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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3707 ..

MS TUCKER: Yes, I know. Okay, that is your argument: there is a national scheme in November. What is important for us, though, is that we have responsibilities for the administration of credit in the territory. Important also is the question of the penalty for moving beyond the code, about which the letter from the chair of the management committee makes a number of relevant points. The government argue that the ACT would be kicked out of the ministerial council, but this letter clears that up. Ultimately, it is a matter for the MCCA to decide if a state or territory has breached the uniformity agreement and what consequences flow from that.

The chair of the management committee for the Uniform Consumer Credit Code argues that uniformity of legislation is an end in itself. Consumer credit businesses are generally national, and therefore it makes some sense that they be regulated in a co-ordinated manner. The Uniform Consumer Credit Code does make allowances for changes, but individual jurisdiction's changes are to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the other jurisdictions.

The chair of the management committee says the states have been striving for uniformity since the 60s and pleads that, because it was achieved only recently, in 1996, we not upset the apple cart. However, the chair seems unable to speak in definitive terms about the impacts of non-uniform legislation. He says that the benefit should be lower compliance costs and that they should be passed on to consumers. If credit providers in the ACT are required, before they are in other states, to conduct a reasonable assessment of a person's ability to pay back the debt, it is hard to see how this will result in costs.

When someone cannot pay back their debt there are compliance costs for the lending institution, but there are also costs for the person who is caught in that credit trap. Credit is tempting in a consumer society. As I said in the debate on a related motion, Christmas time in our society brings on a sense of obligation to buy presents-lots of presents. Some retailers make most of their money at that time of year; some people get into serious trouble at that time of year.

I would like to address the timing of the bill, which seems to be what Mr Stanhope's argument is about as well. The chair of the management committee points out that the MCCA meeting in July heard from the New South Wales group, which had been working on proposals to address credit card overcommitment. I understand, though, that it is not stated expressly in the letter that this task had been hanging around for a year or so. The chair says now that these uniform amendments, which will achieve a similar result, are already firmly on the agenda. The chair expects that a draft bill to this end will be prepared by the end of the year, subject to agreement at the November meeting, as Mr Stanhope said.

The point is that by November we will have a new Assembly. There is no way that the ACT, in this election year, can implement these new arrangements before Christmas unless we do it now. So, for the sake of possibly saving some fees-although it is not at all self-evident that the banks have reduced their fees since we achieved uniformity in 1996-the Assembly is being asked to allow the pre-Christmas, pre-approved credit push, even though the committee will in all likelihood approve a similar change in November this year.

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