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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 9 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 2777 ..




Debate resumed from 27 June 1996, on motion by Mr Humphries:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SPEAKER: Is it the wish of the Assembly to debate this order of the day concurrently with order of the day No. 2, the Consumer Credit (Administration) (Consequential Provisions) Bill 1996? There being no objection, that course will be followed. I remind members that in debating order of the day No. 1 they may also address their remarks to order of the day No. 2.

MS FOLLETT (12.11): The Opposition will not be opposing these Bills put forward by Mr Humphries as the Minister for Consumer Affairs. Mr Speaker, both of the Bills follow on from the implementation of uniform credit laws. In the ACT that achievement of uniformity took place with the passage of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 and the consequential provisions. The current Bills establish the administrative framework for the uniform scheme, which is due to commence later this year. Mr Speaker, there are few, if any, arguable features of the Bills. In particular, they continue - with some changes, admittedly - the structures which have existed since the Credit Act 1995 was passed. Those structures include the Financial Counselling Trust Fund, the ACT Credit Tribunal, the inquiries power of the Minister, undertakings by credit providers and finance brokers, the powers and functions of the Director of Consumer Affairs and a range of other miscellaneous provisions. Mr Speaker, I think it is a very important feature of the new arrangement that the Director of Consumer Affairs has retained a very significant power and significant disciplinary powers within the new uniform credit legislation.

There is one issue that I did want to take up because it is something that certainly gave me pause in my consideration of these Bills. It is something which I believe merits very close monitoring as the new scheme comes into effect. The matter that I refer to, Mr Speaker, is the introduction of the so-called negative licensing arrangement for credit providers and finance brokers. What this means, as I understand it, is that, instead of potential credit providers having to pass a number of tests before they can be licensed, anyone who pays the required fee will be licensed and will be delicensed only if they offend in some way. In other words, the onus is on the Government to prove that someone is unworthy of a licence, rather than the onus being on the credit provider to prove that they are worthy of a licence.

Mr Speaker, there are obvious advantages and disadvantages in such a scheme. The main advantage, of course, is that it is administratively more simple for the consumer administration people and probably much cheaper as well. The obvious disadvantage is that, because there are not the kinds of gates for potential licensees to pass through, there is an increased potential for some pretty sharp operators to be licensed.

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