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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1993 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 May 1993) . . Page.. 1615 ..

The new uniform legislation will retain the current civil penalty regime, with some modification to accommodate industry concerns. A civil penalty comprises forfeiture of all, or, in the case of certain breaches of continuing credit contracts, part, of the interest charges otherwise payable under the relevant credit contract. Conversely, the debtor is automatically relieved from liability to pay such interest. The ACT has always argued strongly for retention of civil penalties on the basis that they have proved the only effective deterrent to credit providers breaching their obligations under the Act. The amount of the civil penalty which may be imposed will be limited by the introduction of a "stepped capping regime" where the maximum level of the penalty is determined having regard to the asset base of the credit provider in question. Systemic and minor errors will be treated separately from other more serious breaches.

At SCOCAM the ACT also successfully argued for the retention of provisions which prevent the credit provider from enforcing contracts while they are the subject of tribunal proceedings and which also prevent a credit provider from automatically obtaining an order suppressing details of those proceedings from being made public. We believe that public exposure for breaches of the law is a major incentive for responsible conduct.

Finally, Madam Speaker, under the new uniform legislation, consumers will still be able to negotiate a variation to their obligations under a particular credit contract on the basis of financial hardship. Importantly, the limit has been increased to $125,000. In some cases consumers who find themselves in hardship have entered into unconscionable contracts. The new legislation confirms the role of the credit tribunal in reopening unconscionable contracts.

Madam Speaker, the new uniform legislation agreed at the SCOCAM meeting represents significant consumer law reform in the credit industry. This exercise again shows that by promoting social justice through the adoption of fair trading principles it is possible to balance the concerns of both consumers and industry. The ACT's commitment to the development of uniform credit laws further demonstrates the Government's policy of promoting fair trading in the marketplace. I present a copy of this statement. I move, Madam Speaker:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

Debate (on motion by Mr Kaine) adjourned.

Statement by Speaker

MADAM SPEAKER: Members, before we proceed to the matter of public importance I wish to make a statement. I wish to inform the Assembly of action I have taken concerning the Hansard record of yesterday's proceedings of the Assembly. Yesterday evening a member attempted to move an amendment to the Radiation (Amendment) Bill 1993. The amendment was clearly out of order but, in addition, the words contained in the amendment were substantially the same as words that I had earlier directed to be removed from a notice of motion because of their unbecoming nature. I had also ruled out of order a question on notice containing the same words and, members will recall, the Assembly itself made a specific order removing from the notice paper a notice of motion that dealt with the same subject.

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