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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3808 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

It goes without saying that the ACT government is committed to working with businesses to promote the highest ethical standards in the manufacture and retail of textiles, clothing and footwear. We want to have an open dialogue with business on these issues.

Most business people understand that ethical work practices are good for their business. Businesses attract sales by complying with voluntary codes of practice so they can display the "no sweatshop" label on their goods. The government wants to assist consumers to make ethical purchasing decisions by ensuring they have reliable information about the origins of goods.

The Trade Practices Act contains specific provisions concerning the making of false and misleading representations concerning the place of origin of goods. This enables consumers to make informed decisions about whether they purchase products from Australian and overseas businesses that have poor records on ethical employment practices. We hope that they take note of that and purchase accordingly.

For the information of members, I advise that I have asked the Commission for Fair Trading to provide me with advice on the costs of introduction of a code of practice under the Fair Trading Act to promote corporate transparency regarding the manufacture of goods in the textile, clothing and footwear industry.

I have asked that as part of that advice there be consideration of the legislative developments in New South Wales and Victoria and that they be examined fully. As members know, those jurisdictions are currently establishing frameworks for voluntary codes of practice and potentially mandatory codes of practice in the future.

The codes will be designed to encourage retailers to ensure the products they purchase for retail have been sourced from suppliers whose workers are receiving their full legal entitlements. The Office and Commissioner of Fair Trading are reviewing that legislation and those codes for possible use, introduction or adaptation here in the ACT.

I am also advised-I am sure members know this-that the government, as a purchaser of textiles, clothing and footwear products, already includes a standard clause in all contracts to ensure that workers' wages and conditions are protected in the manufacture of goods and provision of services for the government. The government will continue to examine its procurement policies to ensure that it uses its power as a consumer to stop the exploitation of outworkers.

I acknowledge and thank Ms Gallagher for the significant work she has done on this issue, for bringing this issue to the Assembly and for generating and facilitating this debate today on a very significant issue for an enormous number of people nationally. One hopes that it is not a major issue or problem in the ACT. But we have no reason to be complacent. There are outworkers in the ACT, and it is vital that they be protected to the fullest and greatest extent. I am sure that through additional focus we will do what we can as a jurisdiction to ensure that outworkers in this community are protected.

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