SUBJECT/S: Citizenship, Pay-Day lending reform, hot chips 

LAURA JAYES: Let’s go live now to our studio in Canberra, the Shadow Consumer Affairs Minister Tim Hammond joins us a little earlier than we would normally talk to you but Question Time has got in the way of our weekly chat this week.

So, Tim Hammond, welcome a littler earlier.

Now to more serious matters, Susan Lamb, now we’ve heard from Bill Shorten this morning who says it takes two to tango, he’s not about to refer Susan Lamb without some referrals from the Liberal side.

Is this now becoming politically toxic for Labor?   

SHADOW MINSTER FOR CONSUMER AFFAIRS TIM HAMMOND: Laura, great to be with you again - even if a bit earlier than usual. One does not want to be late to the first Question Time of the year, even for you guys, so sorry about that.

But look, I think this conversation really ties in with what Bill said when he stood up at the National Press Club. 2018 has to be the year of actually putting policy above politics and that is what we have shown a clear willingness to do, ever since we got out of the blocks.

We’ve made it very clear that the way to deal with any lingering citizenship issues here Laura is by way of joint referrals. Let’s just get the whole thing done and dusted so we do not subject the community to an endless string of accusations when really they just want to hear from us in relation to ideas and where we want to take the country.

 JAYES: How can you compare the case of Susan Lamb and Jason Falinski? They’re are completely different.

HAMMOND: Well look, where they all have something in common Laura, that it is all agreed from one side or another there is a question mark in relation to their eligibility.

So, that much we all know.

Anything beyond that I think, quite frankly, is dangerous speculation. One does not want to be put in the same category as Malcolm Turnbull when he stood up in front of Parliament pre-empting what it was the High Court was going to do.

To the extent there are question marks, there are joint referral mechanisms available. We’ve extended that option out to Malcolm Turnbull and he has declined it. 

If the Liberal Government want to… (Interrupted by journalist)

JAYES: I just want to point out though that our audience must be listening to this interview and saying that Labor, for a good six months at the end of last year argued that it didn’t have a problem and that all of the problems were on the Liberal side.

We now see that David Feeney has now stepped down, he has resigned from the parliament all together, so that’s an admission that there’s a problem. And now Susan Lamb seems to have a pretty open and shut case, so what do you have to say about your changed position, essentially?

HAMMOND: Well, I’m not necessarily sure it has changed - with the exception of David Feeney.  And when David realised that he had a problem he was the first one to come forward and make it very clear that there was an issue that was so grave, in his view, that he took the unprecedented step of resigning from Parliament without wanting to recontest.


HAMMOND: Secondly; in relation to Susan Lamb, she has maintained that at the time she took steps to renounce her citizenship the British Home Office wasn’t sure there was anything to renounce. Her position has been consistent, all the way through, that she took all reasonable steps that were available to her at the time to ensure her position was clear.

If it is - and I completely agree with you - if it is that the community quite rightly wants to hear about policy ideas to take the country forward, Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne need to do the right thing and agree to get this all done as a joint block.

JAYES: This all seems like a high-stakes game of chicken at the moment to be honest and I think it’s probably a pox on all our houses as this drags on for much of this year.

But look, let’s get to policy. In your portfolio area what’s been looked at, at the moment, is pay-day loans.

These can often have an 800 per cent interest rate attached to them. Many people have been caught up in this. There is some resistance about clamping down on these loans.

Where do you sit on this?

HAMMOND: Look, I sit on the side of just wanting to get something done.

Firstly; a shout out to my good mate and colleague Milton Dick in Oxley who ran with this story with some vulnerable consumers, together with CALC, the Consumer Action Law Centre, highlighting the fact that we have really vulnerable working men and women who are at the pointy end of having to pay back pay-day lenders and rent-to-buy schemes that they just cannot afford and did not know what they were getting into.

Now, that all sounds pretty clear cut, but where I think my frustration really boils to the top Laura is that the Government have been sitting on a report for almost two years – which is the report into the Small Amount Credit Contracts or the SACC Report that - stop the press - has bi-partisan support.

Now, it took us forever to just try and get some legislation on to the table. There is now some legislation on the table again, which has quite frankly opposition support and support from consumer groups.

But the risk is here Laura that we see backsliding from this Government, particularly in relation to the conservative side of things about not wanting to out these changes through.

And for every minute longer this takes is a minute that vulnerable working men and women are having to pay out money they did not know that they were going to have to pay for the washing machine, for the fridge or for a pay-day loan. It’s unacceptable.

JAYES: I know, I know, but where do you stop when it comes to Government intervention and when to people start taking responsibility for themselves and looking into these kind of thing?

That is the concern from the conservative side, that there is just too much intervention from Government.

Do you see a point there?

HAMMOND: No I don’t because; again the devil is in the detail of these proposed reforms.

What is suggested is quite frankly entirely reasonable and represents a compromise, I guess, on both sides of the fence.

Firstly; it goes to issues in relation to capping the amount that people have to pay back in relation to say a $1600 purchase for some outdoor furniture and a washing machine. At this stage we see cases of people having to pay $6000 back for a $1600 purchase. It seeks to simply put a reasonable cap on that amount.

Secondly; in relation to the amount you can pay out of your wage or your Centrelink amount, it is seeking to put a cap on that of 10 per cent. These are reasonable steps which meets consumers and business half way which, quite frankly, will deliver a net benefit for our communities in a circumstance where we see wage growth continuously stunted and people just not getting ahead.

JAYES: OK, I have to just ask you one very important question. “Chips too hot for the kids? #dadskills?”

You have put on your Facebook page a photo of the air-conditioning in your car with chips wedged into it, to cool these chips down for the children. What is going on there, where did you learn such skills? Have you been watching Oprah or something?

HAMMOND: It just came to me. I had three kids in the back of the car, we’d just finished swimming lessons, there was a call for hot chips – pretty reasonable in my view - we don’t do it a lot.

But they were those boiling-face-of-the-sun hot chips and I had kids who wanted chips, I had chips that were too hot and I needed a solution - fast. I saw the air-conditioning vent staring at me and I thought here’s an idea, straight in, kept them there for a little while, into the back seat, kids were happy as Larry and quiet as a mouse. 

JAYES: Ok, chips were too hot. Are you proposing under Labor Government you might regulate how hot chips can be to serve to kids?

HAMMOND: I’m interested in protecting vulnerable consumers no matter how old they are Laura.

JAYES: OK, a bit concerned about the level of Government intervention you’re proposing but Tim Hammond, we will leave it there and we’ll see you at question time.

HAMMOND: Pleasure.