of poverty in this country. Often they grow up without the means or skill to escape from the poverty cycle in which they find themselves.

In the consumer affairs area it is proposed to combat poverty through greater attention being given both to consumer redress mechanisms and to consumer education, targeted specifically at disadvantaged consumers. The first proposal will ensure that those in receipt of low incomes obtain the easiest, the best and the cheapest resolution of disputes with the providers of goods and services.

In co-operation with the relevant State and Territory authorities, consumer groups, community groups, business and unions, we will conduct a study to identify the success or otherwise of formal and informal mechanisms to provide more effective consumer redress, focusing particularly on small claims tribunals and consumer tribunals.

Education activities will also be targeted at disadvantaged groups. These include the production of plain language material on the provision of credit, finance, interest rates and insurance. Emphasis will also be placed on the production of school curriculum material-again, in co-operation with State agencies.

Information and access to information is obviously the key to effective consumer awareness. The people who most need this information and access to information are those in receipt of low incomes, those with a language disadvantage, particularly in literacy and non-English speaking backgrounds, and young people, who have least experience in this area. Much of the action directed at low income people will therefore be directed at information, such as a booklet in various languages on credit and money, curriculum materials, Aboriginal community videos and a directory of Commonwealth Government consumer services.

I know that the Australian community supports this Government's commitment to the abolition of child poverty by 1990. The Government's commitment in this Budget of $500m in a full year means that there will be a lot of money in the community for these people.

I hope that the Opposition will join the Government and support that commitment to abolish poverty and also ensure that the objectives to which I have just referred will mean that families in poverty get the best value and use for their money so that no Australian child will live in poverty by 1990.