Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3836 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
I do commend the substantive amendment to the Fair Trading Act, which gives the Attorney-General and the Commissioner for Fair Trading immunity from court actions for public statements relating to fair trading matters. It is important that the power exists to warn the public about a reasonably held belief that particular goods or services are unsatisfactory or unsafe. It is also important that the public can be warned if the government has a reasonably founded belief that a supplier is negligent or dishonest and to warn the public of unscrupulous business practices that may hurt ACT residents. This power would be questionable if there was no requirement for the assertions made to be reasonably founded and honestly made, but with these safeguards in the legislation I am satisfied that public benefit outweighs the harm that could be done through a mistake in a public statement.
I also support the amendments to the Sale of Motor Vehicles Act to make it simpler to penalise minor breaches of the act by car dealers who park vehicles for sale outside the limit of their premises by introducing a $500 on-the-spot fine. It does not seem a good use of the time of the Magistrates Court to have hearings on such minor matters.
As for the other amendments, I support the suggested content for draft codes of practices for fair dealing under the Fair Trading Act to clarify which matters such codes may regulate. The promotion of alternative dispute resolution processes is particularly commendable. The amendments to the DPP act appear to be uncontroversial and may in practical terms make no change to existing understanding of the power of the director.
The Attorney-General circulated some amendments quite late in the piece. From a quick reading of them, they clarify the application of the new criminal code to charges laid before the code commences that are subsequently amended or remade. They appear to be non-controversial and we are happy to support them. Even so, a little more notice on them would have been appreciated, especially considering that the original legislation was tabled quite a number of months ago and there was time to try to work out these things before the bill was debated.
The bill does do quite a number of things and, as I have said, we will be supporting them and commend the substantive amendment to the Fair Trading Act to make sure that we do have reasonable ways of knowing what is going on in terms of trading in the ACT.
MS TUCKER (11.54): This bill is another tidying up measure to make sure that the legislation operates as intended. If the government had a more coherent process for law reform in consultation with community members and the people who work in the area and was committed to checking bills before going ahead, perhaps we would not have needed to have this bill.
Other members have gone through the provisions, so I will not repeat that process, but I have raised a few concerns which have been answered. I asked about the rights a trader would have if named incorrectly by the Commissioner for Fair Trading or the Attorney-General. The response was that under proposed section 42 (1) the use of the words "made or issued honestly by a person in the exercise of functions under this act"imports into the provision the requirement for the commissioner or the attorney to act in good faith and without negligence. Accordingly, if the commissioner were to name a trader