Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)
Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 27 February 1990 present legislation in the Territory has been produced in a piecemeal fashion over many years, without any adherence to a consistent policy. When the report of the working group was released for public comment, it received overwhe 1 mi ng pub 1 i c support and favourable comment. The package of reforms covers a wide range of initiatives that reflect modern business real ities and community expectations. They wi 11 provide both consumers and traders with greater clarification about rights, responsibil ities and methods for resolving disputes. The centrepiece of these reforms will be the fair trading provisions that will underpin the commitment to the maintenance of a free, fair and competitive marketplace, a market in which traders will be able to compete and consumers will be able to rely on minimum standards of behaviour. In May 1988, my predecessor, the late Don Dale, tabled in this House the report of the working group whi ch conducted a revi ew of con sumer a ffa irs policy and legislation. At that time, the minister made a major statement commending the report to honourable members and inviting the public to respond to the recommendations, following tabling, by providing a period for public comment. In its report, the working group recommends the adoption of a set of policy guidelines, the overhaul of the existing legislative base of Consumer Affairs and the development and implementation of a single consolidated act. Consolidation of legislation will achieve consistency of definition, administration and enforcement for the more effective and efficient operation of Consumer Affairs. The recommended package of reforms is based on a suggested set of pol icy gui de 1 i nes with the objective of upgrading and rational ising the basic consumer law in the Northern Territory. The Consumer Affairs Bill consolidates and rationalises desirable features of the existing legislation, amends and updates other provisions, and introduces uniform legislation. It provides for a range of sanctions against unfair trading practices, and uniform provisions to deal with dangerous and hazardous products. It redefi nes and expands the role of Consumer Affairs and the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs. The emphasis is clearly placed on the promotion and maintenance of fair trading and not simply the advancement of mere consumer protection. The commitment to fair trading is demonstrated by the redefining of the current narrow definition of Iconsumerl to make the services and remedies of Consumer Affairs more accessible to farmers, pastora1ists and small businesses. In normal circumstances, these groups are often in much the same position as traditional private consumers when it comes to the resolution of problems met in the buying of goods and services. No longer will they be denied access to legislative protection for their non-business transactions, as is the current situation. Fair trading is about the promotion, maintenance and enforcement of basic standards of honesty and integrity in commerce, regardless of the identity of the buyers and sellers. Further, the legislation recognises the rights businesses have in their dealings with suppliers and competitors. The origin of the fair trading provisions of the bill dates back to the 1983 agreement between Commonwea 1 th, state and Territory con sumer a ffa irs ministers to adopt consumer protection legislation wherever possible. It was decided that part V, consumer protection provisions, of the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act would provide the best basis for achieving uniformity, and that mirror legislation would be the most practical technique by which to implement uniformity. All states have now introduced fair trading legislation mirroring the relevant provisions of the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act. In effect, it 8752
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