CONSUMER AND OTHER ACTS MISCELLANEOUS AMENDMENTS BILL 2020

Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (18:53): I happily rise to speak on the Consumer and Other Acts Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2020. I do thank the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation for her considerable work on what is, as others have rightly said, a very technical bill. But nonetheless it is important, because the attention to detail in these technical bills really shows the commitment of the Andrews government to take us step by step by step to a better Victoria. This bill makes amendments to several acts in the consumer affairs, gaming and liquor regulation portfolio to improve their operation. It clarifies requirements and updates outdated references. Significantly the bill carries important amendments to establish future gambling licensing arrangements and amendments to support the implementation of the government’s residential tenancies reforms.

 

Now, as others have said, gambling is a legal and acceptable pastime, and for many people who partake in a flutter or maybe go down to the casino once every while it is relatively harmless. You walk in, you think, ‘Oh, I’ve got a bit of money to lose’, and you go and lose it. But for a lot of people they do not have the money to lose and they continue to lose. This is why harm minimisation is so important—because the initial outset of even considering the term ‘harm minimisation’ is to understand that there is harm. It is our job to do our best to minimise that harm and to assist people who are in the boat where they are losing their funds. It is good to see that we are doing the changes that this bill entails in the area of keno, which I must admit, like the member for Burwood, I do not think I have had a go at in maybe 30 years. Nonetheless it is very important to have these protections in place for a game that others will enjoy playing.

 

Now, this bill delivers a package of reforms to a wide range of consumer laws and in doing so demonstrates again the government’s commitment to ensuring that Victorians have strong, fair and workable consumer protections. Again, that is what we are here to do. We are here to protect consumers. But ‘consumers’ is a very cold word, an economic word. What we are really talking about here is people, Victorians, and the protection of Victorians in this vein—we are all consumers. I think I am probably older than most here, but the member for Melton I think would remember with me when you would go to the petrol station and somebody would fill the car up for you.

 

Mr Angus: Good old days.

 

Mr FREGON: The member for Forest Hill I think is with me on that one. Good old days indeed.

 

A member interjected.

 

Mr FREGON: Yes. And I can remember when that was dying out and my mother would actually drive further to go to the petrol station that still had the attendant who would put the petrol in. You would hand over your $10 and they would clean your windscreen. It was service. There was service involved. Personally, when it comes to small business, one of which I used to run, service is a very big part of it. It is what lets the small guys compete with some of the big guys. So you can imagine my despair when I was told recently that our national airline was about to remove service attendants from the process. This is a company—a very large company, an Australian icon, that has benefited from federal government funds—that is in the process of retrenching 2500 workers only to probably offer them back the same job at a lower rate later from a different third-party company they have no responsibility over, and now the service desks are going.

 

It is like when you go to Coles or Woolies or Aldi or any of the supermarkets. Personally I go to the checkout that has the person there—I am sure I am not alone here. But during COVID we had to pack our bags. Now, I am not very good at it. Our supermarket workers, who were among the many heroes during the pandemic, are exceptionally good at their job, and they are trained. The company has a responsibility to make sure they are trained. The company does not have a responsibility to make sure that when you go through the self-serve aisle that works 100 per cent in your favour. They do have staff there to assist you, and some people might prefer that, but personally I prefer to know that when I go and buy bread, milk, whatever I am buying, somebody is hired, somebody is employed, because jobs are important. Now more than ever jobs are important. So to hear that Qantas are dismissing or are in the process of getting rid of those service people, well, I would just say to you that is not the spirit of Australia. Sorry; I am a bit grumpy about that.

 

This bill also continues our efforts to protect and assist our renters. As we have said in this house time and time again, for our renters the houses they are in are their homes. I think most of us in this house would have rented at some time in our life. A lot of people will rent all their lives. And if you take European examples of cities that grow older and older—

 

Business interrupted under resolution of house today.