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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1124 ..

Detail stage

Clauses 1 to 7, by leave, taken together and agreed to.

Clause 8.

MS TUCKER (11.28): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name on the green sheet [see schedule 1 at page 1197]. Basically I will speak to both of my amendments. These amendments seek to introduce someone with consumer representation qualities onto the tribunal or any panels that it sets up. Clearly, there is a consumer function anticipated under this bill, although how and when it will happen remains unclear. Given that, it seems prudent to ensure there is consumer awareness on the tribunal and, indeed, it would be encouraging if the government took such an approach more generally.

Arguably, if the act is not further amended or the project is not further expanded, consumer interests would be less relevant. By the same token, if we were to believe the government project is to take effect then clearly some kind of consumer representation and consideration is essential.

MS DUNDAS (11.29): The Democrats will be supporting both of Ms Tucker's amendments. It is quite necessary that we make quite clear who it is that we want on the Consumer and Trader Tribunal. We have to make sure that the members of the tribunal have qualifications or experience in consumer affairs to help the process work smoothly and to ensure that the people who are making decisions are experts in their field so that we can have more community confidence in this tribunal.

MR STEFANIAK (11.30): The opposition will be supporting both of Ms Tucker's amendments. We think they are eminently sensible. It is very important to ensure that there are persons on the tribunal with the relevant experience in consumer affairs. I commend those amendments, which we support wholeheartedly.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for the Environment) (11.30): Mr Speaker, Ms Tucker's amendments provide for the tribunal to contain at least one member who has qualifications or experience in consumer affairs. A number of members of the existing Agents Board who will be on the tribunal, such as Harold Hird, are what I would terms community or consumer representatives. I also intend to appoint additional consumer community representatives to the tribunal.

The wording of clauses 10 and 11 of the bill also ensures that the people appointed to the tribunal have the necessary skills and expertise. The necessary skills and expertise would include legal skills, knowledge of the industries and an interest in serving the ACT community consumers.

That said, the amendments do reflect the government's strong commitment to improve consumer protection, and the government will support them.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.

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