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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2142 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Currently, subsection 121(5) provides that information or documents obtained under a written notice to produce are not admissible as evidence in any civil or criminal proceedings, other than for offences with respect to obstructing an investigation or the falsity of information or documents provided. In contrast, the equivalent section in the New South Wales Consumer Credit Administration Act 1995 only restricts such information from being used in criminal proceedings.

To date, because of the uncertainty surrounding the operation of subsection 121(5), the Director of Consumer Affairs has not sought to rely in proceedings on information obtained by way of a section 121 notice. An amendment to the subsection is essential to overcome this problem and to ensure the maintenance of a viable, ongoing consumer credit compliance program.

The Bill also inserts two new provisions into the Administration Act similar to the civil penalty provision in section 22 of the New South Wales Act. As a result of the new provisions, during the term the registration of a credit provider or finance broker is suspended or cancelled by the Director of Consumer Affairs under Parts II or III of the Administration Act, a debtor will not be liable to pay any amount under the contract. The debtor will also be able to recover any amount paid to the credit provider or finance broker during the term of suspension or cancellation as a debt due and payable by that credit provider or finance broker. Presently, where a credit provider or finance broker who is disqualified from trading continues to operate in contravention of a decision by the director, the only resource is criminal prosecution.

The two new provisions will also bring the Administration Act into line with other legislation, such as the Commonwealth Corporations Law and the Trade Practices Act 1974, which allow for civil enforcement processes as an alternative to criminal prosecution. As the civil penalty provisions will be enforceable by the debtor, they will be consistent with the principle of self-enforcement which is encouraged by the Consumer Credit Code.

Mr Speaker, I commend the Consumer Credit (Administration) (Amendment) Bill 1998 to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stanhope) adjourned.


MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (10.47): Mr Speaker, I present the Construction Practitioners Registration Bill 1998, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR SMYTH: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

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