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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2577

Mr MULDER (EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General arises out of the question directed to the Treasurer by the honourable member for Hawker on Monday concerning the 1972-73 annual report of the New South Wales Consumer Affairs Council and Consumer Affairs Bureau. Does the report make strong criticism of the role of finance companies in the sale of money? Does it state that many companies exceed the normally accepted role of finance companies and traffic in debt to the great detriment of the consumer? Does the Government accept these criticisms and, if so, is there anything it proposes to do about the situation?

Mr ENDERBY (Minister for Secondary Industry) - I am familiar with the newspaper reports that relate to the annual report of the New South Wales Consumer Affairs Council and Consumer Affairs Bureau. It is true that that annual report states what the honourable member has said. The Commission came out strongly against and criticised the activities of certain finance companies in the area of extending finance of a consumer kind. I think the most depressing thing about the whole situation of reform of the consumer credit position as it exists throughout Australia is that it has to be left to the various States. This is something for regret because one has only to reflect on the fact that there is one common form of consumer credit available throughout Australia - we are one nation in that regard - yet we have the situation where each of the States individually and separately has to look at the problem and find its own solution. We have the bizarre, odd and crazy consequence where there are 6 different solutions to one problem. If one adds to it the role of the Australian Government where it affects the Territories one could conceivably get 7 or 8 different solutions because the Northern Territory goes its way and the Australian Capital Territory its way. One gets a most unworkable situation. This has been the subject of study in recent years. The Molomby report has directed strong attention to the need for a single common form of chattel security. But the trouble is that the States are unlikely to reach agreement on it. As the Attorney-General said the other day in the Senate, the workings of the various Attorneys-General of the States and Commonwealth can achieve only so much. When one reflects that chattel securities can take the form of hire purchase agreements, which are different in all States and Territories, post-dated cheques, bills of sale, mortgages, forms of guarantee, forms of indemnity, leasing agreements and various types of liens, one appreciates that there is a situation in which credit security, which is so important in Australia as a whole and which is in great need of ' reform, cannot be reformed by the one Parliament that can do it in a proper way, and that is this Parliament. I know the Attorney-General is working on it and doing his best but it is a matter for regret and, I think, depressing that we in Australia are at present in this unfortunate situation in which there can be 8 different lawmaking authorities producing this almost unworkable situation.

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