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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2683

Dr JENKINS (SCULLIN, VICTORIA) - My question, addressed to the Acting Attorney-General, arises from a question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Macquarie of the Minister for Social Security. It concerns the plight of persons who sometimes are required to pay large sums of money as premiums in order to gain occupancy of home unit type accommodation. In situations of this sort where there is an inequality of bargaining power, is it the Government's intention to take any action which might redress the imbalance that so often causes hardship?

Mr ENDERBY - Yes, I recall the question asked of the Minister for Social Security yesterday by the honourable member for Macquarie about hardship that can occur to people who are in an unequal bargaining position when .they come to negotiate with the managements of certain homes that provide facilities for old people. The problem is part of a wider problem in which standard forms of contract are imposed on people. This happens in a whole area of concern. It happens in the insurance business where a standard form of contract ds used and there is no bargaining position. No one can argue and say: 'I do not like that condition in the contract; take it out or vary it'. Anyone with experience of insurance contracts knows that they are full of terms, conditions and clauses which operate against the consumer. The standard form of contract for the sale of land in many of the States favours the vendor against the purchaser. The standard form of leasing agreement entered into by some of the large lessor corporations operates against the small business man, who has no freedom of choice to say: 'I will not take it'. It is there in the small print. The same situation applies in the matter that was touched on by the honourable member for Macquarie and the Minister for Social Security at question time yesterday. It seems that there is great need for legislation that would impose certain minimum fair terms in such contracts that would redress that imbalance. There is nothing novel in this because the law has long recognised it in certain types of transactions such as money lending transactions, in relation to which the courts can make redress and give relief where the terms are harsh and oppressive or unfair. In such a case a court of equity would give relief. It seems that in this day and age there is a great case to extend that principle into other areas and bring about redress of the imbalance not only on a contractual basis but also on a statutory basis. The matter has been the subject of discussions with the Attorney-General and is being investigated and studied.

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