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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3708 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

We cannot know what the decision will be, but the fact that this is not out of the blue-it is a matter that has been discussed-takes some of the force from the argument that to pass this bill would be to destroy the code. For those reasons I do not support Labor and Liberal in their determination to adjourn this debate.

MR RUGENDYKE (10.26), in reply: A series of extremely flimsy arguments has been put up against passing this bill today by both the government and the opposition and, in closing the debate, I would like to address them.

I have observed a clear lack of interest from the government in fair trading matters of late. This is a recurring pattern which has created the perception that the relevance of the fair trading office is being compromised. It was only last week that we debated a bill that originally proposed to hand ACT consumer protection responsibilities to the Commonwealth. This bill was an opportunity for the government to take a leading role and a proactive stand in this long-running issue of pre-approved credit card extensions in our own community.

I am heartened, Ms Tucker, that there are other members who object to the government's hesitant approach in this instance and have seen through the limp arguments. Without doubt, the most difficult aspect to accept of the government's position today is the advice on which it has been based.

In summary, the government has said that, if the legislation is passed, it would fall outside the Uniform Consumer Credit Code and expose ACT consumers to higher fees and charges and interest rates as a result of higher compliance costs. The government says we should not proceed with the bill, because we should wait for the changes to be introduced at a national level. They have sympathy with the banks about their higher compliance costs. What about the punters who will struggle with the pre-approved increases to their credit limits of thousands of dollars at a time?

Let's get this position straight. It is based on a letter from a public servant in Queensland's Department of Tourism, Racing and Fair Trading. I will quote from the ACT Attorney-General's subsequent response:

It would appear that our attempts to persuade the Uniform Consumer Credit Code Management Committee to give us some leeway for the passage of your legislation in advance have been unproductive. UCCCMC remains committed to the goal of maintaining national uniformity.

Here we have the ACT government kowtowing to a quasi-political committee. The ACT government tells me, in the same letter, that it fully supports my proposal at every level. But in the next breath it is saying that this parliament cannot proceed with sensible legislation because UCCCMC says so. This just does not make sense to me. What were we elected for-to represent the best interests of our community or to check with a public servant in Queensland before we can make a decision? It is an absolutely absurd situation.

Before specifically addressing the arguments in the marching orders from Queensland, it is worth reminding members that the government seems to pick and choose when it is important to embrace these uniform legislation agreements. Without reflecting on previous debates, I mention battery hen egg labelling and protection orders. I ask that

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