Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3783 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

This bill addresses the huge amount of unsolicited advertising material that is placed in letterboxes every day, or what is more colloquially known as junk mail. Much of this material is discarded without serving any purpose so can be regarded as a major waste of paper and a waste of the trees from which the paper was produced. Some of this material is not inserted properly in letterboxes and ends up blowing away and becoming litter. Many people find the filling up of their letterboxes with material that is neither requested nor wanted to be a nuisance. The widespread use of "no junk mail" stickers and the like is an indication that a significant proportion of the community do not like junk mail.

There are two types of junk mail. Firstly, there is the addressed but unsolicited mail delivered by Australia Post containing advertising material from companies that somehow get hold of people's address details. Secondly, there is the unaddressed material, usually just catalogues or flyers, that is distributed by private direct marketing companies or even directly by the advertiser.

As the Commonwealth government has jurisdiction over postal services, the first category of junk mail is outside the Assembly's control. However, we can do something about the second category of unaddressed advertising material delivered to letterboxes independently of Australia Post.

This bill was prompted by work done in New South Wales on junk mail earlier this year. As part of its waste management reforms, the New South Wales government agreed to examine control of the delivery of junk mail, and the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority released a discussion paper to stimulate stakeholder comment. The paper noted that generally state governments rely on the direct marketing industry undertaking self-regulation.

The Australian Catalogue Association, which claims that its members, print and distribute some 80 per cent of all unaddressed mail in Australia, have in place an industry code of practice relating to unsolicited advertising material, a code which is administered by the Distribution Standards Board. The code provides, among other things, that advertising material not be placed in letterboxes which display a sign refusing such material. The board will receive complaints from the public if advertising material is placed in letterboxes with "no junk mail" stickers and contact the company concerned.

This system assumes that the public know about the Distribution Standards Board and how to contact them, and that the offending company is a signatory to this code of practice. From my experience, the worst offenders are local businesses that often undertake their own letterboxing rather than the big distribution companies. An industry code of practice is not going to be effective if the industry is not cohesive or if companies believe they will suffer no sanctions by not following the rules.

The other problem with having a self-regulating system is that there will be disagreements over what exactly is junk mail, particularly where the material is not obviously advertising the sale of products or services. What one organisation thinks is important information that everyone should know about can, to the householder, be just mail that should not be in their letterbox.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .