I rise to speak in support of the Consumer Credit (Victoria) and Other Acts
Amendment Bill. As long as there has been trade, whether it has involved money
or goods, there has been borrowing and there has been lending, but
unfortunately, as with most systems, people have profited from other people’s
misfortunes and have preyed on the disadvantaged.
These are key points that previous speakers have homed in on.
Many of us have grown up with TV reports and news reports, whether in tabloid
newspapers or on our television sets with the nightly news, and of course with
current affairs programs. It is almost a 101 recipe for how to grab banner
Unfortunately, there are numerous stories. Journalists do not
necessarily need to hunt down stories of families and individuals who have been
caught by those who have been wanting to profit from their misfortune.
It has been an absolute commitment of this government — the
Brumby government as well as the Bracks government — and it was contained in
the 2005 document A Fairer Victoria. In that document it was a social policy
statement that was to bring about a fairer Victoria, and this is one of the
hallmarks of that policy statement. It was a commitment that the government was
to review the credit laws to determine the best ways of facilitating the
provision of affordable credit to low-income households and to prevent predatory
finance practices that target the most disadvantaged households.
In 2005 the then Minister for Consumer Affairs, Marsha Thomson,
announced the review. It was a review that looked at consumer credit laws for
the first time in a real sense for 10 years. When
Minister Thomson announced that review, she specifically said:
- Those Victorians who are least able to afford exorbitant interest rates and
excessive fees and charges are too often the very ones who have to resort to
‘fringe’ lenders such as payday lenders and vendor financiers.
As we have heard, the review commenced in May 2005. The final
report was in 2006, and the government’s response to the final report was
September 2006. The review was headed up by the member for Monbulk in the other
place, the now Minister for Sport, Recreation and Youth Affairs. At the time he
was provided with fairly comprehensive terms of reference from the then Minister
for Consumer Affairs, Ms Thomson, which were not just placed in newspapers but
also formed part of the media release.
At the beginning journalists and media outlets were educated
about the extensive nature of this review. Beyond the issues paper which has
already been mentioned, there was a range of community consultations. There were
rounds of consultations with key stakeholders, finance organisations and
community organisations. Opportunities were given to ordinary members of the
public to give their views. Public forums were held in Geelong on 4 July 2005,
in Sunshine on 7 July, Mildura on 12 July, Ballarat on 18 July, Latrobe Valley
on 25 July and Dandenong on 28 July. It was not a paper exercise by any means.
There was widespread consultation that engaged a whole range of community
members and community organisations on this very important issue.
There were four key elements arising from the review. The first
was that all credit providers would be required to become members of an external
dispute resolution scheme. It was not just the core players in the industry but
also the fringe players, and often we find it is the fringe players who are the
Mr Thornley interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — As Mr Thornley said, grub is the appropriate
adjective to use in these sort of situations.
The registration scheme will allow Consumer Affairs Victoria to
conduct more targeted compliance and enforcement operations to ensure that
riskier credit providers, such as payday lenders, are acting honestly and
fairly, so it goes back to the very heart of the announcement that the then
Minister, Marsha Thomson, made clear to the media.
Thirdly, consumers who enter into rent-to-buy contracts will be
given greater protection with the arrangements being brought under the
Residential Tenancies Act 1997.
This means protection against unfair rent increases, improved
repair rights, controls on landlord inspections and access to dispute resolution
through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The director of Consumer Affairs Victoria will be given the
power to initiate and defend actions on behalf of consumers in all single
proceedings under the Consumer Credit Code. These elements clearly speak for
themselves. I wish the bill a speedy passage through the house. I commend the
bill to the house.