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Consumer affairs audit shows good progress in communications

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M e d i a R e l e a s i Minister for Consumer Affairs The Hon. Jeannette McHugh M P



Thursday, 9 th June, 1 9 9 4

The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Ms McHugh, and the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Mr Lee, released today an audit of consumer representation in the 20 major bodies within the Communications portfolio.

The audit was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Consumer Affairs (FBCA) and found that in 18 of the 20 organisations there were either reasonably good levels of consumer representation, or that the organisations dealt with such technical or specialised issues that representation was unnecessary.

Ms McHugh commended her colleague Mr Lee on his cooperation with the audit series, and for having a portfolio that measured up so well.

The Ministers also agreed to set up a working party of officials to improve consumer involvement in government instrumentalities within the Communications portfolio.

Ms McHugh said: “The working group of departmental officers that we have agreed to establish is designed to make a good situation better.

“Whether we pick up a telephone, or switch on a television or radio, we are overwhelmed by the information revolution. That is why it has been so important to audit Communications as our first cab off the rank, and that is why the largely favourable results are so welcome.” '

Mr Lee said Communications was one of the most significant areas of government activity providing services to consumers, now and in the foreseeable future.

Mr Lee said: “It was the focus on consumer needs that underpinned the Government’s major reforms in recent years to telecommunications, broadcasting and radio communications.

“I strongly support the principle of consumers having a formal channel through which their concerns can be heard, and this is reflected in the mechanisms already available to consumers in my portfolio. Where they are not, it is usually because of the technical or highly specialised nature of the work.”

The Communications audit will be followed by others, which will measure the extent of consumer representation at senior levels of government business enterprises, statutory authorities, advisory boards, committees and similar bodies across the range of government.



This will be the first in a series of Consumer Audits, in which the FBCA will examine the effect on consumers of policies and decisions in a number of public and private activities.

Ms McHugh said that Consumer Audits were one of the more sophisticated mechanisms for effective consumer protection that is demanded in today’s complex market place.

“By auditing government bodies, across the board, we are ensuring public input into many of those services that will directly affect them, such as telecommunications.

“A more formal process for appointing consumer representatives will benefit both consumers and the government bodies concerned.”

“It will result in consumers being more effectively represented by people who are qualified to sit on the various authorities, trained in the methods of representation and have the confidence of the consumer movement.

“In return, it will provide a source of sound and informed advice to the authorities concerned, on market needs and behaviour and, importantly, when standards in the market break down.”

Inquiries: Minister for Consumer Affairs,,. Andrew West, 06 277 7 7 9 0

Minister forCbmmunicationszands-the^Arts,·:»; . Bob Bowden, 06 277 7 4 8 0