Wednesday 30 June 2010





Mr Dean

Mr Finch

Mr Wing

Mrs Taylor

Ms Rattray (Chair)




Dr Goodwin 




Hon. Nick McKim MP, Minister for Human Services, Minister for Corrections and Consumer Protection, Minister for Community Development, Minister for Climate Change, Minister for Sustainable Transport and Alternative Energy


Cassy O'Connor MP, Secretary to Cabinet

Department of Justice


Lisa Hutton, Secretary

Michael Stevens, Deputy Secretary

Robert Williams, Deputy Secretary

Greg Partridge, Assistant Director of Prisons

Chris Batt, Director, Office of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading

Jo Maxfield, Manager, Reception Prisons

Ginna Webster, Director, Community Corrections



Department of Premier and Cabinet


Greg Johannes, Deputy Secretary, Policy

Nick Evans, Director, Policy and Programs, Program Development Unit

Wendy Spencer, Executive Director, Office of Climate Change

Output group 8

Consumer Services


8.1  Fair, safe and equitable marketplace –


 Mr FINCH - When I think of consumer protection, I think of food labelling.  What scope does Tasmania have to tighten up here on our food labelling or are we stuck with the national system?  If this is the case, is Tasmania doing enough to influence the national labelling system?  I am thinking particularly of GM foods here.  Are we able to have an influence there?


Mr McKIM - This is effectively dealt with by a mechanism of national agreements and in the Tasmanian context it is being dealt with by the Department of Health.


On a personal level I have been very supportive of as much information as possible being made available.  We have unit pricing in some supermarkets in Tasmania at the moment and I am a big supporter of unit pricing.  I am very happy to see the concept of food moles being introduced into restaurants and other places where food products are purchased.  An informed consumer is an empowered consumer, as far as I am concerned.  But in the context of the information that you have suggested, that is being dealt with as

part of a national process.


Mr FINCH - You mentioned supermarkets.  There are many Tasmanian consumers who are worried about the virtual supermarket duopoly.  I realise that IGA does play a role there in Tasmania.  Does a duopoly concern you too?


Mr McKIM - It is not something that has been brought to my attention as a minister and there would be various national processes that would need to be considered.  The ACCC may have a view on that.  I am not personally aware of any work they have done on that issue.  I am not sure whether it is something that comes into Consumer Affairs as a regular complaint or anything like that.  Mr Batt might know but it is certainly not something that has been brought to my attention as minister.


Mr BATT - We do not have direct responsibility but clearly the use of unfair bargaining power is an issue that has been the centre of attention with the ACCC for some time.  I think the general conclusion in the dialogue over a period of time is that what is lacking in Tasmania is sufficient competition.  Certainly there would be benefits to Tasmanian consumers if we could get other players in the market.  That is not something we can legislate.  There is greater competition in mainland capital centres.  If Aldi were encouraged to come here, that would certainly improve it but there is no legislative solution.


Mr McKIM - No.  More competition is good but I can indicate that there has been no contact into my office since I have been minister on this issue.


Mr DEAN - I take this opportunity to thank Mr Batt for his assistance the other day.


Mr McKIM - I am pleased to hear that.  I've found he has been very helpful. 


Mr DEAN - Are consumer protection incidents increasing or is the number static?


Mr BATT - Overall it is reasonably static.  I do not think we can say it is a big trend and I looked before I came down.  I think what we are seeing is a consolidation and I think this is consistent with our focus on bond authority, for example - a consolidation of residential tenancies being a core component of the things that we do.  I think it now comprises roughly 30 per cent.  We will expect however with the adoption of the Australian consumer law and the expansion of our general power, which is a matter to be considered by Parliament, that this will result in an increase in responsibility and workload.


Mr McKIM - We do have quite a large number of statistics available in relation to complaints and inquiries.  A month or six weeks ago I did a walk around with Mr Batt of Consumer Affairs, and they are flat chat in there, I can tell you.  In 2008-09 there were nearly 12 500 inquiries.  These are big numbers, and that is the last year that we have full-year figures.  In 2009-10 to 1 June this year there were just under 10 000 so it might come in fractionally under this year with maybe a small decrease.  Nevertheless, those are significant numbers.  I will just give you a quick snapshot, some of the star categories, if you like.


Mr DEAN - That is what I wanted - any category that might stand out.


Mr McKIM - The ones that stand out are general household goods, just under $2 000; general services - and I will ask Mr Batt about them in a minute - and general services would be things like garden maintenance and so forth, $2 300; policy and legislation, nearly $4 000 and that is the highest number, just under a third of the inquiries; and real estate and accommodation, just under $1 500.  Those figures are in 2008-09, the last calendar year.  So you can see some of the more popular areas for inquiry.