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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3705 ..

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (10.15): Mr Rugendyke introduced the Fair Trading Bill on 2 May 2001. It seeks to ensure-this has all been explained by the Attorney, I might add-that credit providers do not offer consumers a credit contract or an increase in their credit limit unless the consumer has requested it and the credit provider has carried out a satisfactory assessment of the consumer's ability to repay the credit advanced.

The policy set out in this bill is Labor Party policy; it is embodied, and has been for some time, in the federal Labor Party's banking policy. I assume that Mr Rugendyke is aware of that. The New South Wales Labor government prepared a discussion paper for the Ministerial Council of Consumer Affairs recommending a model bill containing this policy, and the Queensland Labor government will prepare the model bill for other states and territories to copy. Mr Rugendyke is to be commended, as the Attorney has commended him, for his early adoption of Labor Party policy.

But there is a "but" in this, and the Attorney has gone to some length in explaining the "but". The Assembly carried a motion earlier this year requesting the government to place this proposal before the ministerial council that is responsible for the Uniform Consumer Credit Code. The government complied with that direction and the council considered a discussion paper from New South Wales on this topic at its July meeting. That paper recommended, among other things, that:

the applicant for credit state the limit required and that the provider should not grant more than that limit; and

credit providers must assess the applicant's capacity to repay in the same manner as that for personal loans.

These points are precisely what Mr Rugendyke proposes in this bill.

I understand-and the Attorney has just given us chapter and verse on this; in fact, we have learnt much more than we really wanted to-that the council proposes to consider a draft bill incorporating these amendments at its November 2001 meeting. Any bill recommended then, and adopted as part of the uniform credit scheme, would necessarily overtake Mr Rugendyke's amendment.

Our preference would have been to wait until then so that there would be no disturbance to the nationally uniform credit scheme. In fact, during the debate on the earlier motion, our position was that it is important to retain uniformity and that states and territories should not take unilateral action to amend the Uniform Consumer Credit Code. However-and this needs to be noted; it is a chink in the armour of the case put very persuasively by the Attorney-New South Wales has already unilaterally amended the uniform scheme, in relation to payday lending, without any adverse repercussions on the scheme for the New South Wales government.

This weakens the arguments of those who suggest that the sky will fall in if the ACT should transgress in any way. New South Wales has already unilaterally made an amendment to payday lending, and the sky over New South Wales did not collapse. There is an inconsistency there that concerns me. But I do see the force of the Attorney's

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