Page 96 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 12 February 1991

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Fitness Centres : Westpac Bank

MR COLLAERY (Attorney-General) (10.12), in reply: I welcome Mr Connolly's comments this evening. In fact, the Consumer Affairs Bureau, which is under the aegis of my department, is actively looking at this issue and Mr Connolly's suggestions and I am waiting on further advice. I have been told today that the new owners of the Cardio Fitness Club will not offer membership to any member for more than 12 months at a time. I have been advised that the new owners are both members of professional associations and are interested in organising a fitness industry association in the ACT to maintain standards in the industry. I am waiting on further advice as to whether they are talking about a voluntary code of conduct, which they may wish to have some statutory support, or a form of regulation for themselves which they wish to propose to the Government.

I think all members here support the notion that we should be wary of over-regulating small business. At the same time, we have to be aware, as Mr Connolly said, of protecting the consumer. I will undertake to keep the house informed as to where the Consumer Affairs Bureau is going with that matter. But, at the moment, I am satisfied that the situation at the Cardio Fitness Club is now under control, in the sense that two former employees of the club have negotiated a new lease with the landlord and they will be offering special deals for Cardio Fitness Club members. Those members can obtain a 12-month membership of the new club for a transfer fee of $60 if their membership expires in less than six months, or $80 for memberships which expire after that.

Mr Speaker, let me refer to the attempt of my colleague Mr Moore to table the Westpac letters, as they are called. I think we should read into the record - from page 491 of House of Representatives Practice - the fact that it is the "fundamental right and duty" of this house to consider matters which it believes to be in the public interest, but:

... the House imposes a restriction on itself in the case of matters awaiting or under adjudication in a court of law.

I am advised that certainly a central aspect of the issues that Mr Moore wished to allude to in the letters is before the courts tomorrow.

But I do wish to add my view, as Attorney, that I regard the sending by facsimile to a private, corporate organisation of an injunction or restraining order secured in what is essentially a foreign court as somewhat peremptory, and I would expect that, in future matters of this kind, the parties will see fit to adjudicate properly in the jurisdiction, as they should.

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