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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1993 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 August 1993) . . Page.. 2261 ..

Canberra Times - Distribution

MS SZUTY: Madam Speaker, my question without notice is also to the Chief Minister and Treasurer, Ms Follett, and concerns the pending distribution and circulation of the Canberra Times newspaper by the Canberra Times. I will let members know, Madam Speaker, that I let Ms Follett's office know earlier today that I would be asking this question today. I have received representations from a number of people expressing concern about the possible implications and ramifications of this decision, especially with regard to, firstly, the possible closure of a number of newsagencies, especially in local shopping centres; secondly, the possible closure of entire local shopping centres as a result of newsagency closures; thirdly, the implications of a reduction in the number of outlets where Lotto facilities are available, and consequently where the Government acquires revenue; and, fourthly and finally, the implications of a reduction in the number of outlets where people can pay ACT Government bills, given that a number of newsagencies are agents for the State Bank of New South Wales and have recently begun to receive payments. My question to the Chief Minister is: What action is the Government taking to address these concerns in the light of the imminent decision by the Canberra Times to distribute and circulate its own newspapers?

MS FOLLETT: I thank Ms Szuty for her question and also for giving me some notice of it. I am relying on advice which I have received on this matter. Madam Speaker, I have been informed that the Canberra Times did recently advertise for contractors to distribute its newspaper. Contractors will, in the next two months, commence distribution of the paper in competition with the service already offered by newsagents. I am advised, Madam Speaker, that the Canberra Times will deliver either for seven days or for the weekend - that is, there will be no odd day deliveries - and that they will require payment in advance. In addition, they will also be seeking to appoint additional retailers. Newsagents will continue home deliveries and they will be offered contracts guaranteeing certainty of supply. That offer will be in September of this year. Restrictions on commissions to subagents and on the home delivery fee will be lifted.

Madam Speaker, I am also advised that changes have recently been made in Victoria - deregulated retail selling but retaining exclusive home deliveries - and in Western Australia. Changes are expected also in New South Wales and Queensland and, of course, the ACT. These Canberra Times developments are broadly in line with those in other jurisdictions and the objective is to remove uncompetitive or monopoly elements from the present arrangements. I understand that the Trade Practices Commission is supportive of these sorts of developments. I would also like to say, Madam Speaker, that these days newsagencies in shopping centres are acknowledged to be quite complex businesses and the impact of a change affecting one of the many aspects of those complex businesses is difficult, at this stage, to judge. I have no specific information that would allow me to draw a conclusion that the consequences will be as significant as Ms Szuty has implied in her question.

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