Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 2756 ..
MR HUMPHRIES: That is the estimate by my department. It includes the cost of administering the system, the cost of providing staff to be able to register people and the cost of enforcement to make sure, as Mr Berry proposes, that people are not being charged fees for placement in jobs under this scheme. I have no doubt that that costing is accurate. Even if it is double the appropriate amount, we are still talking about $500 for people to be registered in the ACT. It is a very significant impost.
The other question that has to be asked in this context is: What is the public benefit we will derive from having this sort of regulation? Before the Government regulates these days - indeed, this is a requirement that we now have imposed upon us by the national competition policy - the requirement on the Government before it introduces legislation is to ask itself, "What is the public benefit that we derive from this particular scheme that we seek to impose, and can the benefits be obtained in some other way? Is the ill being cured greater or less than the cure itself?".
Mr Berry, in bringing forth the legislation, has not described what the public ill is at all. Mr Berry has not satisfied the Assembly - in fact, he has not even attempted to satisfy the Assembly - that there are concerns or complaints about the number of people in the ACT who are being ripped off by employment agents. Mr Berry is obviously concerned about people being charged exorbitant amounts, or charged at all, for the privilege of having a job found for them.
The Consumer Affairs Bureau reports to me that they have had no complaints concerning the activities of employment agents in the ACT. As a member of the Assembly responsible ministerially for consumer affairs and for the Agents Act, I have had no complaints from any people in this respect. I invite members in this place who have had any concerns about these matters to indicate whether they have had a complaint. (Quorum formed)
Mr Speaker, I thank members for coming down to the chamber, because this is quite an important matter and I hope that members will consider this. There has been no public debate about this legislation at all. It has been on the table for a year now, and there has been no public debate. The only information that has been provided to agents in the ACT about this legislation came from the Government, when the Government wrote to employment agents in the ACT and asked them what they thought about the legislation. Mr Berry has not contacted agents in the ACT to ask them their views.
Ms Carnell: You mean he has not consulted?
MR HUMPHRIES: He has not consulted any of the employment agents, those we have been able to find, about this legislation. I think that is a matter of serious concern. We are about to impose on the ACT a scheme under which individual agents will be hit by annual licensing fees of $1,000 a year. That is the real cost of providing the licensing scheme. It is a relatively small industry. Some of the agents are charities. Some, such as ACROD, are non-profit organisations. They are going to be hit with steep fees in these circumstances. It is a matter of serious concern.