TIM HAMMOND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSUMER AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER ASSITING FOR RESOURCES
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR PERTH
SKY NEWS MORNINGS
SUBJECTS: Australian Consumer Law Review; Malcolm Turnbull’s 457 visa con-job; Australian citizenship test; offshoring.
TOM CONNELL: Companies trying to rip of consumers could be in for a rude shock with a government Review recommending the penalty increase ten-fold, from $1 million to $10 million. It could also make it easier for people to return items they don't want. And Labor is calling on the Government to act swiftly and implement the recommendations. Joining me now is Tim Hammond, Shadow Consumer Affairs Minister. Thanks for your time today Tim Hammond. What about this first cab off the rank - thirty days to reject an item without having to provide evidence that it's dodgy. Is that a bit of an impost on small business? Is it a bit too far the other way maybe?
TIM HAMMOND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSUMER AFFAIRS: Good morning Tom. Look, Labor welcomes the Review; it's a very thorough inspection of the current state of the law in relation to protecting vulnerable consumers - which ultimately is what the recommendations of the review are all about. What we see in the Review in relation to the ability for consumers to return goods is really about levelling a playing field in a circumstance where people are returning goods because of minor defects, as opposed to what is called a major failure. So what it is really looking to do is at this stage is simply levelling a playing field in a circumstance where say…
CONNELL: What is an example of that then - a minor defect which should be able to be passed through then?
HAMMOND: Yeah, good question Tom. It's looking at say, using an example like a motor vehicle - so if someone purchased a motor vehicle there is a reasonable expectation that the motor vehicle is going to run in a way that you'd expect it to run. It'd be road worthy, not have any faults or defects to begin with, but if you're having a problem with the gearbox and then you have a problem with your brakes and then you have a problem with your steering all in a short period of time what the Review’s recommendation is saying is that you should be able to as a consumer go back to where you bought that motor vehicle from and then demand either a refund or a repair - not just have a repair thrust upon you. It's simply about broadening rights for consumers to level the playing field.
CONNELL: Okay and just in the fines as well I guess it makes sense to go to the maximum fine from $1.1 million to $10 million. You've got some pretty big companies out there. But it also says that where you can't assess what the value of the offense was it could be just a 10% of turnover fine that's massive isn't it. Couldn't that wipe out a company’s profits in a year?
HAMMOND: Where I think this is a helpful recommendation is it also lines up with Labor’s policy that we took to the last election. It's about ensuring that when a consumer is on the receiving end of misleading or deceptive conduct or unlawful conduct that the penalty fits the crime if you like. It allows discretion from a court or a tribunal to be able to say let's make sure that a corporation or a business is being fined in proportion to the conduct. So what it does is it frees up the ability for the punishment to fit the crime.
CONNELL: What sort of crime would we be talking, sorry Tim, where it would be 10% of turnover if the amount that it actually cost or they profited couldn't be established? It just seems huge to me. What crime are we talking?
HAMMOND: Again what you need to do is look at the context of the conduct. So for instance Nurofen is a good example. Recently Nurofen released a range of products claiming to have purported effects that were no different to just normal ordinary Nurofen. The problem with that is that Nurofen made $45 million from marketing those products. So they have multi-billion dollar turnover but the impost upon that conduct was kept at $1 million. What this allows is a discretion to make sure that the fine is proportionate to the conduct. So it's all about ensuring that a consumer is not left worse off and more to the point that there is a sufficient incentive for corporates to maintain a proper level of conduct.
CONNELL: That Nurofen case I found an interesting one because I remember having to pay to – actually at the time with my girlfriend and she’d be going “We should get this Nurofen because this one's back pain this one's headache” and it's all the same ingredient but it's not like none of those products actually had that impact it was just that they were fudging the marketing. Is it a huge corporate sin or a bit of a, you know, hoodwink?
HAMMOND: Well we have to make sure that the penalty is proportionate to the conduct and what we're looking at here is a circumstance where a reasonable consumer off the street takes one look at this product in their busy lives and forms a view that this product is specifically going to address a particular issue. Now if we don't make sure that the penalties match the misconduct in that regard it means that a lot of the time companies see these sorts of penalties as simply the cost of doing business. We have to make sure that the penalties are proportionate to the size of the companies. Again it's really just about levelling the playing field, which is why Labor welcomes the recommendations in this Report.
CAROLINE MARCUS: Tim Hammond I just want to get your take on these new changes to the citizenship test that the Prime Minister announced this morning. Do you agree that we should be tightening up the citizenship test with stricter requirements about English language and the other changes?
HAMMOND: Look I think that it's always a good discussion to have but in what context? The context here is a really sad context: the context is Malcolm Turnbull wants to move on quicker than ever from what is clearly a con-job in relation to just rebadging a work visa system that we've previously had. And we're not being told in what way this actually tries to enhance our Australian way of life.
I mean, I was at a citizenship ceremony last night where I saw 63 new Australians becoming citizens of this country, and the stories they had to tell and the the goodwill and warmth in the room as they became Australian citizens was incredibly tremendous. So we need to be persuaded that this is not just a covering up exercise for more slip ups from Malcolm Turnbull and is actually in the national interest. And I don't see any of that right now.
CONNELL: [Inaudible]. So one of the question on the 457 announcement , Labor said that it won't make a big impact. 8% of the occupations at the moment would be affected. What about something that could bring about a lot more Australian jobs and looking at off-shoring. Maybe a tax disincentive to offshore? The big 4 banks do it a lot. I know you are looking at them in the gun at the moment. Is this something you might look at, offshoring? Bringing jobs back on shore in some way?
HAMMOND: Again what's really sad about where Malcolm Turnbull has taken this debate is that it distracts us, Tom, from the real issues at home which is why aren't we putting the money into TAFE to make sure that young Australians get the best chance to get those jobs? Why aren't we putting the banks through a Royal Commission again? We need to make sure we are acting in the national interest when it comes to ensuring that jobs are available for Australians who are currently out the work.
CONNELL: Run out of time, just want to point you though to the offshoring; is that something on the radar of Labor or not?
HAMMOND: What we're interested in making sure, Tom, is that all Australians get a chance to get a job and that includes backing education and making sure that they get every chance they need.
CONNELL: Ah, I'll take that as a maybe or a no - not sure. Tim Hammond, thanks for your time today on Sky news.
HAMMOND: Pleasure, thanks guys!