Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 7 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 1829..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
regulation in this area had been demonstrated. If you want to adopt national uniform legislation, you have to go through the national regulatory process.
I know that is not as glamorous, as sexy and as immediate as the process that Dr Foskey proposes, but there is nevertheless the hard work of crunching through a policy issue to get it implemented and get it done. That is what we are doing. I recognise that these issues are of significant concern to people in the ACT, especially people who are subject to unscrupulous practices.
It is important that we put this problem in some context. The consumer law centre report suggests that for administrations under the Bankruptcy Act there is a downward trend in the number of bankruptcies in the ACT. That is from their most recent published figures, for the year ending 30 June 2006. Like other members, I would be interested to see what the status has been in the last 12 to 18 months, particularly with the interest rate rises. Are we seeing a change in that or are we seeing a relatively constant rate? From a policy perspective, it would be very useful to understand that.
In the ACT, there were 258 personal administrations in the financial year ending 30 June 2006 compared to 794 in the previous financial year. That was a decrease of 68 per cent in the two years. Clearly the figures do move around a bit. However, this downward trend appears to continue: statistics for the quarterly period of January to March 2007, issued on 11 April 2007, showed that there were 49 personal administrations in the ACT for that period compared to 69 in the corresponding quarter in 2005-06. That is a decrease of 29 per cent. So personal administrations were down for that quarter compared to the previous comparative quarter.
So it is not affecting a large number of people. I accept that personal administration is not the only measure. Obviously, families that are in financial stress are not captured by the administrations data if they have not gone into bankruptcy—but they may nevertheless be facing stresses. Those are the figures that we should keep in our minds. Obviously, increases in interest rates may well change this picture.
We need to keep the issue under close surveillance, and the government is doing so. The government is developing a national approach which we will be able to legislate here in the ACT. Our timeframe is similar to the one proposed by Dr Foskey. The only area where we are in disagreement is that we do not propose unilateral action; we propose a consistent national action. That is a stronger position for the territory to take.
If the national approach does not proceed, then of course the territory will consider acting unilaterally. But at this point, given that we are down the path of very detailed discussion and consultation with all the other states and territories, it would be a sign of bad faith to act unilaterally. Given that we are nine-tenths of the way there, it would be reasonable to complete that process and then act nationally in a consistent manner. That will be in the interests of all consumers around Australia.
That is the approach the government adopts; that is the approach that is outlined in my amendment. I commend the amendment to the Assembly.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.36): I would like to respond to Mr Corbell's remarks and to reject the amendment. It is very similar to the one moved by the opposition and,