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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (26 October) . . Page.. 2103 ..

Service Stations - Multisite Franchising

MR HIRD: My question is to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Mr Humphries. I ask the Minister whether he is aware of statements made by the Commonwealth Minister for Small Business, Senator Chris Schacht, on the issue of multisite franchising. What is the Commonwealth's position on this issue and how does it differ from the ACT's position?

MR HUMPHRIES: I thank Mr Hird for the question. Yes, I am aware of the statement yesterday by Senator Schacht on the question of multisite franchising. The press release he issued states:

"As the Trade Practices Commission is considering the effects of multi-site franchise operations on competition and whether they are likely to contravene the Trade Practices Act, I believe that the oil companies should put their plans on hold until the Trade Practices Commission has announced its view", Senator Schacht said.

Mr Speaker, all I can say to that is, "Hear, hear!". I am very pleased to see the Commonwealth take this view. Senator Schacht has set up urgent meetings with the oil companies involved in multisite franchise operations and, in addition, the matter has been referred to the House of Representatives Industry Committee for consideration and advice. Senator Schacht's concerns mirror those already expressed very strongly by the ACT Government. I think the speed of the moves towards multisite franchising by a number of oil companies is now reaching all levels of Australian society. He says that it is creating uncertainty in the petrol station sector. I would agree with that. Dealers have certainly expressed to him, and of course to the ACT Government, their fears about their independent businesses being replaced by multisite franchisees. Senator Schacht also says in his press statement:

Notwithstanding assurances from the oil companies, many service station operators believe their livelihoods are threatened.

It is precisely for that reason that the ACT Government was able to introduce and last week to organise the passage of legislation to offer protection to those people. Our legislation puts a moratorium on multisite franchising until the Government has had an opportunity to consider the findings of the Trade Practices Commission review of this practice. All Australian governments have now expressed an interest in this process. It is a matter of pride to me that the ACT Government has been able to lead on this area, and the active approach we have taken, I think, will be well designed to protect Canberra small businesses and Canberra consumers.

I must say that it is a rather poor piece of timing that the New South Wales Government only today, I understand, has rejected legislation introduced by Wendy Machin, the Opposition spokesperson on consumer affairs in New South Wales, modelled very closely on the ACT legislation. At the same time that the New South Wales Minister was rejecting this legislation, it was being supported in principle by the Commonwealth. I think the Labor Party nationally has a bit of house sorting out to do. Mr Speaker, I table the press release from Senator Schacht on this subject.

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